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The holidays are here and we all have expectations that we don’t even realize until they cause conflict. For example, suppose you’re spending your first Christmas together as newlyweds and your spouse just came home with tons of decorations for the house.  You’re not only thinking about the budget but you are feeling you haven’t even been consulted about the decorations such as the type, color, placement etc. All of a sudden you are feeling angry and you are not even sure why. Your spouse is thinking this is what he/she has always done and can’t understand why you are so upset.

There are many ingrained expectations which we have observed growing up and we just “expect” it to be the same way as it was then. If we opened one gift Christmas Eve and saved the rest for Christmas, we expect our spouse to follow this “expectation” for the holidays. These need to be discussed and revised so you can build your own traditions in your new family.

The roles we played growing up can sometimes be triggered during the holidays. This can especially happen if you go to your family of origin home to visit siblings and parents. Growing up we get into certain roles which seem to follow us throughout our lives. If we go home for the holidays, we are very likely to see these roles come back. Not only in us but in our family members.  It does help to be aware of the role you may have developed growing up so you can revise it and establish new ways of behaving. See below to see if any of these roles are familiar to you and any of your family members.

Doer – This person takes care of everything and makes sure needs of the family are met.

Enabler – This person tends to over help someone who is avoiding situations and conflict.

Rescuer – This person fixes everyone, and makes everyone happy.

Loner (Lost Child) – escapes family chaos and hides in his own world.

Hero – This person gives self-esteem to the family. Makes the family look good.

Mascot – Gives humor and comic relief.

Scapegoat – This is the problem child. This person takes or gets the blame for the family.

Victim – Avoids personal responsibility and blames others.

Dictator – This person takes control even if it is done in a passive way.

Martyr -This is a doer who becomes a victim.

Dad’s Princess/Mom’s Little Man – This person is a child who meets the needs of the parent.

These roles met different needs for you growing up but may be dysfunctional and not the way you want to respond to your family now. What ever your expectations are can affect your holiday. If too high you are going to feel some disappointment. If too low you might get less than you should out of the holidays.

Never before has there been a time when we all tend to compare ourselves to millions of other people because of social media. Very often what we see on social media are endless images of beautifully decorated homes, photos of fun filled vacations and happiness in everyone’s face. We tend to compare what we have with others and we may come up short because what we are seeing are curated versions of reality. We are jealous by nature and if I look to my left and see someone thinner than myself, I start to feel bad. If I look to my right and see someone fatter than myself, I start to feel pretty good about myself. Looking at social media can influence not only how we feel about ourself and relationships but can also affect our expectations we have of our spouses and family.

Are you looking for your Christmas to be a Norman Rockwell picture perfect event? If you are you may have some disappointments this Christmas. If you can become more aware of your expectations and get a better perspective on the situation you may find you are in a better place. It’s important to keep communication between you and your loved ones open, honest and realistic. Let the ones you love know your expectation before the event takes place. If you sense you are feeling angry or disappointed it might be due to an expectation that you’ve created within yourself or one you had because of your family of origin. Try to identify what you are feeling. A feeling list might help if you are not in touch with your feelings. Find at least 5 feeling words that fit your present state of mind. Identify if the feelings are from the past or present or both.

  1. Recognize the feeling – Let yourself feel what you feel.
  2. Label the feeling – Put a word label on your feeling.
  3. Affirm the feeling – It’s OK to have this feeling.
  4. Communicate the feeling – find someone safe to share what you are feeling.
  5. Resolve the feeling – Identify any triggers or see if there is any unfinished business from childhood or adulthood that is making the feeling more intense.

Knowing your own expectations and the expectations others have for you may help you enjoy the Holidays with less disappointments. It is easier to change your behavior once you understand your behavior. Gaining more awareness about your family of origin and the influences it may have had on you can be fun and challenging.

Here at Christian Counseling we are here to help you resolve issues that may be keeping you stuck and frustrated. Call us at 870-935-4102 as we are here to Help.

Laura Hodges, LPC
Christian Counseling of Arkansas

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