When family gatherings inspire fear and loathing in the pit of your stomach, it’s probably not because of the appetizers . . . unless you’re like my son and had a bad mushroom experience in early life.
With the people we ought to know and love the best, we can easily fall into patterns of seeing one another and from these, dysfunctional routines of interacting. It’s a game we all play, following rules we never challenge.
But like a dream – or a shared delusion, our vision for greater possibilities is limited and we feel trapped in our roles. We forget that we always have a choice – including the choice to participate in the game.
That doesn’t mean we should just stay home – or leave the party early – say after the first insult or after the third rerun of the same argument.
Instead, we can choose to play a better game. My personal favourite is “Spot the Difference.” The object of the game is to recognize in another person the positive changes you had not noticed before; the more differences you can spot the better.
If we catch the spirit of the game, everyone’s a winner.
When we open our eyes and see past the filters of our shared past, we perceive more of the whole person. When we deliberately let go of our preconceptions of someone we’ve known for years, we may recognize that they have been shaped by a variety of experiences over the years and grown beyond the younger version we remember from the past.
And if this improves the way we treat one another, our most important relationships will continue to evolve.
We feel most alone when we are not understood. We feel most at home when we are seen, accepted and loved just as we are.
This is what we all need. This is all we need.