Navigating Family Gatherings When You’re in Pain

tips for navigating family gatherings when you're in painDuring my drinking days, there were holiday seasons when I was really struggling. I remember being so anxious about what was going on in my life and so ashamed about my drinking that I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

 

With the holiday season upon us, so are the joys unique to this time of year. But if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, if you’re reeling from an intimate betrayal, dealing with an addiction, or whatever, the holidays can be a tough time of year.

 

Family gatherings can present challenges. How do you deal with your family, who may have contributed to your pain in the first place? How much do you tell about what’s going on for you? Let’s take a walk through some ways of navigating family gatherings when you’re in pain that might help, no matter what’s going on in your life.

Minding Your Emotions: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 3)

minding our emotionsGetting to know and understanding ourselves, our stories, and our feelings is such an important part of personal growth. Learning to live with difficult feelings instead of self-medicating, numbing ourselves, or in some other way avoiding vulnerability is the stuff of life. Doing this hard work of being aware of and owning our “stuff” is key to living with meaning and fulfillment.

 

In part 1 of this series, I shared a personal experience to illustrate how important learning to deal with our most painful feelings is important. In part 2, I talked about why some people have trouble identifying and describing what they feel. In this post, I’d like to share with you some strategies for how you can learn to get to know yourself and your feelings a little better.

Why We Have Trouble Knowing Our Feelings: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 2)

why you have trouble knowing your feelingsRemember the last time you felt something so strongly that your emotions got the better of you? Maybe you did something you regret. Maybe you spoke words that you wish you could take back. Or maybe you just gritted your teeth, trying your best to hang in there while it felt like the world was falling apart. Because in moments when strong emotions have ensnared us, it really does feel like the sky is falling.

 

Most of us, in moments like this, have at least some idea that we’re caught up in powerful feelings. What we don’t always know is what we’re feeling and why. As we’ll see, being aware of what you’re feeling is the first step to taking the reins back from your strong emotions.

How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 1)

how to recognize and deal with your feelingsWe’ve all been there. We have an experience that causes intense feelings to rise up in us, drowning out all others. We become momentarily awash in that painful experience, whether it’s anger, shame, anxiety, fear, or all of the above all at once. We feel so much so quickly, often without fully understanding what’s going on with us.

 

I had an experience like that recently. Without getting into the gritty details, I stepped in it with a family member, someone I love and care for deeply. I didn’t communicate clearly about some of my plans, and she was hurt. Of course, I didn’t mean to hurt her, but that’s beside the point. That’s what I was telling myself in between my flashes of anger, which is always a sure sign that I feel shame.

Why You Don’t Take Better Care of Yourself When You’re Stressed

 

“You’ve got a lot going on.” Sound familiar? I’ve been hearing this a lot lately. The Missus and I were thrilled to welcome our first child into the world just over four months ago, and we couldn’t be happier. Of course, having a baby has been a significant and sometimes difficult adjustment for our family. I also recently began studying for the California MFT licensing exams, and I’m starting an intensive process to become trained in the treatment of sex addiction. Sometimes, seasons in life come along and create tornadoes of stress in our lives, and chances are you’ve experienced seasons like the one I’m going through now. So how might we respond to our stress in a helpful way?

On (Emotional) Shackles & Freedom

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, the holiday during which America remembers its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. We celebrate that after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we at last gained hard-won freedom after the long years of the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Though that war is over, Americans still battle in many conflicts throughout the world.

 

A different kind of conflict, however, churns within each of us, regardless of nationality: Each of us fight for our innermost desires and longings to be recognized and understood in our most intimate relationships.

Piglet on the Couch: Anxiety as Inner Conflict

Some months ago, I stumbled across “Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 film featuring many of my favorite childhood friends, while wading through the vast waters of Netflix’s streaming library. My delight upon being reunited with these characters inspired me to integrate my training as a therapist with my affection for Pooh and his friends by writing about Eeyore, Ashdown Forest’s sad, gloomy, and lethargic grey donkey. In that post, I explained that depression results from one’s inability to manage depressive feelings.

Eeyore on the Couch: Depression & How Therapy Can Help

A few months ago, I was surfing the vast wave of entertainment in my Netflix streaming application when I discovered a veritable gold mine of nostalgia: “Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 film featuring many of my favorite childhood friends. In the long years since I had last seen them, I was delighted to find that Winnie the Pooh’s appetite for honey had not waned a bit, that Tigger was still nearly manic with unbound energy, and that Piglet was still occasionally conquering his fears despite being a “very small animal.”