The Holidays are Here: The Illusions! The Reality! (Part 1)


What are your Illusions? What is the Reality?

Do you find yourself in a frantic state of shopping, decorating, and cooking and traveling?

Is it any wonder you are more stressed than cheerful? 

Having so many "to do" lists, do you find yourself  too exhausted to enjoy that which makes you happy, as in cherished traditions and intimate family gatherings? 

There is an underlying expectation at this time of the year, that everybody be cheerful, and to some degree caught up in the frenetic activity.  The external pressure of being 'merry' creates an unrealistic goal for many.

Who do you have to thank for the pressure to have an over the top Holiday Season besides yourself?

Well there is Madison Avenue flashing the perfect holiday scenes into living rooms by Halloween, nudging us to start preparing earlier and earlier every year.  The illusion is that if you start sooner, do more, consume more, transfer the images of perfection and project onto real families, there can be a 'Currier and Ives' experience. 

Whatever possesses you to imagine that your holidays can be a cocoon of love, warmth, acceptance, and safety?  It will be that way only to the extent that your family is like this throughout the year. Yearning for warmth as well as intimacy and somehow there is a belief that going the extra mile, preparing delicious meals, going without sleep, shopping for the perfect gift in throngs of people, will make this year different.

More likely what happens is that when the Holidays are over you are left tired, irritable and somewhat empty?   Once again you may feel inadequate in that you did not pull off the season as desired. 

Our culture promotes the belief that if you try harder, you can have a snapshot of beauty frozen in time, and somehow your family will magically evolve into a finer representation of themselves, eschewing the usual family dysfunctions.

And while we are at it, let's look at how dysfunction tends to play out. Dysfunctional family members stay that way, and under the pressure of the season's expectations become more of who they really are. Issues in families that are tamped during the year frequently rise to the surface becoming turbulent and weird at holiday gatherings...

  • Aunt Sue will drink more to medicate her empty feelings, becoming sloppy and obnoxiously loud.
  • Dick the control freak becomes a micro-managing intrusion into everybody's business.   His behavior is more obvious and because he cannot control the holiday hustle and bustle, he becomes more anxious.
  • Fred the angry one sends family members tip toeing around, in order to avoid out and out volatility. 
  • Agatha, the sister is more critical and demeaning in an attempt to lessen her envy of your success.
  • Uncle Mike who is fundamentally distrustful of the Christmas experience is more cynical and fully into his Bah! Humbug! role.
  • What about you in this mix?
  • Do you have fantasies of pleasing this tribe?

If the above examples do not fit, fill in the blanks before you decide to over-function, become overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself and them, again...  What part do you play in this drama?

Are you pushing harder expecting different results? Do realize that more of the same will not work.  The key word here is expectation of self and others, that somehow the illusion of warmth and togetherness will hold, if only for the season.

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