Holiday Triggers Can Cause Relationship Damage

A year ago on this American Thanksgiving my family and I faced an intentional act of evil from someone close to us that makes this a bit of a “traumaversary.” Consciously it’s behind us and I won the battle and the war, but as with any trauma anniversary, your cells remember these things and you’ll recognize it in your body, your dreams, if not your conscious awareness. You might notice feeling more irritable, having disrupted sleep, flashbacks or dreams of the event, or generalized tension or worse when approaching a trauma anniversary – it’s uncomfortable, but it’s normal. It’s easy to re-live the experience repeatedly but what’s healthier is to bring awareness and reframing to it instead. Once you bring it to consciousness you can change it.
This is typically the time of year when, historically, people closest to me, have done some pretty awful things. In between our Canadian Thanksgiving, particularly around or on my birthday and through Christmas. It’s not uncommon. This is a difficult time of year for many. I may have been the target, but it really wasn’t anything to do with me. It’s not personal as much as it was directed to me personally. Not taking anything personally is really the key here even when you’re dealing with relational trauma.
Being able to reframe overwhelming events in your life is an essential skill along with any neurobiological work in therapy needed to work through the trauma itself depending on what it was.
What it REALLY is/was is a triggering time of year going into the holidays for anyone that wasn’t shown love, security, stability, and health. So their nervous systems are vibrating with activation, filled with a bunch of old, often early childhood garbage that they have chosen not to work on. And it can spill out over the holiday season, often directed to someone they are close to or care about enough to feel safe with.
Many families that have experience dysfunction or trauma also find this a challenging time of year when arguments and high levels of reactivity appear. Look at these behaviours as symptoms of deeper issues so you can reduce your own reactivity to them. This doesn’t mean tolerate the behaviours – please set healthy boundaries in your life, but also understand the process this is coming from.
Hurt people hurt people. People that have never been shown love early on in a safe and healthy way find it activating to be loved even in the best way. Children exposed to violence are often drawn to violence in thought, emotion, or actual action throughout their lives. Trauma causes damage and if not worked on professionally and in the right way yields more damage. You might be the target but it’s really not about you.
Don’t re-live it, instead, rise above it. When bad behaviour shows up at this time of year or any other, when your old traumaversaries appear, respond intelligently and appropriately. Realize you aren’t anyone’s punching bag – literally or figuratively – and release these unhealthy people from your life. Their actions are symptoms of their sickness and they have been drawn to you originally because of your health and strength as they seek security and stability in this life. These people will try to hurt you intentionally or unintentionally – consciously or unconsciously – because they are in pain – often depths of pain that they aren’t even aware of or they’d probably try and heal it.
That doesn’t mean you feel sorry for them. They have also chosen not to work through their stuff to be healthy.
Understand the history, depersonalize the experience as best you can, and release those people in love. You cannot fix them – not even with the biggest love you have to offer. This is their work and their journey. Your job is to make sure you remove the target from your back and look for healthier people to be around.
Your job is also to do your own work to be more aware of these people in your life in the first place and start setting better boundaries. This is all a learning experience – you don’t get to feel sorry for yourself either – you are responsible for doing your work and learning from these things to become better.
Leave everyone with love – which sometimes means eliminating them from your life altogether. Notice your own activation around the holidays. What pain or memories have you not fully worked through that are coming up during this season? Start doing your own work as you release others to do theirs. Love yourself enough to do both. It helps breaks patterns and eases the impact of traumaversaries.
Be grateful for the absence of toxic people in your life and draw strength from your ability to remove them. Reframe your life continuously to take the learning from the pain and confidence from winning the battles.
For my family and I, we worked through shock, fear, threats, and hypervigilance. As the year progressed those emotions and experiences faded and I was able to just feel gratitude for being far removed from a very unhealthy person with mounds of inner suffering that don’t deserve to be part of my life and certainly ones I don’t allow near my family. What we learned was even higher states of resilience. In fact, we experienced our best, healthiest, and closest year yet. The benefits far outweigh the experience and we have nothing but gratitude for the peace in our lives for both Canadian and American Thanksgivings!
 
 

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