The challenges of Christmas
The festive time of year can mean different things to many of us. For some, it truly can be a time to get together with loved ones, to reconnect with our nearest and dearest and to celebrate the values that matter to us, to our family, friends, neighbours and community.
However, for many others, it is a time that brings with it a cocktail of emotions. Nervous anticipation, worry, stress, concern, anxiety, even fear. In the mix will be families that are at loggerheads, the complex mix that constitutes step-families, families that are struggling with the logistics of being separated and, of course, the financial concerns of being able to meet all those extra costs.
As therapists, this is the time of year when we see clients for whom Christmas has been the straw that broke the camel’s back, that final bit of pressure that lit the fuse for rage, anger, sadness, disappointment and confusion. Condensed into this holiday, all that is wrong in life can be brought into sharp focus, and lead us to reflect on what our lives are about.
As a society we are fed images of the perfect Christmas. Images of the white Victorian Christmas, all cosy and secure. There are the picture-perfect families appearing in front of us in the media, all smiles and happiness, with seemingly not a concern in the world. These images are pervasive, as they feed into our subconscious and lay down an image of how society thinks Christmas should be - and society can be a strict layer down of rules, which we may subconsciously feel we have to meet.
When we know we can’t, or don’t want to fit into this stereotypical Christmas scene, then we may feel a sense of failure at not being quite good, or perfect, enough. Setting ourselves up to achieve this ‘perfect’ Christmas is a road to disappointment, since perfection can never be achieved - it will always be just out of reach - unattainable.
Expectations can run high for many of us. We want it to be a happy time, yet this goal can be contaminated by the complexities of family life - the brother who always drinks too much, the sister who won’t contribute, the parent who criticises, the lack of time to organise everything because of work and family commitments …. the list is endless.
So, how can we make the best of Christmas? Is it time to think about doing something different, shifting the energies that make up your Christmas into something new? Perhaps it might be more fun to go out for the traditional Christmas lunch this year; maybe ask each visitor to be responsible for one of the courses; suggest keeping all presents within a certain monetary limit; give no presents at all, but give to charity instead; organise a family walk during the day to get everyone out and about, rather than be trapped in front of the television. Perhaps party games might make a change and get everyone in a relaxed mood… the list is as long as you want it to be, the changes possible only limited by our imagination.
Christmas can be a magical time of year, especially if one is sharing it with young children, but the recipe for a successful one can be as individual as your circumstances and not dictated to by external forces.
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