It’s that time of year again, when the spirit of giving flows while we celebrate with family and friends. It is a great time to connect and build relationships and tradition. At the same time, more time together, coupled with lots of expectations of what the season will bring, creates the opportunity for conflict to arise.
So, my gift to you this season is to offer my favorite resources to help you navigate those recycling dramas that inevitably get ignited when the festivities begin.
Below are books that taught me some of my favorite techniques for diffusing drama with family, friends, and myself (there are whole drama storylines in my head that only I know about).
These are books I have turned to time and time again to remind me how to shift out of a conflict stance of villain, victim or hero – no matter whether I am overtly in a struggle (an actual argument) or subtly contributing to conflict by the things I am thinking and believing below the surface.
What I like about these three resources is that they can help you shift the way you relate to your own inner dialogue or help you address conflict in your relationships in and outside of your family.
The first, most widely applicable book, is Byron Katie’s Loving What Is.
After spontaneously coming to understand that she was the source of and the solution to all the pain and conflict in her life, Katie created a technique for turning it all around. This brilliantly simple technique, called The Work, begins by simply questioning whether what you are adamantly asserting and believing is actually and objectively true. The Work helps you to shift your perspective and open your heart in ANY painful situation. I use it often. In fact, I know when I am committed to being right and being in conflict based on my willingness to do The Work. If I resist challenging my thoughts and beliefs, I know that I am really stuck. No matter whether I engage The Work or not, understanding how to use it and knowing it is an option helps me to shift. You can find the techniques described in Loving What Is or at TheWork.com.
My second recommendation is for those looking for support with their love relationships (although the techniques in this book can apply to any close relationship, even at work). In Conscious Loving, Gay and Katie Hendricks brilliantly teach how to diffuse conflict by demonstrating how to communicate from the inarguable truth (what is actually occurring and could be recorded) rather than story (what we think is happening).
They have reliable techniques for communicating your experience (what you feel and think) and conveying your needs and preferences in a way that creates connection rather than conflict. Their approach is highly effective, though not for the faint of heart, as it does require the willingness to let go of judgment, blame and criticism of yourself and others. If you are looking to up your relationship game and step into the world of truly open-hearted connection, this is the book for you.
Finally, I offer you a suggestion for the parents out there. Dr. Shefali Tsabary has written a few books on parenting and my introduction to her perspective was when I read The Conscious Parent.
This book blew me away.
It felt like she had reached into my head and heart and synthesized my instinctual thoughts and feelings on how I want to relate to my kids. It was something I hadn’t been able to put into works and then, there it was in front of me on paper. Dr. Shefali challenges the traditional hierarchical, power model of parenting and replaces it with one built on mutual respect and a desire to know, understand and learn from our children. She invites us to see our children as teachers, as mirrors to our own hang-ups. Through awareness and self-reflection she teaches how to parent from wholeness rather than from our wounds. The Conscious Parent illuminates how we can unconsciously make our children responsible for our own triggered reactions. Dr. Shefali demonstrates how to stop trying to control our children in an effort to relieve our uncomfortable feelings. She, instead, directs us to turn our attention toward ourselves – our own triggered reactions – and take responsibility for shifting the thoughts and beliefs that are causing us pain. From a full heart, we can then move toward our children and relate to them from wholeness and love, rather than fear and the need to control.
I will tell you from experience, this approach expends way less energy and leaves a lot more time for enjoying our kids. And I will let you in on a secret, Dr. Shefali’s approach can be applied beyond the parent child relationship to other family members, friends and co-workers. Anyone can be your mirror.
Whether you gift yourself with these resources or offer them to someone else this season, I hope that they offer the hope and support that they have given to me.