Advice from the Skillful Doctor: Pushing Buttons

Question: The tradition in my extended family is for everyone to go to my sister’s house for the holidays.  Although I like the holidays and am close with most of my family members, I really hate going because an old argument from years ago still causes a lot of tension between my sister and me.  She seems to take every opportunity she can to make nasty comments about me. It’s very uncomfortable and I really only go because I have to.  How can I make holidays with my family more tolerable?


hold handsAnswer: The first part of my answer to your question needs to be another question: how bad is your relationship with your sister?  There are times when a relationship is truly broken, and if that is the case for you, then you should let it go and skip the holiday events.  Don’t cling to negative, unfixable relationships in your life.

However, if that suggestion doesn’t sit right with you, then it reflects that you have a desire to heal the relationship.  There is obviously something important about it to you.  In that case, with a little work, not only can you approach the holidays with your family in a way that makes them tolerable, there is a way to embrace it and look forward to it.

Whether it’s a coworker, a stranger, a friend or family member, we’ve all had someone get under our skin.  Although it isn’t right, these instances help us remain aware of what sets us off, or what “our buttons” are.  If your sister says something to hurt or bother you at the next family gathering, instead of reacting defensively, try to see it as an opportunity to reflect on your own issues.  Each time someone gets a rise out of you, be thankful that it created that awareness.  It’s not always easy to admit, but when someone, anyone, is pushing your buttons, you have to remember that they’re YOUR buttons.  The work you can do once you’ve recognized these buttons is to learn about them and develop ways to cope with them.

Ask, “Why am I so affected by this person’s comments?” Why does she so easily push my buttons?” “What do I know and how can I move forward to create a better state of balance?” This last affirmation can help you rise above your condition (even when that condition takes the form of another person) to achieve a state of peace, harmony and tranquility.


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