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Friday, February 3, 2023
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Coach Paradise: Construct a New Holiday Experience

Dear Coach Paradise,
As the holidays are upon us, I am writing to ask for your help in turning them into happier times than they have been in the past. I am married and have a lovely wife and two young children. My folks are getting on in years, so we alternate spending Xmas with my parents and siblings and my wifes family. This year well be going to my family and, quite frankly, I am dreading it. My dad is overbearing and, as hard as I try, I always seem to get roped into an argument.
My parents remind me of how I have disappointed them by not becoming a physician like my father, and are not interested in the work that I do in the film industry. I can tell that my mother thinks my wife should have given up breastfeeding our youngest, and by the time we return home I am exhausted. I enjoy seeing my brother and sister, and there are fun things to do in the big city I grew up in. I am tired of feeling like a kid when I am an adult who is basically pretty happy with his life, loves what he does, loves his wife and kids and wants to be a good son. Any ideas?
Home for the holidays
Dear Home for the Holidays,
Interesting that you signed your letter "Home for the holidays," when your question has to do with leaving your home to go to your parents' home for the holidays. Just noticing that should give you some insight into what is going on that leads to the bad feelings. If you are really going "back home" to the place where you felt powerless, criticized, picked on and never good enough — it sounds like a setup, and you might be wise to take a break and celebrate Christmas at your home, where you and your wife can establish your own family traditions and create memories for your own kids.
If visiting and spending time with your family is what you choose to do, I have the following suggestions.
1. Recognize that you have conclusions about how things are going to be even before you get there. Come up with a more interesting conclusion than, "Visiting with my family is depressing and stressful." (An approximation of your own version.) For example, "Visiting with my family is full of surprises." We all have conclusions, and we gather evidence to support our conclusions and then show up based on the conclusions and the evidence. People relate to us based on how we show up. Its a loop. If we can change the conclusion to something more interesting and gather evidence to support that new conclusion, the whole picture shifts. It is worth trying. I am asking you to notice what preconceived ideas you have about who people are (including yourself) and how they are going to act — and to dismantle those preconceptions, opening the space for things to happen in surprisingly different ways.
2. Become an unconditionally constructive person. This means that what you do or say will always build the other person up and never destroy or belittle another person. It means to do this as a technique or practice and to evolve into the type of person who is naturally this way. There is a much to learn about becoming really good at this, and the holidays provide a great opportunity. Your description of your parents points to how unconstructive they were, and how critical you are of them. I wonder what it would be like for you to show up as unconditionally constructive this year?
3. Focus on what you enjoy about your visit — your siblings, fun things to do in the city, your wife and kids. Look for things you enjoy and dont put energy into the things that bug you. Whatever you focus on expands.
Season's greetings,
Coach Paradise
Editor's note: Coach Paradise (AKA Anne Nayer), Professional Life Coach, is a member of the International Coaching Federation, an MSW clinical social worker-psychotherapist and a medical case manager with 30 years experience working with people of all shapes, sizes and challenges.
For further information about her services, call 774-4355 or email her.

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