The holidays can be a glorious time for family togetherness, great food, beautiful decorations, and spiritual and religious growth. It can also be prime time for the dreaded emotions of resentment and guilt. What is it about the holiday season that summons up annoyance and aggravation to the point of seasonal dread? And more importantly, what can be done about it?
Over the last couple of years I've developed a highly effective way of coping: the yes/no method for my clients. I prescribe it year round, but find that it's particularly effective during the holidays. Here's how the yes/no method works: you may only say yes to requests from others if you do so without resentment, and you may only say no to others without guilt.
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Having watched the faces of numerous clients after I first describe the method, I get that you might look at this plan with a bit of skepticism. But take a few minutes and hear me out on this one. Let's use a typical mother-in-law example from the holidays to explain the yes/no method. Your mother-in-law asks you to bring numerous homemade dishes to her house for the holidays. She also asks you to buy gifts for your kids "from her" and run a few last minute errands on the day of Christmas Eve because she's of time.
Understandably, you want to be a good daughter-in-law, so you say yes to all of her requests. But you're pissed off, completely annoyed, cursing under your breath, and really resentful. By the time you show up for Christmas Eve dinner, you're so resentful that you've snapped at your kids, ignored your husband, and can't even look your mother-in-law in the eye. Who suffered from your saying yes to things you didn't want to do? Everyone, you included.
However, what if you said no to your mother-in-law and she was obviously disappointed with you? You probably feel guilty now, right? With your guilt you'll either do what she asks and head right back into resentment, or you'll not do it, but will show up feeling chagrined and irritated. Either way, you're miserable, and most likely everyone around you is as well.
So here's the thing: say yes if it works for you, and then choose to not have a resentful mindset. Or say no kindly and with assertiveness, and then move on. But to say yes and be resentful or say no and feel guilty is literally choosing the worst-case scenario every single time! It's a mild version of insanity that will not lead to improvement in either your relationships or how you feel about yourself.
I know what you're thinking right now: "But I can't help how I feel, and I have to say yes." I say "wrong!" on both counts. You have complete control over your mindset, which leads to how you feel. If you approach any request from the point of view of weighing out the request, making a decision based on choice versus guilt or coercion, accept your choice and move forward. If saying yes is probably the best thing to say, even if you don't want to do it, then do so without the resentment.
Why choose to feel guilty or resentful? Neither is necessary, and will only put a damper on your mood and the holiday season. Living life from a place of guilt and resentment is being trapped in your own cage of misery. Follow the yes/no method, and you'll feel free and content with your decisions. If others are unhappy with your choices, that's their problem — not yours. Now go have a wonderful holiday season!
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