Looking forward to “the hap hap happiest Christmas ever” but wind up in a “full blown, four alarm holiday emergency” most years? Clark Griswold’s family Christmas only scratches the surface of dysfunction where ugly sweaters, burnt trees, and jelly of the month club are just the beginning of your toxic family parties. And, now that Thanksgiving has come and gone – and thank God so has Uncle Eddie – you have had your fill of crazy and may be considering your options to get you through the year.
No one – and I repeat NO ONE – loves the holidays more than your toxic family members. They use these days as emotional sporting events to show off how manipulative, conniving and toxic they can be… and believe me, they are going for the gold—have you seen Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn? Yikes!
Toxic family members love manipulating people into to give them all of their undivided attention and have no problem getting in between family members to pit one family member against another. There is not one good reason to spend your holidays in this type of chaos and drama. Think about it, why do you need to ruin your holidays just to please toxic people who you can’t please anyways? How about just un–invite the crazies in your family to the party or find a way to uninvite yourself to their drama show? I ve worked with hundreds of people who have to deal with this drama each and every holiday season. The best ways to make a change that benefits you is to have a strategy. To follow are three great ways to get out of the holiday trauma drama.
1. If you’re not my spouse or offspring, you’re not invited!
One of the easiest solutions is to tell your toxic family members that life has been stressful this year and for that reason you are not going to be going anywhere for the holidays. You’ve decided to keep the holidays simple and will be spending it only with your nuclear clan. This means that siblings, in-laws and parents are uninvited. Toxic family members will not like this option and likely accuse you of being silly, reassuring you they will do all they can to make sure you can relax and enjoy the holidays. There is no point in giving them the history of all the past horrors of previous holidays because they seem to forget those experiences ever happened or they will accuse you of over-exaggerating. Remember they are manipulating at all times. Stick to your decision regardless of the guilt they impose. Whether you’re with them during the holidays or not, you’ll be sure to hear all about it and what you “missed,” which is sure to be nothing but drama.
2. Get Outta Dodge.
When it comes to a toxic family, there is nothing wrong (or more relaxing!) with spending the holidays alone – instead of dealing with the family drama take yourself out of the picture all together – like way out…to another country. Take a vacation – pick a spot you’ve always wanted to visit to and make this holiday the year you travel there away (hopefully thousands of miles) from the drama of your toxic family. As you are sitting on a warm beach with an umbrella drink in your head, cheers to the fact that you are celebrating a drama-free holiday.
3. It’s You or them. Make them choose.
Tell your family members that you will not attend holiday events as long as your most toxic family member is invited. This makes it clear what your limits are, and why you’re unwilling to allow this person to ruin the holidays for you. In this situation, you will either be left out to experience your choice to not attend, or the toxic family member that ruins everything will be uninvited so you can attend. Most likely the former will happen so plan your holiday as if you will not be at the bigger events. People are likely to choose the former because they are afraid to confront the toxic person and set any type of limits on them. Be careful not to feel too hurt by their inability to choose you over the toxic person. If they choose to uninvite the toxic person they face conflict, drama, fighting and emotional abuse. If they choose to let you not come, they do not face any consequences they foresee as damaging to them. See this is a free out of jail card and allows you to have the type of holiday you want with the people you’d like to spend it with.
DR. SHERRIE CAMPBELL is a nationally recognized expert in clinical psychology, an inspirational speaker, former radio host of the Dr. Sherrie Show for the BBM Global Network and TuneIn Radio, and an active writer for Huffington Post and Entrepreneur.com.
It’s wonderful to gather her advice.