As we head into Christmas, I wanted to offer this post for anyone out there who is feeling sadness over the holidays. First, it helps to know that you're not alone and that many people feel blues during this time. It's a hectic season filled with a rush to get things done and expectations to give presents, visit family and be in good cheer--oh, and don't forget to be spiritual!
A classic double bind up is set as people voice disdain about the commercialism of spiritual holy days like Hanukkah and Christmas while the marketplace gets flooded with ads promising happiness, joy and familial bliss if you purchase certain products. They manipulate with messages that it's the season of giving. To give is good, right?
Not to mention the stress that comes with hunting for sales. If you shop correctly, you can take advantage of deep discounts that purportedly happen only one time of year. If you don't, you're probably dumb with money. The internal judge gets so loud that it practically drowns out the ads. Then it chimes in about the quality of the gift you give. Will they know that you only spent 99 cents? Is it worth it? What about when you spend $50 on that toy and it gets ignored after it's opened? Is it worth it?
Then there's the judgement about who you're going to give presents to and who you won't. Or how about the dreaded inevitable inequity that repeatedly occurs when someone else has gifted you and you didn't get something for them? Or they clearly spent far more money on your item than you spent on theirs (perhaps they're just better at getting to those sales and they won't realize you spent the full price on that handmade soap). How about when they give you something cheap and you spent a fortune on their gift when you make much less money than they do? The indignance! (The internal critical judge is getting fed and swelling more and more like the 1950's sci-fi alien Blob).
At some point, shopping for others turns into a personal shopping trip because everything you ever wanted is suddenly at your fingertips and it fits perfectly and is on sale. Maybe a little shopping for oneself isn't so bad. ("You are so selfish," whispers something from deep inside.)
Of course there's far more to the shopping dynamic and we haven't even touched on family dynamics, winter blues, and how expectations to be happy set us up to be completely unhappy. Or how focusing on a future date (Christmas, the New Year) tends to pull us out of the moment. Plus, we're reminded of the year's past as its end comes hurling at our door whether we're ready for it or not. Why is everyone celebrating the New Year when it also marks the end (death) of a year?
Getting the picture that there's a perfect storm for a mini existential crisis during this time? Or a full-fledged large one? No wonder depression and suicide is at it's peak during December & January.
So, here's my advice--realize you're not crazy and these multiple dynamics converge, making things genuinely difficult. Be gentle with yourself and try to feed self-compassion over the inner critic. You can pray for guidance on the gift-giving and maybe set up some boundaries with your loved ones about the amount you'll spend. Regarding the end of the year and ringing in of a new one, take time to honor your path and feel the grief from any losses. Maybe you can have a private ceremony where you light a candle and say goodbye to the past year and any losses you experienced (loved ones, homes, jobs, friends, dreams, innocence, etc.) for unexpressed grief has a way of backfiring and leaving us in a darker state. Then set an intention for the new year based on self-care attitudes like feeling gratitude, forgiving and letting go of resentments, being fully present in the moment, accepting others for who they are, and loving without attachment and expectations.
If you want suggestions for handling family, you can check out my post on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201712/how-can-i-fix-my-family
Also, beware of masking grief with alcohol and prescription medication. You can read about the growing addiction phenomenon here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201711/drug-overdoses-are-leading-cause-death-those-under-50
One thing that emerged in 2017 was the joining of women who found their voices and declared NO to sexual harassment and assault. I'm so proud of all the men and women that have come together to enforce respectful and healthy boundaries. It goes for therapists as well. You can read about avoiding harassment from a therapist here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201710/if-your-therapist-harasses-you-metoo
All of my Psychology Today posts can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys
Thank you for reading and for allowing me the great honor to share in the healing journey with you.