As we approach the holidays, I find myself feeling sometimes sad. I’m a little conflicted, stressed out, and compelled to make and bake a certain kind of cookies. My emotions vary. I notice others in a conflicted state too. I know why it is this way.
The hustle and bustle, the presents, the pressure; it starts for me at Thanksgiving. I love the holidays, I enjoy giving and receiving gifts. What mystery underlies my state of mind?
There is a lot of “baggage” that seems to emerge at the holidays. Baggage is considered as early learnings from both painful and pleasant experiences that affect us later in life. Baggage often emerges at times in our lives that signal a ritual. Examples are weddings , funerals, Engagement parties, graduations, etc..
Mothers and adult children may feel disrupted at holidays for different reasons. It can help you feel better as well as understand the behavior of other family members, if you know the origins of any discomfort you may have.
Mothers may be affected by both their own childhood memories of the holidays and also those of the holidays spent with their children when they were young. I know I sometimes want to recreate the happy times I had with my children over the holidays, when they were young. Now they are grown and occupied with creating holiday memories for their own children, I am saddened by their absence. It is something I know I can never recreate. Adult children may be coping with memories from their holiday rituals.
Holidays, funerals, weddings, graduations, and other rituals place us in the roles we experienced as children. Old wounds can be subconsciously opened.
I recall a clinical case I refer to as “The Christmas Phobia” I will call the man with the phobia, John. A phobia is a fear so great that it interferes with one’s life. His phobia was of Christmas. His case is an extreme example of baggage.
John came to therapy because he didn’t want anything to do with Christmas and didn’t know why. He decided he needed help with the problem as he was engaged to be married and his future wife wanted to celebrate Christmas in traditional ways. The very thought of having family in his home during the holidays terrified him. Even though he described himself as, “somewhat Catholic”, he refused to sing Christmas carols, did not want a Christmas tree, did not like to hear Christmas music, and, did not want to give or receive gifts. He stated that He would like to spend Christmas at a resort.
John described Christmas in his childhood home with alcoholic parents as filled with violence, disappointment, and grief. He had repressed his experiences and used avoidance to the extent of developing a Christmas Phobia. Therapy helped him be conscious of the effects of his baggage and let go of his fears in the here and now. Conscious awareness allows us to move forward and frees us make new choices.
So, as you move through your holidays and future ritual experiences, may you become more aware and free to enjoy the beauty of your holiday in the here and now with those you love. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!