Psychotherapy Perspectives

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Myth and What to Expect

Garth Mintun , LCSW, CSW-G

Do you wonder why when we have the full range of emotions for approximately 11 months of the year, we expect to be happy 100% during the Holiday season the last month of the year? These expectations tend to be carried forward from generation to generation and are transmited in our culture, the myth that we should be able to be completely happy and in the absence of happiness, we may judge ourselves harshly.

In our psychotherapy practice, people come in for consultations during the holiday season often because of past histories of painful experiences during this period of the year and sometimes because they wonder why they are “not happy and what’s wrong with me”. Their notion is that others are happy, and something must be “wrong with me” and can “you fix it”. I address the “myth of 100 % happiness” and work from the awareness of the following facts about holidays:
1. Families gather more than any other time in the year. Families are composed of individuals of whom some are doing well/poorly, feel well and/or feel badly. We hold feelings/opinions toward everybody in our family at different times, i.e., anger, sadness, guilt, joy, and often mixed feelings about individuals.
2. We grieve our tragedies, deaths and losses. We mourn for those of us who cannot come “home” for the holidays”. With grief there arises intense sadness.
3. As the year comes to a close we tend to review the past year, the events that caused both pain and joy, as we look forward to the New Year. This process may generate strong emotions.

We would not expect ourselves to have only one emotion during the first 11 months of the year. I wonder if we can allow ourselves instead to have our many feelings during the holiday season and allow space to feel all those feelings as human beings? Perhaps we could celebrate our human-ness with all of our mixed emotions. Perhaps we could gently attend to our own process with compassion and love, honoring the fullness of our being. In giving ourselves grace we can honor our experience. As we move forward with more openness to our own process, we often find increased tolerance for others as well.

When with family, we often experience sadness, anger and need to take a deep breath and “be in the moment”. We don’t need to verbalize all of our emotions; we can be selective about the emotions we share with family and close friends. Perhaps we can expand our ability to connect with ourselves in a more caring manner.

What if we can expect and allow the wide range of human experience this holiday season and not “should “ourself away. Let the feelings at the present time and let the “Season” be part of the experience and less of expectations. Perhaps I can give myself space to have the whole range of feelings this holiday season and expect this instead of a Merry Little Christmas…….Maybe we can have a Human little Christmas and a Wide range of feelings in the New Year.

Have a Wide range of feelings this Holiday Season!!!

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