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Bingo, Anyone?



Martha Beck, one of my favorite Modern Day Sages, has a great way of dealing with difficult family holiday gatherings.


She plays Dysfunctional Family Bingo.


She literally creates a bingo card/grid and in the squares puts things like,

“Uncle Tim gets Drunk”


“Mom (passive/aggressively) complains about how much work she’s done preparing”


“Brother Steve shows up an hour late”


“Aunt Sue asks me how much weight I’ve gained”.


You get the idea.


You bring the card with you to the family dinner/party/event and mark the squares as they happen.


Once you’ve marked a whole row, you win!


To make this even more fun, she suggests playing with a friend and texting each other updates. The winner gets taken out to dinner.


I just love this idea and here’s why:


  1. It’s ALWAYS better to make a game out of something. Even more points if it’s something generally considered unpleasant.


  1. It’s ALWAYS better to involve friends. Even more points if it’s during something generally considered unpleasant.


  1. Preparing the card let’s you distance yourself from the difficult situation and see it in its component parts. You can start to notice patterns and triggers in a way you may not have before.


  1. If you involve a friend, you have built in support for the challenging times.


  1. Who doesn’t love to win? It adds a shot of good feelings at a time you may need it.


Now, some of you may be thinking, “But I love my family AND getting together with them!”


That’s awesome!


Maybe this Bingo game is not for you.


Not everyone’s quite so lucky in the family department.


Family often means complicated dynamics.


Ram Dass is credited with saying, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” This particular group of people can bring out the cranky 4-year-old or sensitive 14-year-old in all of us.


Anytime there are unexamined uncomfortable feelings, we’re more likely to eat, independent of hunger.


We eat to feel better. Fast.


And just like I’m a huge advocate for environmental control when it comes to trigger foods (don’t have them around you), I’m an advocate of emotional environmental control.


If you’re not able to (yet) respond to Aunt Edna’s inappropriate comments with grace, you may need to avoid the situation altogether until you feel stronger.


It’s smart self-preservation to keep certain people at a good distance. While that could mean emotionally distant, sometimes it means physically.


Working to feel the feelings and not stuff them down with food will result in uncomfortable feelings at first. Over time you learn, and start to trust, that the feelings pass and you can handle it.


Give yourself the space you need.


No matter your family situation this holiday season, take care of yourself.

If you don’t feel up to it this year, then stay home.

If you think Bingo will help, have fun creating the board.

If you’ve come to appreciate all the quirks of your family that aren’t actually damaging, then tell us the secret  :)



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