Every December I get calls from clients that want to make sure they can deal with the stress of the holidays.
They say “let’s get rid of any beliefs that would have me react when my dad starts telling me how to live my life … or my brother starts picking on me … or the stores are crazy and people are rude.”
Here are the top five things that I hear from my clients over the holidays:
- Feeling stress about having to buy presents and not enough time to get everything done
- Getting upset and taking things personally that family members might say or behaviors that trigger you
- Feeling lonely which can result in sadness or depression
- Feeling sad that you don’t have the money to spend on travel to see family or buy presents
- Not feeling good enough because you’re accomplishments are less than siblings or parents expectations
Feeling stressed, angry, disappointed or less-than generally doesn’t lead to creating great holiday memories.
These emotions also lead to negative behaviors like yelling rather than simply asking for what you want, or withdrawing rather than participating. And many of us get defensive with relatives and loved ones rather than just simply validating their feelings and calmly responding.
Fortunately, the holidays don’t have to be so difficult. You can reduce the stress and have more of the joy that’s intended for this time of year.
Here are three tools you can use to do just that.
The Lefkoe Freedom Process (LFP)
When Brittany was a teenager it seemed that everything I said or did annoyed her. I took it personally and got offended and would snap at her and she would get defensive and snap back. It was affecting our relationship and I hated it.
One thing that helped me have a better relationship with Brittany is the LFP.
The LFP is a process that helps you get rid of negative emotions in seconds by getting rid of occurrings – meanings you make up in the moment.
Here’s how I used it to respond better to my daughter Brittany.
We were in Monterey spending the day sightseeing on our way to the aquarium when I asked her if she was getting along better with her English teacher. She snapped, “We’re fines.”
I gave it the meaning “She doesn’t appreciate me.” Then I said to myself “It could mean that, but it could also mean she’s reacting that way because she’s a hormonal teenager.”
This helped me make the distinction between what she said and the meaning my mind created about what she said. As a result, the negative feelings dissolved.
I looked at her and said “I love you Brittany” with a big smile on my face.
She put her arm around my shoulders and said “I love you too mom. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
To see how this works, try the process for yourself.
First think of a recent event that still produces a negative emotion when you remember it. It can be big or small but small will be easier if this is your first time.
Next ask yourself the following questions …
- What happened? (someone grabbed the toy I wanted and it was the last one)
- What meaning did I give to what happened? (they’re selfish)
- What else could it mean? (they just want to make someone happy)
- Can I see that the meaning and the event are two separate things?
Once you get that the events have no meaning, the emotion will disappear.
So, remember that when you get upset, or angry or disappointed there is something you can do about it. You can dissolve the meaning and get rid of the emotion.
Another way to have more joy during the holidays or any time is to practice gratitude.
Recently, I was packing to go to Hawaii to see my daughter and grandson. I put on some weight after Morty died and as a result some of my clothes didn’t fit. I started to get really upset but then I remembered to practice being grateful.
Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, found in his research that giving credit to others for the things that we are grateful for makes us especially grateful.
So, I closed my eyes and thought about some of the things I’m grateful for. I then practiced one of Emmons’ techniques called Three Things.
For this exercise you list three things you are grateful for AND list who you can give credit for these wonderful things in your life.
When I did this exercise, I realized that my clients allowed me to have a job that I love, and a roof over my head. I also thought about how much Morty had contributed to all the things I’m grateful for like my daughters and grandson. Then the blues lifted. It’s hard to be upset and grateful at the same time.
So hopefully you have a roof over your head and food to eat. Who can you give some credit for this? Your customers for example. The company you work for. The builders of your house. The farmers. The roads that allow farmers to bring food to market.
You can go on and on.
Here’s an exercise for you. Think of three things that you’re grateful for and then think of at least three ways in which other people helped make those things possible.
Eliminate beliefs to change behavior and emotions
A client named Jerry who lived in Belgium was going home to New Jersey for the holidays. He said he was booking a session to finally handle his fear of his father’s anger. When his father got angry he recoiled and couldn’t express himself.
He was also angry with his dad for how he spoke to both he and his mom in the past. He felt that at 33 years old it was time to let go of this fear.
We talked about the fact that underlying anger was always powerlessness. If you could do something about the problem you wouldn’t get angry.
We got rid of the beliefs “I’m powerless” which caused his anger towards his father and “anger is scary and dangerous” which caused his fear of anger.
One afternoon while visiting his parents in New Jersey, Jerry’s dad started yelling at his mom. Jerry got in front of his dad and calmly said “who made you feel so powerless as a child that you feel like you need to talk to people like that?”
His father backed off and walked away. He came back a few minutes later and apologized. It was a moment of real growth for Jerry. Jerry reports that he and his father’s relationship has improved. Although his father may not change, Jerry has.
Most of us have beliefs that get in our way. You can get rid of three of them by trying our free belief-elimination program here.
I WAS FREE AT LAST!
Using the Lefkoe Belief Process and the Lefkoe Freedom Process combined can be a very powerful way to change things in your life.
For example, my father and brother used to say things to me that I felt were critical. I would cry and get defensive. It kept me from loving them for who they were as well as knowing that they have my best interest at heart.
When I got rid of the belief “What makes me good enough is having people think well of me” I called it my Marting Luther King Jr. moment because I finally felt free. For the first time in my life that little voice that whispered “will they like me?,” “will they approve of me?,” finally fell silent.
And after I got rid of beliefs such as “I’m not capable”, and “What makes me good enough is having think well of me” (this was another life changer) their criticism stopped having a negative effect on me most of the time.
My dad would sometimes say things like “You don’t use your head” which used to bother me a lot.
After getting rid of these beliefs, it no longer triggered me. But every once in awhile something my father and brother said or did would get to me as a result of other beliefs that I hadn’t gotten rid of yet.
But after Morty created the LFP, I began using it to dissolve any negative meanings I gave to their behavior. That was the icing on the cake. I could watch their outbursts as if they were puppets on a string being run by their own beliefs. I had NO reaction. It was truly a miracle.
The cool thing was that if I wanted them to stop doing something they were doing, I could just ask them without all the emotion attached.
For example, for much of my life my father has lectured me about money.
“Sock it away for a rainy day” he would say.
“Debt is the worst thing in the world.”
“I never go to bed owing anyone a penny.”
Morty and I were in debt and it drove my dad nuts. So the lectures would go on and on.
One day, a few years ago I said “Dad, I love you. I know you have my best interest at heart. But I can’t stand the lecture any more. I just can’t listen to it. So, from now on, when you start to talk to me about our financial situation I’m going to say ‘Dad, eh eh eh.’ If you continue, I will leave the room. I hope you understand.” Dad said “OK.”
I’m not sure if it was because of beliefs I eliminated or using the LFP (probably both) that allowed me to make this request with simple dignity and respect. But because I didn’t take what he was saying personally, I was not angry, and therefore I didn’t speak to him in a way that made him defensive.
The next time he lectured us about our finances, I said “Dad, eh eh eh.” Then he said “OK sweetie.” And he smiled.
After a lifetime of getting upset, and crying that was all it took. We changed the conversation to something more enjoyable. It was so wonderful to have that mutual respect with my dad.
From then on my dad stopped the lectures.
After I stopped giving meaning to my father’s lectures, I still had a preference. I didn’t want to hear the same lecture over. I was able to communicate my preference without being angry or annoyed. I calmly asked my dad for what I wanted and got it.
How to enjoy the holidays
This holiday season enjoy your family and friends. Eliminate beliefs that keep you stuck in old patterns. Use the LFP to dissolve negative emotions in the moment. Practice gratitude to increase feelings of happiness. I promise it will make your holidays more loving and joyful.
I and everyone at the Lefkoe Institute wishes you a Happy, Healthy, Joyous holiday season.