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Giving Yourself Permission

by Phyllis Pollack
December 2014

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis  Pollack

The holidays are upon us, and with them come the usual stress and tension that family events often bring. Over Thanksgiving, I had an experience that put it in perspective for me. Although I am supposed to be the conflict resolution person, it was a cousin that gave me a very much needed "reality check", if not "permission" to think differently about family loyalty.

The issue arose nearly two years ago when I made a statement to a relative (I will call her "Jane".) that upset her. Realizing immediately what I had done, I sent her a card apologizing. Evidently, the apology was not sufficient because her response to another family member was negative. Only begrudgingly did she agree that I could be invited to an upcoming family event.

Hearing this from the family member, I decided not to attend. For the next two years, I neither saw nor spoke to Jane. (It was Jane who did not want to speak to me.)

Earlier this year, a relative from out of state proposed coming to our house for Thanksgiving and having the family over like the old days. The relative had not been here for Thanksgiving for over a decade.

For me, this proposition brought on a huge dilemma. What to do about Jane? My own instincts and my upbringing told me that family was family, and I should be loyal and forgive and forget no matter what. But, at the same time, during the last couple of years, some things had happened in my life that Jane did not even acknowledge which upset me greatly (together with the non acceptance of my apology.) The result was that I did not really want Jane to attend Thanksgiving in my house. So- what do I do?

But then, a couple of nights before Thanksgiving, several of us went out to dinner including a cousin. (I am not the only one having issues with Joe.) My cousin started discussing Jane's behavior with me and gave me the "reality check" I needed. She understood the situation completely, and while it is idyllic that everyone gets along, in reality it does not always happen that way, and that is okay! Sometimes, family members behave quite badly to the point of "crossing the line" and if that occurs, it is okay not to include them in family events. In fact, the rest of the family may be better off as the tension and stress of having that family member there, will be absent. So... as much as I was raised on the idyllic family values of "Leave it to Beaver", "The Donna Reed Show" and "The Nelsons", my cousin explained that this is not "real life" and it is okay for families not to behave that way. She, in effect, gave me permission to stop hitting my head against the wall expecting a different result.

So, we had Thanksgiving dinner without Jane, and the consensus was that it was very pleasant and stress free. A very enjoyable time was had by all!

So... as much as it goes against my upbringing and family values to exclude family at holidays, I now see that it is okay to do so, if the situation warrants it. Not every family lives in Never Never Land nor will there always be a 'happy" ending. Maybe, sometimes the "happy" ending IS the exclusion of a family member !

I post this confession as I believe it is fitting for the coming days. While we all want to get along with family and think that it is the "proper" thing to do, at the same time, we may just have to give ourselves permission or a "reality check" that is okay if everyone does NOT get along and to accept that fact and act accordingly.

.... I am going to take my annual holiday vacation from blogging and so will be back in early January 2015. Have a wonderful holiday and a great 2015!

And most of all, thank you for reading my many blogs this past year!

... Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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