Who’s Your Homer Simpson?
How to Deal with Difficult Relatives and Non-Relatives During the Holidays
“I dread seeing Uncle Mo! He’s such an ass. He belittles me, he’s rude, and he’s mean. Thanksgiving and Christmas would be so much better if he wasn’t there. How did Homer Simpson end up in my family?!” lamented Phoebe as she plopped down in my office.
Don arrived at his coaching session already anxious for his Holiday office party. “I can’t even enjoy it because Mary always says something that makes me feel like crap about myself. She can be so unpleasant to everyone around her, especially me.”
Whomever your Homer Simpson may be—Grandma Jean, In-Law Martin, Colleague Joe, Acquaintance Fiona, Aunt Bessie, or Father Boris—you can ditch the discomfort you feel around them and get your Holiday groove on by knowing & doing just three things.
Now, pour that mug of eggnog, pull up that footstool, and read on.
1. In the name of Psychological Survival.
99.9% of what we do is for our own psychological—not physical—survival. We behave in ways that make sense to us in the moment; if it didn’t make sense to us, we wouldn’t do it. Period.
Hurt people hurt people. Scared people scare people.
Next time Aunt Bessie tells you to put that second piece of pie down, simply nod and quietly brainstorm reasons why her own psyche thought it needed to do that to “survive.” (It could be a fun Holiday game, come to think of it.)
2. Expect one thing and one thing only.
“I’m realizing that I just can’t have any expectations for anyone in my life,” Victoria exclaimed. She sat in my office, wilted, defeated, and done.
The only expectation you can have for Acquaintance Fiona is that she will be who she is, do what she needs to do, and act in ways that makes sense to her in each moment. That’s it. We can expect nothing more, and we can expect nothing less.
3. Ditch the glass shield.
“Put up an imaginary glass shield to ward off her vehement words and actions,” my friend told me once.
I tried. It failed. Firstly, similar to when something hits my car windshield, I flinched when any verbal daggers flew my way. Secondly, it took a lot effort to keep up that shield (Bella in Breaking Dawn, anyone?). And thirdly, I felt trapped.
I ditched the glass shield. It wastes energy, and it actually doesn’t make sense because Father Boris’ words and behaviors are a reflection of him, NOT you or me—even if our names are said.
So instead, visualize Father Boris’ words and actions sticking in and revolving around his personal space. Just like when a cartoon character gets bonked in the head, and the little bird flies in circles around it.
Practice this visualization so next time you encounter your Homer, you can stand firmly, calmly, and even compassionately as you watch his Tweety bird take flight.
Now, finish your eggnog, kick away that footstool, and get your Holiday groove on! Like Phoebe, you may end up appreciating aspects of Uncle Mo, or like Don, you may cheerfully clink glasses with Colleague Mary at your office party.
And maybe, just maybe, your Homer will morph into Marge right in front of your very own eyes.
Kimberly McMahon, EdM
Certified Life Coach and Educator
Kimberly McMahon is a Certified Life Coach and Educator. She was trained in life coaching by Martha Beck, an internationally renowned life coach, New York Times bestselling author, and O, The Oprah Magazine columnist. Additionally, she has studied Positive Psychology under Tal Ben-Shahar, Adult Development under Robert Kegan, Mindfulness under Ellen Langer, and Contemplative Psychotherapy under Cheryl Giles at Harvard University. Kimberly’s life coaching is greatly influenced by these mentors’ teachings & theories as well as her years practicing and studying yoga.
Kimberly has been in the psychology and education fields for over ten years, studying, researching, and working in different capacities to guide both adolescents and adults in their individual life journeys, helping them discover and embark upon their best life.
Kimberly holds a master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University and a master’s degree in Education from Lesley University, both in Cambridge, MA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology, from Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts.Life Coaching