The Shadow of the Holiday Season

“If you think you’re enlightened,
go spend a week with your family.”
Ram Dass

Ah, the holiday season! A time of joy and laughter, nostalgia, heartful gift-giving, the warmth and love of getting together with friends and family… except Aunt Martha, of course. She never
has a good thing to say about anybody. But it will be nice to see her son Jim and his wife – I just wish they wouldn’t bicker so much. And I wish Uncle Fred wouldn’t rail about politics all the time. Well, it’ll be great to spend time with Dad and Mom – but I hope mom doesn’t criticize the way I dress again. I don’t do clothes coordinating like my sister does, we have different taste! Oh darn – you think they’re going to gloat over Sis’s promotion and grill me on why I’m still stuck in the same position for so many years? I happen to like my job. Or so I tell myself in order to grin and bear it – I’m having a great attitude, right? Oh, why do I even want to go home for the holidays anyway?! Should I try to get out of it this year??

Any of this sound familiar? Or maybe you have your own version of your “Shadow voice” going around in your head?

The holidays are a GREAT time to see your Shadow at work. Actually, to see everyone’s Shadow at work! Our families are the cauldron that forged our coping styles and defense mechanisms¬† to begin with.

So this week and in the coming weeks, you will be given MANY opportunities to CLEAR more and more of your Shadow! Because when we are emotionally triggered, our Shadow is asking us to hear it out and allow it to DISSOLVE into the Light. How to do that?

Be on the alert and stay committed to your own personal growth, even in the midst of others who are not on a growth track.

It all starts with your INTENTION.

AND with knowing the process for integrating the energy of your Shadow / emotional triggers. Here are a few tips to help you through the holiday season:

1. Put a little space around it. The holidays are a time of fun and togetherness, and also a lot of stress! – putting together the perfect dinner, decorations, picking the right gift – not to mention your holiday outfit – trying to make polite conversation with family members who may have different values, smoothing out strained relations. Stressful words may fly. Our buttons are bound to get pushed – after all, it’s our family that installed them!

The first thing to do as soon as you notice you’re getting defensive is to take a low, deep breath into your belly and exhale slowly. Take several! Focus on relaxing your shoulders, neck, your whole body. When you’re triggered, your muscles start to contract to get ready for fight / flight / freeze. When you’re contracted and tense, it’s hard to keep your mind from racing, it’s hard to keep your heart open, and it’s hard to think kind thoughts. When your body is open and relaxed, you can allow the emotion to wash over it until the “charge” dissipates. That is how you’re able to integrate more Power into your personal energy.

Once you’ve been able to slow down your thoughts, remind yourself that these are the people who love you more than anyone, even if they don’t do it perfectly, or in the way you’d prefer. They mean well, they care about you, and this is their way of showing they care, even if it seems like a strange way to you.

Even if Aunt Martha has a mean streak, she’s just saying what’s important to HER – it’s really not about YOU! The most important thing is to not take anything that is said PERSONALLY. Hard to do when it’s your button, but this is a great time to practice! So put some space between that nasty comment and yourself – remind yourself this is not true of you, and it doesn’t matter if no one else agrees with you.

2. Come from a place of Highest Love as much as you can. We’re all human, underneath all our personalities and egos – and we ALL want to be loved. The Course in Miracles says if someone isn’t coming from love, that means they’re asking for love. When Aunt Martha delivers that sock in the gut, she’s looking for love.

You might say “That’s what we love about you, Aunt Martha! You’re never one to mince words!” or “What a curious thing to say! I’d love to know more about what made you say it that way.” When Jim and his wife are bickering, you might say “I love the way the two of you care so deeply about what you’re discussing. You really both want your point of view to be heard, don’t you?”

Of course, it has to be sincere – people can sniff out a fake compliment miles away and might turn on you instead. So truly become Pollyanna and look for the good in what you see going on around you, and then just call out the good. What we focus on grows. What you call forth is what comes to be. Own your power to transform a situation through Love. Plus, it’s a metaphysical principle that what we give comes back to us. So if you’re feeling like you want more love, be the one to give it first.

3. Be the Observer of your own Shadow. When mom starts asking why you chose to wear those pants, or what’s going on with your job, notice what’s coming up in you about that. Are you feeling shame? Not good enough? Or do you feel controlled and stifled? Does sibling rivalry and competitiveness come up? Is there anger or rage? Just observe these reactions within yourself WITHOUT JUDGMENT.

Detach from thinking that what you’re feeling is good or bad, positive or negative – it just IS. It’s natural to have a reaction, and what you want to do is learn how to respond by choice rather than by reaction. Take a few deep breaths and muster up something loving to say: “Mom – I’m glad you noticed my pants! I took great care picking out the ones I feel most comfortable in!” or “I know you really care about my job, and I appreciate how much you care. Trust me to sort it out for myself when the time is right.”

Take note of your feelings around this entire exchange – this is valuable material for you to use in your personal growth. When you get back to your own life, you may want to reflect how the shame, anger, feelings of unworthiness, stifledness, or competitiveness show up in other areas of your life, and notice how other experiences may be a reflection of how your parents relate to you.

4. Keep your sense of humor! We’re all perfectly imperfect human beings. If we can learn to laugh at our own flaws and blind spots, we can feel more comfortable in our own skin. When we’re comfortable with ourselves, others feel more comfortable around us. Ultimately, we’re all on a journey of learning to love more perfectly – both ourselves and others. And that means accepting ourselves as well as others for exactly how we are and who we are right now, and not needing anything to be different. Paradoxically, once we master deep acceptance of everything as it is, things truly do transform! THAT’S the Power of Love.

I hope these tips are helpful to you! If so, or if you have something else to share with the community, leave a comment below or on my Facebook page here.

And have a blessed and transformative Thanksgiving!

3 thoughts on “The Shadow of the Holiday Season”

  1. Absolutely brilliant, well written and constructive! I will try to keep this in mind when I gather with my relatives. It’s no coincidence that I live 2000 miles away from them!
    Wish I would have had your sage advice in my head years ago!

    Lotsa love, Trish

    1. In reading your thoughts, I feel that some of what you say I agree with and some I do not. Stating that “these are the people that love you most” may not be accurate and it may put some people into denial when the reality of it is they do not love you and cannot love because of what is hidden in them. They may be jealous, resentful, angry, manipulative, controlling and their subconscious and/or unconscious mind may want to harm you, control you or bring you down to their level. To ignore that would be disaster for you. Instead, I would say that yes, do not take it personally and yes, send and be in the Light with it, but always be clear and protect and take care of yourself. Emotions come to protect us, so if you are emotionally charged by something, figure out what it is that you need to do to take care of yourself. It may be asking a member of the family to leave or telling Mom you can take care of yourself she no longer needs to worry. Emotions are good, we are meant to have them and to discern what is right for us and use them to take care of ourselves. Honor your emotions and they will help you heal.

      1. This is a great comment, Anne! And I do agree with everything you say. I have definitely been raised by broken people whose ego defense mechanisms / Shadow caused them to bring me tremendous pain. When I was a child, I couldn’t get away from them. And yes, if you are acting out of love, love of your own Highest Good comes first, for sure. I am looking at the situation from a spiritual point of view – ultimately, beneath their egoic defenses of jealousy, resentment, anger, manipulation, is a broken person who is trying to connect with you in the only way they know how. It took me MANY decades to come to the peace that my narcissistically abusive mother truly did love me – she just didn’t have the tools to show me that love in the way I would have preferred. And no – I’m not saying that you should stay in abusive situations, but this article is addressing how to cope with the fleeting few holiday events we have with family members, not how to live with them. Yes, in a longer term situation you need to listen to your emotions and take care of your needs. (And there was a Christmas, where I actually sent my mother home on a plane Christmas Day!) I’m glad you brought this up so I could clarify. Thank you!

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