September 8, 2022

Here’s why family time is, sometimes, so damn hard

For some of us, this period of the year is the most magical time of reconnecting with family, hunkering down with oversized cheese boards and festive films and feeling that deep sense of safety and belonging which may well have been limited for the rest of the year.

For others of us, this period of the year can bring up alllll of the stuff. We find ourselves reverting to child versions of ourselves, and having to perpetually bite our tongues to not end up in huge blow ups with certain family members.

So this is a message for those of you in the latter camp. Those of you who find yourself suddenly reverting to childlike patterns, biting your tongue and wondering whyyyy oh whyy can’t you just have a wonderful festive period like everyone else? The purpose of this piece is

1) to help you understand a bit about why this happens for some of us

2) to see how we can approach the challenge in a constructive way…

Family time is the most triggering time of all because most of our emotional wounds come from our families. GULP.

So when we are little kiddies and we don’t know very much about the world, we create our paradigm (how we see life/ourselves/the world) based on what we experience around us, because we don’t really have anything else to go off, do we.

The other minor complication here is that as little kids, we don’t really have very much in the way of an ability to rationalise what is going on around us, so what we tend to do is to make everything that happens around us mean something about who we are as a person, rather than it being just some random event, or someone in a bad mood or whatever.

So if, for whatever reason, someone important in our family is regularly in a bad mood and shouts at us a bit, we may well start to believe that we are unlovable because we are being shouted at (seems far fetched, I know, but kids brains don’t work the same as adult brains). Or say for example, we grew up in a big family and there were lots of people around all the time and everyone was always talking over each other, we may start to believe that nobody wants to hear what we have to say.

Our experiences in childhood create what a lot of people like to call our ‘belief systems’ – what we believe to be true about the world and ourselves. Annoyingly, they follow us through life forever, until we start to work with them.

A belief is a PRACTISED thought – so a thought we think regularly. When a situation happens in life which triggers us to think one of these practised thoughts, like ‘nobody wants to hear what I have to say’, we become emotionally activated, reactionary and perhaps start noticing our behaviours become almost childlike (cue sulking, having a strop, etc.)

The reason that this happens SO DAMN MUCH when we are with family is because all of our deepest emotional wounds are most likely being triggered by the exact people who were in the exact types of situations which created them in the first place. OOOOF.

The first thing I’ll say is… THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.

This is a perfectly normal human response based on all the stuff you learned about yourself and life as a kid, so if there is a voice in your head which berates you for having a strop or suddenly finding yourself shouting at someone in your family… you can find a little bit of compassion for yourself because it’s NORMAL.

The second thing I’ll say is… THERE IS SO MUCH JUICE IN THIS STUFF.

What I mean by this is that spending a period of time with family which is intensely triggering is actually wonderful if you’re interested in personal growth and evolution.


Because it literally lifts the veil on all of our deep rooted belief systems which, most of the time, are DAMN HARD to see.

Why do you need to know your belief systems?

Because they basically dictate everything in your life. Yes. How you see the world, which is shaped by your family, is no doubt impacting how you approach other relationships in your life, how you show up in business, with your kids, in decision making.. All of it. In order to make any kind of change or evolution in life, we HAVE to become aware of these deep rooted currents which are dictating our ways of being. Only once we are aware of them can we start to unpick them and shift how we see the world.

So maybe, just maybe, the emotional OUCH-ness of being with family can be a blessing, because it fast tracks our ability to see all this stuff we fundamentally believe to be true about the world so that we can then start to unpick it.

There are two ways to start to do this:

  1. When super irritated by something that’s happening, notice what the narrative is in your mind about the situation. Then, ask yourself, what would I need to believe to be true about myself/the world in order for this to be true?
  2. Notice your thoughts whilst around people you find triggering, notice any thoughts which are directly linked to what you believe to be true about you/the world/your position in the family. Are any of these true? How could these beliefs be impacting other areas of your life?

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