Saturday, December 4, 2010

What is it about these holidays ??

What is it about the holidays? Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years Eve? that sends so many into a tailspin of anxiety, sadness, worry, stress and depression.

So much is going on – with daylight savings time abruptly ended, it's suddenly so much darker so much earlier—so little light. It's cold, rainy, snowy, windy. Sunshine has SO diminished!

Then, there's the “holidays” - 'family' is a word automatically associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, some of us don't have such great associations, emotionally, with the word, 'family'. And then, there's the 'Expectation' word. We have expectations... how we want things to go. We want everyone to be 'happy', we want to be happy, but we find ourselves feeling to anxious and stressed out with how to make it good for everyone. How to please everyone. Especially at Christmas. Will we find the perfect gift for this person and that person that will best prove our love for them? What is it, really, that tugs at so many of us that we end up spending more than we intended or going into debt much of the coming year paying for the love we hope to show our loved ones with the presents we believed would best express our love--in ways we may, otherwise, tend not to.

I've heard it acknowledged by many – December is the month of emotional 'regression'. Emotional regression is a reverting backwards in feeling and behavior to an earlier, often childhood period of our lives whereby our coping strategies were primitive. These strategies were ways we found effective in our young life. A few key examples of emotional regression might be: shutting down, withdrawing emotionally, becoming angry or aggressive, manipulative, sarcastic, joking, clowning, pleasing.

Sandy told me she knows something is off when she finds herself feeling 'irritable' (or cranky). She tells me that when she picks up on this inner experience, she knows she needs to stop and take stock with what is going on within her psyche. 'Irritability' is what is one of the five cover-up feelings. Irritability most typically covers up our vulnerable feelings such as sadness, loneliness, emptiness, powerlessness, disappointment, hurt – to name a few.

She shared with me the struggle with 'expectations' – the struggle of living up to our perceived expectations that we believe others have over us – or the expectations we have over ourselves to do, to give, to be for others... known as perfectionism. Or, the subtle (or not so subtle) disappointment that my family (of origin) is not even close to being the loving support that I need or wish for. Although her parents weren't alcoholic, they interacted in an emotionally aloof manner, pretending all was well as if they were a close family, when, in fact, their interactions were superficial, emotionally cool and less than honest.

Barbara shared her observations she noticed while decorating her home for the holidays. She was anticipating feelings of excitement and joy as she pulled out her safely tucked away Christmas ornaments. She was surprised and distressed in feeling an unexpected sense of low-grade sadness. She didn't know where this feeling was coming from. She had been reflecting, this fall, more deeply on meaning and her standard assumptions. She became aware that she was unable to rely on the same habitual feeling year after year when so much was expanding and changing within her personal awareness and in regards to the turmoil in the greater world around her.

Toni admits that her joy had come from 'WoW'-ing her family and friends, guests at her holiday table with the biggest, best and brightest food preparations, expensive wine, best china, table center piece ect. She acknowledged that she would knock herself out for days all for the aggrandizement in pulling off a stunning holiday feast that one would anticipate could only be accomplished by a crew rather than a lone individual. This year she took an unthinkable step – she kept it simple, her eight-year-old daughter created the center piece as a school project; she asked her guests to contribute in a pot-luck style. As a result, with the space created from these previously unthinkable choices, Toni enjoyed the absence of stress and, therefore, the opportunity to actually sit and visit and enjoy the company of her guests. She was happy to 'allow' her husband to help in ways that, in years previous, she believed that only she could manage.

Shonie reflected on a vague sense of emptiness she felt as the holidays approached. She continued her effort in noticing so as to understand where these feelings were coming from. She began to catch the connection. The T.V. commercials – the jewelry ads, the expensive car ads—the surprise gift of a Lexus waiting in the driveway outside of the lovely home with a gigantic red bow  to the wife's unexpected amazement and joy.
Shonie mused, 'it's all about being given to, it's about showing one is loved by being given things, being given the amazing fantasy gift to prove how loved I am—that someone else loves me.' If I'm not receiving an awesome gift, am I really loved, enough ? If I don't find you the most amazing gift, will you feel loved enough?

She continued, 'The commercials tell me I'm missing something. They show me everything I don't yet have – and that I need to have in order to feel satisfied, in order to feel loved by someone else, and good about myself--of value. There is a subtle sense of emptiness if I don't have this thing. If someone is not giving me this thing.

How many of us feel compelled to buy gifts at Christmas time? How else will we let our loved ones know we care about them? How their feelings will be hurt if we don't buy them just the perfect gift. All the energy we spend shopping at the malls. Do we find ourselves feel Alive there in the bustle of shopping? How much do we set ourselves back, financially, each holiday time? What compels us to make this choice? Will our children be disappointed? What are we teaching them about expectation? Has the essential meaning of this holiday time been obscured by corporate encouragement for us to spend, to buy, to prove our love by giving more stuff? Has heart-felt Love and caring for one another been reduced to 'show me the money'?

More families these days have decreed a moratorium on gift-buying in the holiday season. Instead, these families are directing their Love for one another and love for others by spending Time at food banks as a family repackaging food for the hungry; spending Time making home-made baked goods, hand-made crafts for their family and friends; spending a small sum of money planting a tree in honor of a family.
More parents are concluding that their children do not need the newest toy on the market to add to their collection of piles of abandoned gifts from the previous year. Fortunate children of such parents are learning the essential personal characteristic of appreciation instead of the typical 'expectation' of you-owe-me. Families are focusing with their children in prayers of concrete gratitude for that which they already have rather than 'wants'. Adults are experimenting with the experience of giving from their hearts instead of from their credit cards.

What does my Essential Self care for and about this Season?

I welcome you to share a story from your own experience that has meaning for you in this season ...
and, honored if you care to share this link with others...
                             Have a Safe and Meaningful Holiday Season