Dealing with Uncle Jack

Holidays are so magical.
Getting together with friends and family.
The laughter.
The merriment.
The uncomfortable political discussions where you want to leap across the table and stuff your napkin in the mouth of your Uncle Jack.
Fun, right? Especially this year.
I have worked with a lot of people lately on the concept of getting triggered, and I think it is an important thing to think about, before you enter the lion’s den.
I believe other people are not responsible for our triggers. And although that flies in the face of the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality we have created for our kids, I think we have seen enough to know the downside.
When we take responsibility for our triggers then WE have the power to control them and make them go away.
Most triggers feel like a knee-jerk reaction because they were formed by us as toddlers and have been playing in the back of our minds for a long time. So when you say – I have always been like that, you are probably not far from the truth.
The solution is a willingness to own it, coupled with a large serving of curiosity.
One of the best times to investigate a trigger (sadly) is right after it happens, when things are fresh. Someone says something and it made you feel a certain way. Yet nestled between those two things is a thought and a meaning. But our brains have run this pattern so many times we jump from A to C without the acknowledgement and understanding of B. Can you dig a little and figure out what you are making it mean?
A strategy for the holidays will always serve you. The people that trigger you are people you know. You have seen their patterns. You know what to expect. Plan ahead! And maybe plan to take it lightly – even make a game out of it if it helps.
Challenge yourself to create and try a new strategy to achieve a new result. What are some things you could do?
One thing I wouldn’t do is use will power. Adopting the mantra of – I will not engage, I will not engage, I will not engage, might work in the short term but it will leave you feeling like you need a drink and that should never be the goal.
Some of the things I have tried include:
• Trying to find something to agree on. Even if it seems superficial, try something like – ‘I agree Uncle Jack, things are a little crazy out there’ just to see what happens.
• Being clean and clear before I open my mouth that my goal in speaking is not to try to change people’s minds or opinions. And if someone is trying to do that to me, I try to be curious as to why they feel so committed to their mission.
• Asking permission when I want to change the direction of the conversation. As in – Can I share another idea? Or – Can I ask a question? It appeals to a different part of their brains when you ask for their buy in.
• Not allowing alcohol to be a factor in my behavior.
• Listening. Not with the idea of formulating a response, but to just try to hear them. You don’t have to agree with someone to be curious. And for me, curiosity allows me to stay calm.
I listened to one of my favorite therapists being interviewed the other day. I was reminded of his timely advice that we need to strive to always have the lowest heart rate in the room. I would advise thinking about that prior to any encounter over the holidays where you think you might be challenged.
Being responsible for how you feel is not always easy, but it is always better than giving your power to your Uncle Jack.