Once we leave home, whether to attend college, get married or just venture out on our own, returning home to be with our parents or with close family for any reason can be very challenging. It isn’t uncommon for people to dread the holidays. Anxiety intensifies as we begin to think about being around certain family members who might have been difficult in the past.
In our time away from the family systems we were raised in, becoming exposed to other family dynamics, often, we recognize the unhealthy family systems we left. If that is you, and if you have been intentional to learn, grow, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the “new you” can seem threatening to the family whose “cycle” you have moved out of, once you return. The presence of the “new you” whose coming home for the Holidays imposes a change into the relational gears they were used to functioning in. When you are no longer willing to revert to the old system, it’s scary for them and now they don’t know how to respond ~ because they thought the family dance steps were understood, agreed to, and beyond challenge.
If that’s the case, in kindness & gentleness, speak the truth in love and hold to your healthy ground.
On the other hand, many might agree, once we leave home and family, re-entering the old familiar territory, can be challenging for a different reason. Often we have the experience of reverting back to the ways in which we related or emotionally reacted in that system as a child or teenager. If you feel powerless when going back into those familiar scenarios … … … reverting to the old feelings, becoming the “old you”, you remember being when you lived at home ~ BE ENCOURAGED ~ there’s a reason!
Why is this a struggle?
There are “younger parts” of ourselves that experienced pain simply because we didn’t have as much context for life in our youth as we do now. Many times, our immaturity in childhood, caused us to draw our own conclusions based on our limited knowledge at the time. As a result, there are parts of our hearts that have been wounded in childhood, are stuck in time and pain, and have never been able to grow up. We can unknowingly suppress those parts of ourselves that have trauma or pain, and oftentimes it's not until we get around the person or persons who may have contributed to causing the pain that it resurfaces, causing these younger parts of ourselves to come out of hiding and interact once more.
The definition of trauma is important so that no painful experience is minimized. Rev. Andrew A. Miller defines trauma as, “when pain exceeds capacity for joyful connection, and it seems as if the original painful experience has become locked in time and space in the person’s being and diminishes one’s God-given identity.” This is to say that trauma is not only the experiences that involve violence and physical abuse, but it can also be the "dirty looks," the yelling, or even the absence of what one might have needed as a child.
So, what do I do?
Heart healing is so vital. It gives these child-parts the opportunity to receive truth and healing from Jesus, get unstuck, and experience a loving relationship with Him. Every one of these beautiful experiential encounters creates a deeper level of healing, fostering the process of becoming wholehearted.
Wholeheartedness is knowing what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you feel about it! Staying fully present no matter what the situation.
The Bible encourages us to have undivided hearts and to worship Jesus with whole hearts, inferring that our hearts become broken and fragmented. But there’s a huge chance that you weren’t aware of this or as a child, you hadn’t experienced Jesus enough to know His character. So Jesus loves to highlight and invite us into memories where we’ve been stuck in pain. That pain, those false beliefs, has kept us from giving our entire hearts to Him so that He can reveal Himself in the context of the memory & the things we came to believe in them.
Your experience with His presence takes the sting out of the memory and brings healing and wholeness. In a sense, heart healing gives more “real estate" for the Holy Spirit to reside inside of us and for Jesus to be Lord over.
Being proactive with heart healing will give each child-part the opportunity to be introduced to Jesus in the same way you have come to know Him as an adult. When more and more parts are given this opportunity to experience Him in the midst of painful childhood memories, the more whole your heart will become. You will be the same in every environment you enter. You will be the same at home for the holidays as you are in the life you are currently living because the love of Jesus has brought His perfect love, healing, and a new perspective.
Wholeheartedness is knowing what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you feel about it! Staying fully present no matter what the situation, enables you to be as strong and steady as an oak tree, firmly planted by the Lord, unwavering and unmoved by life’s circumstances and relationships (Isaiah 61:3).
Tips to help make the holidays more peaceful in your heart
If you are unable to have a heart healing session with a facilitator before the holidays there are some things that you can do to help if you know there is potential interaction with family members that might produce familiar shame, guilt, or performance cycles as in the past.
1. Partner with Jesus
Prior to your visit, make a point to partner with Jesus in prayer and acknowledge to him that you would love for these younger parts of yourself to encounter his love very soon. Ask him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17) until you have the opportunity to go deeper with a facilitator. This is an act of “casting your cares upon Him” (Psalm 55:22).
2. Give yourself grace
Ask Jesus for the capacity to begin seeing these younger parts separate from who you currently are as an adult and give them all the grace you can possibly give them. You can even speak to them, giving them the Word of God and anything that you have learned and experienced regarding the character of Jesus. Assure them that there is hope and a future and that He loves them deeply. This is an act of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to yourself and it also goes hand in hand with the “renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus” (Romans 12:2).
A simple breathing exercise can help stimulate your vagal nerve and turn on your relational circuits when you begin to feel your anxiety rising, your peace diminishing, and your flight-fight-freeze mode being turned on.
Find a quiet place and close your eyes.
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on your chest.
Count to 4 as you inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand and your chest should rise very little.
Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Exhale through your mouth and slowly say, “Whenever I’m afraid I will trust in you, O Lord.” (Psalm 56:3) You can replace this with another Bible verse or truth from God.
Repeat until you feel your anxiety subsiding.
Using this breathing exercise is a great way to start and end each day. Scheduling a few 5-minute breaks throughout your day to stretch and breathe is also a way to practice noticing and regulating your stress levels. Incorporating this simple breathing exercise into your day will make it easier to return to peace and turn on your relational circuits when you’re in an anxiety-inducing situation.
The University of Michigan Health in a study on stress management stated that when you breathe deeply you’re sending a message to your brain to relax. Your brain then directs the message to your body.
The holidays and family gatherings can be stressful and despite what we’ve been taught by society, that it's normal, there is a way for deep healing that will allow you to actually experience joy-filled moments with family where pain and anxiety once lived.
Click here if you'd like help in processing with Jesus and book an in-person or Zoom Heart Healing session with one of our trained facilitators.