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Dear Heather

Hello Heather,

I am celebrating Christmas with my family on Sunday and I cannot stand my sister in law. She is married to my brother and unfortunately the gathering is at her house. She has emotional issues from childhood that have followed her into adulthood. This makes her argumentative, spiteful and always “the victim” There are many other challenges to dealing with her but I won’t bore you with any more of them. How do I deal with being around her? I am afraid she will provoke me while I am at their house or try to get me to lose my cool and get in to an argument with her.


Dear Kevin, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your concern. This is a time of year when many families return back to their roots. Our families can be approach as the internal child who never had a choice or as our current adult self who is capable of understanding and reverence. The fact that each of us is truly doing the best we can with what we have, we can then be with our families with a birds-eye view of presence. Making room for innocence in misunderstanding, we may notice how our families do not truly know what we are experiencing. The understanding and reverence of our adult self can allow our families to be out of balance without making their behavior personal. This reverence also applies to you in your experience, you have a choice about who you have around you and how they treat you. The true spirit of this holiday season is connection, reflection, and love. There may be a way to be with your family in the spirit of the season, whether on the night in question or by arranging another time to be with those in your family. As humans, we truly are the designers of what our life feels like. If you know what feeling you are seeking by joining with your family, you can invite your family to share their time with you in that feeling. By keeping an eye on the feeling you’re seeking when coming together, it can truly change the direction conversations and intentions go. It sounds like your family has a good foundation to stand on and that your sister-in-law is still learning her place within it. Given her background, trust and security are not certain. Does your family know what security looks like for her, is there a sense of what she would need to feel safe? This does not imply that you should compromise your integrity or alignment with the feeling you’re seeking, but offers curiosity around where generosity might be available. Does she know what she has been invited into by joining your family? It also sounds like the animosity with your sister has taken some time to develop, that it is familiar and not new. This does not mean that it is set in stone. Your family dynamic can change at any time. It will require awareness and intention on your part. Figuring out what kind of family feeling you want to have and continuing to point in that direction with how you participate in conversations, it won’t take long for that feeling to be the way you experience your family. This does not mean that you will be changing any of your family members, it only means that you are changing how you participate in your connection with them. I hope this helps you find that you can enjoy your family this holiday. You are welcome to email me and let me know how it goes for you. I am happy to publish your experience if that appeals to you.

My heart is with you, Heather

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