The Right to Remain Silent

Recently, Jackie and I spent some time together and had a great chat.  Our conversations always lead me to discover or re-discover powerful insights.  I know our talks are good for her too.  If we lived closer, I would choose to spend time with her much more often.

One of the things we talked about last week was how sometimes we have to choose not to spend time with family members, even when we struggle with the societal expectations around family interaction.  This can be a special struggle during the holiday season.  Many of us wrestle with feeling this time of year that we are obligated to set aside our own needs for the benefit of family.  This not a simple dilemma and there are no perfect answers.  If you are facing decisions on who to interact (or not) with, which family gatherings to attend, or how best to protect yourself and/or your children at the holidays, remember to breathe deeply, take one step at a time and forgive yourself extravagantly.

Here are some common myths that trip me up in this category and some truths I need to keep reminding myself:

Myth: Family traditions deserve to be followed. Relatives have a right to see all of their family together.

Truth: There’s nothing sacred about traditions.  They were created to serve the family, not the other way around.  And relatives earn the privilege of family connection.

Myth: I’ve always ________ before.  If I choose not to this year I will have to explain myself.

Truth: We all choose who we spend time with (even who we speak to) from minute to minute, based on lots of factors.

Myth: If I agree to participate, I am obligated to agree to the whole package.

Truth: We all pick and choose what parts of holiday gatherings work for us.

Myth: I owe everyone an answer if I don’t want to attend or participate.

Truth: I have the right to remain silent.

Survivors of abuse were at some point put in the position of their own needs and feelings and dignity being set aside for someone else’s desires.  It’s common for many of us to keep putting our own needs aside.  This year, as the holidays approach, try to take each moment as an opportunity to choose what is good for you.   Pick and choose what nourishes and comforts you and say no thanks to things and people that subtract from, rather than add to your life.  And if you choose incorrectly, forgive yourself extravagantly and go on.

3 thoughts on “The Right to Remain Silent

  1. Devon says:

    Thank you for giving me confidence in my decision not to participate in a family Christmas this year that in many years past has left me feeling empty and hurt for days after. For the last 10 years Christmas has been a source of stress and anxiety about this particular event for months prior. This year I’m looking forward to the holiday season and I haven’t been this excited for the holidays since my childhood. Thanks for giving others the courage and knowledge to take back their happy holidays as well.

  2. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    Devon, thank you for your comment! It’s very nice to know that this post accomplished exactly what I had hoped…to give people permission to do what is best for themselves at the holidays (and every day) and to forgive themselves if they make the wrong decision.

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