How to deal with being held hostage at the THANKSGIVING table

How to deal with being held hostage at the THANKSGIVING table


hi everyone its dr. Romani with episode 1 of this new series on how to cope with narcissists during a holiday season this episode it’s going to take on the issue of how to deal with being held hostage at the Thanksgiving table as with all of our content do you hit the bell please subscribe because this is the whole series and then you’ll get notifications about the whole series so let’s talk about this what does it mean to be held hostage at the Thanksgiving table obviously I don’t mean that some sort of masked gunman is going to jump into your holiday table and hold you all hostage this is actually in it’s strange way a little bit more sinister so what does it mean what does it mean that when you get stuck at a holiday table where there’s years and years and years of family tradition family drama family problems family issues and you have to listen to the same nonsense year over year and every year it sort of ends in the same place where you feel frustrated disappointment disgusted and sometimes even wonder what’s wrong with you yourself for putting up with it for one more year every single year as Thanksgiving gets closer the dreaded question is hey what are you doing for Thanksgiving this year and for those of you not watching this in the United States Thanksgiving is you know have might know happened on the last Thursday in November in the United States that Thursday the day after are typically days off and many people will often take the day before as a day off it’s a big travel time people often travel to their families and spend that long weekend eating and adding insult to injury the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday which is one of the biggest shopping days of the year so it sort of becomes this sort of really challenging weekend of eating and shopping and family and expectations and so there’s a fair amount of agitation around it Thanksgiving was originally a holiday that was celebrated to commemorate whether you believe it or not this idea of thanks being offered by people coming together the colonists in the United States and the native people who lived here coming together on a heaps table of food and giving gratitude whether or not you believe that telling of the story the bottom line is is that this is meant to be a time of year of giving gratitude of drawing around the table of whether in prayer or sitting around a table and really reflecting on what you’re grateful for sounds like all the underpinnings of what should be a very mentally healthy holiday and yet it can often fall apart so let’s talk about why that is because it’s such a force today you got to have Thanksgiving dinners one thing I even noticed the clients I work with many of them who come from very narcissistic family systems very dysfunctional family systems either have to spend time with that family which fills them with dread or they may not be spending time with that family so then they feel lonely for having to be alone on that particular day so no matter what a person’s doing they often either feel rejected by their family or really fearful of what’s gonna happen when they finally encounter their family one of the questions I tell people is I teach them how to cope with the Thanksgiving dinner especially if you have one or more narcissistic family members or a narcissistic partner or spouse is ask yourself why are you choosing to be at that table most people give the answer tradition family don’t want to deal with the conflict don’t want to have an argument just want to get it done and over with don’t want to disappoint my parents don’t want to disappoint my kids it’s not often in wanting to be there but rather not wanting to let other people down or – the expectations around that day so I often tell people as you go into your Thanksgiving dinner figure out what is your true north for that day what is it maybe it is that you’re there to give your kids a sense of tradition and that’s your only reason you don’t care that your mom’s gonna drink too much you don’t care that your dad is going to be invalidating you don’t care that your brother-in-law and your husband are getting into an argument you simply want to give your kids a tradition keep your eyes on that by having a set TrueNorth you’re less likely to fall for the bait of the other dysfunctional family members are on the table you just sort of build it in as part of the background like the dishes that are at the table or the flower arrangement or whatever it is second piece of guidance is don’t engage there are likely to be at least one if not more dysfunctional people at your Thanksgiving don’t engage with them ask them some very basic questions hey how are you it’s been colder than usual can you believe it’s raining did you watch the parade stick to very basic on the engaging questions don’t go beyond that many times people feel compelled like they have these have these deeper conversations why every other deep conversation you’ve had with these narcissistic people has been an epic fail why would this year be any different if you can keep the engagement to a minimum keep a focus on whatever that true north is maybe your kids maybe an elderly grandparent or other elderly relatives who you don’t know if they’ll be ok enough for Thanksgiving they are even alive next year be clear on the true north don’t engage with the people who are likely to be narcissistic or who are narcissistic and caused you problems here’s another idea before you go into that Thanksgiving dinner focus on creating a visualization an image something that makes you happy it could be walking down the beach it could be some other beautiful place you’ve been to it could be an image of a place you want to go to it could be a memory of a perfect day and really close your eyes and create that image in your head then when some raging narcissist and this year more than any politics are going to be the very uncomfortable indigestion inducing side dish at many Thanksgiving tables in the United States we’re going to an incredibly heated time in American politics and there’s a lot of polarization a lot of narcissistic people hold their ground on their and I don’t care if you’re on the liberal or conservative end of the spectrum this isn’t to politicize this discussion there are narcissists who are liberals there are narcissists or conservatives narcissists are sort of spread all over the political spectrum but those conversations are gonna happen and you’re gonna feel the dread don’t feel the drug pull that image out of your mind you’re on a turquoise water white sand beach you can feel that water that’s just as warm as the air you’re sipping a cool cocktail you’re walking into the water you’re feeling it laughs on your legs that are warm from the Sun before you know it you are so deep into your turquoise Beach fantasy that blah blah blah blah blah impeachment blah blah blah blah narcissism you and you kind of have this sort of happy look on your face and you’re not engaging it helps to have that image because you can actually envision yourself doing different things walking back to your beach chair taking a hike climbing a mountain whatever it is your groove but practice that visualization you’ll be amazed at how much power it gives you at Thanksgiving table because instead of rolling your eyes and groaning and grunting and making yourself intubate you actually stand the chance of just sort of blissfully smiling and peacefully smiling well everyone’s going on and on another way to cope with Thanksgiving is actually offer to help with things that get you out of the purview of the narcissist maybe the kids need some help like offer to go sit at the kids table and help cut up their food offer to help with the dishes and you can jump up early you some people get caught up like it’s not fair I did the cooking why should I have to do the dishes honey if it helps you get away for some ridiculous narcissistic conversation you should want to clean platters all day all night the warm water on your hands kind of getting lost in the Zen of dishwater watching the dishes it’s not about fair it’s about what keeps you sane on that day but keep in mind you it is just a day I have to say that many times when I get on a really long flight I’m like oh my gosh I’m gonna have to sit in this uncomfortable seat for 12 hours does I have to remind myself it is just 12 hours like I’ve done many things for 12 hours I have been at work for 12 hours we do stuff for that period of time it gets us through it is only one day and it’s not even 12 hours sometimes it’s only four hours five hours six hours you can endure it if you can remind yourself it is only once per year you don’t put so much importance on it oh my god it’s Thanksgiving it so important I don’t want to ruin my Thanksgiving it’s a day and treat it just as that unplug some of the power out of the day stop making it such a big deal as you know when I often talk about narcissistic survival strategies I tell people don’t personalize it when your narcissistic uncle or your narcissistic parents or your narcissistic sibling starts going at you believe it or not it ain’t personal narcissists are equal opportunity offenders they may have favored targets but keep in mind if you’re a narcissist favorite target you likely are activating some element of insecurities in them making you probably more powerful than you think making you I should say making you more powerful in their lives than you think don’t personalize it our tendency to want to defend ourselves in the face of a narcissist is because we make it personal just reflect on the fact that this poor person is really so damaged and so insecure they have to go at you and when you really think of it that way you can take that deep breath and not take the fight you’d be better off just sort of keeping it calm keeping it relaxed but when you start noticing that tension mounts up in you in that way that happens it’s not just a drowsiness with the turkey wings but the indigestion with the narcissus bring then that becomes your cue to maybe think about leaving especially if you’ve already helped with the dishes and then slowly gather yourself and get out gets more complicated if you’re sleeping at the place where the dinner is but you can always excuse yourself take advantage of taking a walk in the neighborhood taking a nap doing something that might give you a little bit of a detox break from the narcissus around you when narcissus hold us hostage they get their power from our sense of powerlessness you have more power than you think your mind offers you a place of power so you can think differently about this maintain realistic expectations not allow it to be such a disappointing experience but rather by having that TrueNorth that one person that one thing you can make the day about whether it’s an older relative other children one person you want to see have that true north and make the rest of it noise that you don’t let encroach on your day it requires a lot of mental control so make sure that at the end of the evening you give yourself some time to come down to detox from the experience engage in some self-care whether that means going to sleep early reading a book you like watching a program you want but being kind to yourself because that much forced gaiety especially with narcissists who might be trying to undermine you can really be exhausting and when you’re doing it and year-over-year it brings up triggers or old Thanksgivings it can feel even harder you can do this let this be the year that despite those narcissistic family members let this be the year that the gratitude you give to the Thanksgiving table is that you finally figure this out and you’re no longer gonna let it get under your skin Happy Thanksgiving have extra mashed potatoes for me please and again stay tuned for another episode of how you’re going to survive this year’s holidays

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