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My parents were in town for the last few days.
They left last night.
I love them.
It's always so great to see them.
And there was something about the difficulties lived through over the last year--the raging pandemic and my grandma's death come to mind--that made it especially difficult to say goodbye.
But with family time comes anxiety time.
Families have a way of causing stress as few other groups can.
Today you're going to learn why that is.
And with your new knowledge, you'll have three big ways of seeing the world differently so that you can shape your responses and manage your stress.
It's All in the Family (Anxiety)
Why is it that spending quality time with family can cause such massive anxiety and stress?
Isn't it supposed to be wonderful to see family you don't get to see very often?
But something interesting happens when you go back into an old dynamic.
Especially when that dynamic is one of the central forces that shaped who you are.
Think about it.
What other environment is more important than the family environment?
Your family was there when you started walking.
Your family was there when you started talking.
Your family was there when your personality formed and you began to become who you are today.
Families are shaping grounds.
They mold and meld.
They can move you to great emotions.
And they can manipulate you as well.
So it's no wonder that families can cause anxiety.
They know everything about you.
They formed your original patterns.
They gave you the first template through which you saw and experienced the world.
Anxious Around Your Family No More
Here are the most common reasons why I'm anxious and stressed around my family.
Maybe you can relate.
The more reasons you can bring to awareness, the more you can take control of your anxiety and choose a different path once you start to feel stressed.
Focus on what makes sense to you and discard the rest.
ONE - They already know almost everything about you
Since my family watched me grow up, they already know (almost) everything about me.
There's nothing to hide.
They know the stupid things I did as a child, and they know my embarrassing and fearful moments.
There's a deep history to mine.
So, when I make a comment that signals I'm on a new path, my family is quick to remind me of my humble beginnings.
It can be both aggravating and deflating.
TWO - Their patterns were once your patterns
What do I mean by this?
I mean that you were forged in the fires of the trails your family blazed.
You can be 15 years removed from living with your family and still act as if you're sitting around the dinner table.
Because those dinner table conversations, those ways of talking and relating, become habits.
Once-common events have a way of digging canals in your mind, deep channels that may be smoothed over by years of distance--but channels that are still there under the surface.
All it takes is a sharp comment or a visual association to make the earth cave in.
It can be so difficult to stay out of conversations that you once joined so freely.
When families argue and bicker, it's tempting to play the same role you played years ago.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
You can stop, acknowledge, and let the moment pass.
THREE - Family members have their own interests
It's easy to forget this when you create a life for yourself.
It's easy to forget that you are not the center of the world and that you would actually have no world at all if it were not for the family members that brought you into it and cared for you.
Whether you think your past was good or bad, it's still your past, and you emerged from a common past with a group of people who all have their own interests.
For example, my dad loves to do household chores and work around the yard.
He's incredibly good at it.
If he could mow the lawn every day, he probably would.
His attention to detail with yardwork amazes me.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn't get that gene.
I don't enjoy that kind of stuff at all.
It's not the physical labor aspect--it's the nature of the task itself.
So when my dad was around these past few days, he saw the world in a way I don't see it.
He encouraged me to do things I don't really like to do.
What's more, my wife and my dad are quite similar.
Get the two of them in a room together, and it's Household-Tasks City!
I'm more like my mom. Emotional and cerebral.
Both sides are good.
It's important to be both introspective and action-oriented.
But it can be so difficult to disrupt my normal routines with the fervent desires of my family members.
To be OK with the fact that you don't have to do exactly what your parents do is hard.
Especially when they are right in front of you putting their interests in your face.
Fortunately, I have great parents and enjoy being around them.
They did enough right to give me a wonderful platform from which to leap.
I'm very lucky.
The key to remember here is that you are not your family.
You came from them, yes, but you don't have to be them.
You are your own person, just as your family members are their own people as well.
But family relationships might be the most complicated there are, and they can certainly be anxiety-inducing.
That's because there is so much history.
There's so much so soil through which weeds and flowers can grow.
You can look at the weeds and hang your head.
Or you can admire the flowers while they're still around.