Wed, April 01

Christmas presence

Over the holiday season, many of you will visit with family members whom you haven't seen in awhile. While you look forward to seeing them, part of you may fill with dread as you anticipate that old patterns and arguments will surface.

You can't keep that from happening; it occurs in all families. And, as much as you may want to, you can't change your family members. You can, however, use the time with them to begin to shift some of your own patterns.

Yes, I'm suggesting that you use this holiday season to work on yourself! One particular belief trips people up more than anything I teach about personal growth in relationships. If you can change this one attitude, it would go a long way toward your own personal development and would impact your relationships in a huge way.

That is the notion that everything you feel - including your reaction to others' behavior - is your responsibility. What others do or say does not cause those reactions in you; they result because of your perception of what others do and say. You wrongly blame them for your feelings.

In order to shift your part in the family drama, you must observe what goes on inside you. Doing so is both very simple and extremely challenging at the same time. Since you own 100 percent responsibility 100 percent of the time for your feelings and reactions, you withdraw the blame and simply place all of your attention on your own reactions.

This is easier said than done. So don't even try to change your behavior - not at first. Just practice observing the reactions you have.

Think of the feelings that you experience as energy running through your body. Let yourself feel it completely. Allow any discomfort (anger, hurt, disappointment, or worry) to be there inside you. Watch it. See if its sensation moves from one part of your body to another. In this way, you remove yourself from the "story" that you think created the feelings. You stay instead with the pure feeling. This brings you present into this moment, away from past history with family; away from anxiety about where, in the future, this argument may lead. In the now, you can change the feeling pattern inside you simply by placing your attention on it.

When you observe and allow instead of blaming someone "out there," you bring your reaction to the surface and move it quickly through and out of your body. Your emotional charge subsides. You may even become aware of an action you can take that serves to de-escalate the conflict.

If you do nothing else with your family members this holiday season, practice observing your reactions in this way. You will have your hands full doing this, as it takes a lot of determination, focus and commitment to withdraw blame.

You will, however, give yourself the gift of true Christmas presence during this season.

Dr. Marta practices as a Life Coach, offering holiday discounts through Jan. 1. Write her at or call (928) 451-9482.

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