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Visit Family Without Backsliding!

By David Gruder

You know all the growth you've done since your last family visit? And those vows concerning different ways you'll behave with them this time? Well, here's the catch: no matter how good your intentions, you may be at risk of kissing some of that great progress good-bye, at least temporarily, when you're with your family. Here are some tips for greatly reducing that possibility! If visiting family is a challenge for you, for holidays or at any other time, don't leave home without first reviewing this vital tips!

While there is a chance that you might slip back into habits you don't want to repeat, the good news is that there are ways to reduce your chances of backsliding - and strategies for bouncing back when you backslide anyway.

The secret to using these tips is to recognize that there are certain long-standing patterns of interaction in your family that are unpleasant for you, but which they and you are used to you playing a role in these patterns that you no longer enjoy filling. Why people lapse back into these undesired patterns to begin with is an article in itself. How to avoid being triggered - and what to do when you are caught in a trigger dance - is the focus of this article.

The biggest key to visiting family without backsliding is to develop your own personal "Triggering Response Plan." This plan has two main parts to it. The first has to do with the planning you do prior to visiting. The second is the action areas to focus on during the visit itself.

THREE PLANNING AREAS PRIOR TO VISITING: 1) "Trigger Dance" Preparation, 2) Logistics Planning & 3) Self-Care Planning.

TRIGGER DANCE PREPARATION: A "Trigger Dance" is a pattern in which two or more people interact in such a way that one or more of them gets upset or otherwise loses their sense of wellbeing (that is, is triggered).

1) List the family Trigger Dances you expect could occur during this visit;

2) Describe your traditional role in each of them;

3) For each Trigger Dance, make a list of three alternatives to your usual role (these could include ways you might prevent the dance from starting, ways you could respond differently once the dance starts but before much damage is done and/or ways you could take better care of yourself after the damage is done);

4) List how these of your potential new dance steps might rock the family boat;

5) Based on this information, decide which boat-rocking risks you're willing to take should that Trigger Dance occur.

LOGISTICS PLANNING - Decide ahead of time: 1) Where you'll stay during your visit; 2) Who you'll visit and for how long; 3) Which activities you will participate in; and 4) Who you want to spend more and less time with during these activities.

SELF-CARE PLANNING - Make some commitments to yourself ahead of time for some excellent self-care. Self-care activities include: meditation, prayer time, naps, eating something healthy, exercise, walks, meetings, support system phone calls or visits, journal writing, surrendering control, abstaining from anesthesia, reading, laughing, listening to music, or visualizing white light protecting you and your family.

FOUR ACTION AREAS DURING YOUR VISIT: 1) Day-Beginning Activities, 2) Trigger Dance Responses, 3) Dealing with the Unexpected, and 4) Day-Ending Activities.

BEGINNING-OF-DAY CENTERING ACTIVITIES - Start the day with quiet time seeking guidance and wisdom, and reviewing your self-care priorities and your Trigger Dance response plan selections.

TRIGGER DANCE RESPONSES - When you feel triggered: 1) Take a time-out (it's really okay to graciously bow out of a family interaction, especially when you already know how it's going to end!);

2) Try responding differently (with more love and less anger, with more vulnerability and less controllingness, with more directness and less beating around the bush, with more compassion and less judgment, and/or with a boundary instead of resentment); or

3) Hold off responding differently and just practice observing how this interaction or Trigger Dance happens in the first place.

DEALING WITH THE UNEXPECTED - Be on the lookout for:

1) Family Trigger Dances - or contributing behaviors of your own - that you never quite understood before;

2) Spontaneously and naturally acting in new, wonderful ways that you didn't know you were capable of;

3) Not needing to intervene with someone you'd planned to because they've already changed.

END-OF-DAY REJUVENATION ACTIVITIES - Celebrate the changes you made. Even if others didn't respond joyously to the new you, you still deserve credit for being more authentic and genuine.

Best wishes in using your Triggering Response Plan to prevent backsliding on your next family visit!

Copyright 2005 Willingness Works

About The Author

Dr. David Gruder is a California licensed psychologist & Director of Willingness Works. An award-winning self-improvement author, he also has over 70 audios, including "Healing the Holidays" and "The Ultimate Challenge: Being With Family Without Backsliding." For more information, go to and click on "Solutions" and then "Holidays."

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