Five Tips For Surviving Holiday Gatherings

Let’s face it, for many people the holiday season is a reminder of past and current emotional and/or physical abuse, missing family members, the gathering together of dysfunctional family, even abusers, alcohol consumption and more.

So, how does one get through a day which may possibly have to be spent surrounded by dysfunctional behaviors?

1. Remember that other people’s behaviors are not yours. If it becomes projected toward you, you get to get up and walk away. You get to gather your brood and keys, respectfully say your goodbyes and simply leave. On this day, and every day, you have the right to self preserve and exit from toxic environments. If you feel you may end up in an abusive encounter, arrange a way to be able to leave as soon as you can.

2. We live in an age of pressure. We worry over judgment and backlash. Not attending a family function can create an arena of hurt. We don’t want the family to be upset at us. We don’t want to have to rehash grudges still being held against us. We don’t want to experience any new wounds. Remember that your peace of mind belongs to you. If you feel it is safer for you not to attend, then you don’t have to. If you do decide to attend gatherings though, for yourself, focus on any moments of positive laughter and conversation.  Focus on the familial connections which feel positive for you.

3. If you encounter triggers such as passive aggressive comments made toward you, skewed stories told that are meant to make you feel bad or humiliated or other audio invasions such as high noise levels, remember to use some grounding tools. Have headphones with you to temporarily block out the noise and negative conversation. Not only does it silently make the statement that you are unwilling to participate in toxicity, it also allows you a temporary mental escape as you listen to soothing music on your phone. If you feel yourself dissociating, silently name five red, green, white or black items in the room. Grab some ice water. Run your hand over the couch material or a solid object beside you, focusing in on its texture in your mind to bring you present into the room . If there are children around ask one of them if they want to play catch. Toss a stuffie or ball or any small item back and forth with them. These tools can all help to bring you back into the present.

4. Stay sober. Try not to drink in an attempt to relax. Keep your mind aware and focused. Concentrate on breathing. Visualize a protective barrier between you and those who you are not comfortable being around.

5. Set a time limit on your visit, and have an exit strategy. If three hours is all you feel you can handle, then try and time your visit so that the family meal is starting and wrapping up within your time frame. Be okay with taking a “to go” plate to enjoy later when you are back in your own safe space.

In essence, please remember to not be guilted into placing yourself in anxious or stressful familial situations. Even if your family doesn’t understand you, or doesn’t try to, know that you have the right to reserve your own comfort zone.

Remember to stay in the present.

Remember that if you feel triggered you have the right to ground or leave.

Remember that many people are not mindful of others’ needs, so prepare a self care list that you can glance at if you feel your mind can’t focus on its own. Looking at a list of ways to ground yourself can, in itself, also bring you into the present.

To my fellow abuse survivors who struggle through the holidays, I am with you in my heart. Here’s to the passing of another year and the start of a new one.

Vennie Kocsis is a child abuse survivor and the author of “Cult Child“. She is an outspoken advocate for trauma survivors.

Upselling, Poverty, Alters and Shame

I went to a store to pick up a specific lotion which doesn’t bother my somewhat sensitive skin. I am not a store browser. I am not a crowd person. I have a list, an agenda, I want to walk in, buy it and head back home. I begin to feel irritation when this happens:

Ma’am, you know today we have 40% off these lotion primers.”

Primers? Who the hell has time to put lotion on to prepare for putting more lotion on? I keep Maude’s voice quiet in my head so it doesn’t reach my lips. She immediately reacts at ridiculous ideals, often turning us into an articulate smartass.

Oh, well, thank you,” I reply kindly to the attendant. “but I’ll pass today.”

The store attendant continues to go through the long drawn out process that seems to be involved in selling one small bottle of lotion.

You haven’t had to deal with this long wait with any of the other chicks before.” Maude taunts in my head.

Maybe she’s new.” I telepathically reply back firmly. “Don’t start this shit now.”

More customers have formed a line behind me; four or five humanoids deep. I breathe. I count three round things around me. I numerically reduce a price tag. I grasp at grounding to get through a purchase that is quickly becoming lengthy.

Oh!” The attendant exclaims, as if something extraordinary just happened. “I forgot to tell you!”

What, like, everything is free today?” I sarcastically think to myself.

These lotions are 3 for 40 dollars!” She points to a shelf of numerous, strategically lined-up lotions. “They are extracted from the finest trees in some tropical island somewhere, mixed with leaves of plants from some other tropical island and make the skin expand until the body looks like that of a first year college student who ate carrots all of her life and ran five miles a day…” I am making up my own story, tuning out as she drones on.

Maude starts laughing.

Don’t!” I think, because when she laughs  it begins a chain reaction, and I’m striving to stay composed.

Knowing steps forward, speaking quietly and comfortingly. She is in therapist mode.

Dear, I understand that upselling is a part of your job, and I respect that. What I’d like for you to consider is that when people like me don’t have the money to buy extra things, and we have to continue to say no, it puts us in shame. So in front of all these people in line behind me waiting while you try to sell me things I’ve repeatedly said no to, plainly, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I am broke and cannot afford more lotions. Does that help you?

The attendee’s face turns a bright shade of embarrassed red.

Sorry.” She mumbles.

It’s okay.” Knowing replies softly. “Just think about it next time, please. Take the first ‘no’ you receive as an indication someone might not have extra money, and don’t give into guilt marketing to get people to impulse buy even though that’s what your boss wants you to do.

I know we have slightly embarrassed her as she silently finishes my transaction. A couple of people smile at me when I walk away, passing them, as if I said what they often want to say.

I feel a sense of guilt. I’ve been in the upselling position years ago when I worked a second job at a retail store. It feels exactly like begging. It is uncomfortable. It is often being tracked by cameras and/or other employees. It’s required by corporate rules of retail. It’s success is rewarded with employee commissions applauding successful guilting of someone into buying, which they usually do just so the sales person will shut the hell up.

In today’s society, asking for help in, general, makes people look at the one in need as if they are an unstable beggar, but those same people often don’t see when businesses train their employees in strategically begging customers to buy products because it’s just “upselling“.

So to all the poor who have to swallow your pride and ask for help to just repeatedly hear “no“, or be judged and kicked down when you need support, remember, you’re not a beggar, you’re just upselling the needs in your life. If businesses can do it, so can we.

Remember to upsell your needs as if it is the most exciting thing that could ever happen.

GUESS WHAT??? Coolest thing ever! My electricity is going to be off in a week! You get the BEST deal on helping someone. YEAH!

GUUUURRRLLLL have I got a SMASHING offer for you! My broke down truck! A mere – 1100 dollars! Wha wha??? Could be MUCH more at the dealership! Told you this was a good deal! Booyah!”

To the meth addict on the corner, you’re not a drug addict. You’re merely upselling a medication need. To the veteran holding a cardboard sign asking for money or food, you are not a beggar. You are simply upselling the failure of America to give a shit about your life.

In fact, to all of us who need support and help, we will NEVER beg another day in our life. Instead, let us take what we have learned from corporate America, that we have the right to cease being looked at as beggars and instead, accept that we are merely  up selling our needs.

That’s how problems don’t get solved and mind manipulation happens; when humans have been made to believe that the poor are just lazy but the swindling up selling from corporate America is an apparent genius commission competition between a salesperson and a potential victim buyer.

For Those Who Aren’t Merry

I feel reclusive during the holiday season. I feel withdrawn, and my skin crawls from the frenzy of human energy scurrying to appease their loved ones in the name of what they believe to be truth; over charging credit cards; bleeding themselves dry to have the best; to look the best; to hope their friends will say theirs was the best…

Appearances
Appearances
Appearances

They call it the North Star, which actually shines over the North Pole and couldn’t have possibly been shining over an alleged son of a god.

I realize that most humans don’t really care about truth right now. They are too caught up in appearances, what others will think of them, over compensating their children and giving way to consumerism while other humans starve, struggle and weep with pain.

I don’t feel “joyful, joyful we adore thee” when I see Christmas lights. Instead I think, “what a waste of electricity that the tax payers have to absorb.”

I’m not bah hum bug. I’m a realist who doesn’t believe in the birth of a messiah. I’m a person who refuses to give way to the mind control and the over-rated mass carnage that is Black Friday.

Social networking disappears for me during these times. I man my personal pages but hide away from reading my personal feeds too much. It’s emotional triggering and draining to me to observe how superficial humans can be.

Change is once again upon me; there are unknowns swirling all around in my life, and celebrating falseness is not on the top of my priority list. Surviving is.  I see people suffering in the same places I see people fawning and showing off their greed. Will they ever stop, for just one moment, and look around to see the vast needs of the suffering?  Will they ever say, this year, we’re going to help others, because maybe, that’s what this is all truly about.

I see apathy disguised as giving. I see narcissism disguised as care and concern. I see the realism that lies deeply under the surface of plastic smiles and over drawn bank accounts.

and I hide away. I hide in my cave where I don’t have to see the sickness in humanity; the mental illness that can bury my soul with the heaviness of it all.