Opinions about the holiday season vary greatly. You come across people who truly love Christmas and you come across people who are not that thrilled the holidays are here once again; some even literally hate this time of the year.
How we feel about Christmas—and about celebrating this or other family holidays—depends a lot on what experiences we have had and what beliefs we have learned. Sometimes our apprehension might be connected to missing a person, sometimes to how we get to celebrate. In fact, it’s a time in which we are really tested in regards to negotiating compromises.
With the permission of two clients, I want to share two different Christmas stories today. Both stories started with a depressed sigh and with the sentence, “I just want Christmas to be over”.
The first client was a woman in her fifties. She told me, “Christmas is so stressful; it is just work for me!” And then she listed all the things she had to do and the lack of time to do it. When I asked her how Christmas would look if she could have it exactly the way she wanted, she was speechless for a moment. She had no clear idea. She started saying, “Well, if I could have what I wanted, I wouldn’t have my whole family over and cook for everybody on the 25th, and I wouldn’t go to my in-laws from the 26th to 28th, and I wouldn’t buy so many gifts and… but that’s not possible because everybody is counting on me to do this! If I don’t do it nobody else will!”
So this was clearly a case of negotiating needs. In order to do that, this wonderful giving woman first of all needed to believe that her own needs matter. We needed to teach her subconscious mind more supportive beliefs about herself and her needs, especially in comparison to other people’s needs. She also decided to take an honest look and ask herself what energies she had over-identified with and which opposite energies she had disowned. Her perfectionist, pleaser and care-taker parts were strong personality parts for her. She liked to give to others but because her opposite energies were underdeveloped, she ended up feeling resentful, unappreciated and completely overwhelmed. She needed some more separation from her perfectionist, pleaser and care-taker and had to embrace her own inner child which wanted to have play time and relaxing time over the holidays.
She came for three sessions at the end of last year. I just heard from her a few days ago. She is creating a completely different holiday experience for herself this year. She negotiated that they would only travel up North to stay with the in-laws every other year and that everybody in her family would help with Christmas dinner at her house. “I had to let go of my need to have things ‘just so’, but it was worth it! I actually have found time this year to start cross stitching again; I always used to love needle work. And instead of giving gifts to everybody in the family, we are only doing cards for the adults. All I need to worry about is my grandchildren and it’s fun to shop for them. I am actually enjoying this time of the year! It is wonderful!”
The second client is a man in his late thirties. When asked why he wants Christmas to be over, he said, “I don’t know. It is just depressing. Just thinking of Christmas shopping makes me break out in a cold sweat; in January we are always in debt because of all the December expenses.” When asked how he envisions a Christmas that meets his needs he replied, “I have no idea! Christmas was always a time I dreaded, going back to the year when my grandpa Miller died” and his eyes filled with tears. He quickly wanted to push that sadness down again but I asked him to sit with it and feel it. It turned out that as a child a few years in a row, traumatic events happened around Christmas: somebody died or moved away or an accident of sorts happened.
Subconsciously, this man still expected the worst to happen at this time of the year. His work was to joyfully release past Christmas experiences and to expect the best Christmas now and in the future. He also chose to change beliefs about being a horrible gift giver and about having to spend a lot of money for Christmas. His son now has a chance to experience a different holiday, one where there are less expensive gifts under the tree but where everybody sits together playing board games and laughing. It’s a Christmas where this dad might finally feel comfortable sharing about his childhood and what his Grandpa Miller was like, a different and special holiday memory for his son.
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Belief Change Coaching