Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 - How to Survive the Holidays

This is a bit of a public service announcement, since it's not directly related to neurofeedback - other than that neurofeedback makes most things easier to navigate. (In families that can mean more ability to choose how to respond because of decreased reactivity.) No one can get to us like our families can!

But returning to the subject of holidays:

Back in around 1987 I was the assistant to the leader (Jill Raiguel, MFCC) for a workshop called How to Survive the Holidays. It was the best attended out of many workshops we did, which told me how much of a problem holidays can be for people.

Since that workshop, I've watched for opportunities to be helpful around the holiday season - in my psychotherapy practice and with annual posts in both my blogs since their inception in 2009.

Here it is, that time again. The suggestions below have been tried, tested and added to since 1987.

It seems some things don't change. The more dysfunctional your family, the more important it is to have a plan.
  • Make sure you get time away from the house. Go for a walk, run an errand, see a movie. This is easier when you're the visitor, but sometimes just five minutes alone in the backyard or the back room can help.

  • Have a support person lined up. That could be your good friend from where you live now, ready to remind you over the phone that you have a life outside your family. Get counseling if you need it.  (Many therapists will make a phone appointment with you during an out of town trip.)

  • If you are the visitor and there are people you like who live in the same town or city as your family, make plans to see them on your own during the visit.

  • Conduct an experiment: Study your family members as if you were meeting them for the first time. This will give you some helpful distance and perspective.  And it can be surprising.

  • Remember: You are not your family; you are a separate person.
Please ask questions or make comments here, or you're welcome to email me, especially if you're curious about how neurofeedback might help you in these kinds of situations. 

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
New York Neurofeedback


  1. I have used all of these at one time or another, and they are all helpful. I also do one other thing very consciously: from the moment I first encounter the dysfunctional people or environment, I begin internally storytelling everything I experience, in the way I intend to report it to my friends back home. For instance, as I walk into my mother's house and smell her kitchen, I may imagine myself telling my friends, "The second I walked in I could tell my mother was murdering another casserole." It gives me a fun way to experience some potentially distasteful things, and lets me look forward to telling the stories. Thanks and happy holidays, Catherine!

  2. Sharon, thank you for your comment. The suggestion you added is terrific. I can see how it would help with not getting drawn into the family dynamic. Your adult self stays in place, observing the action and commenting on it. The casserole example really made me smile. Happy holidays to you, too!