We're ALL Going On A Summer Holiday OR Are We?
There’s a song from the sixties entitled ‘We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday’. What comes to your mind when you think of the phrase ‘summer holidays’? Does your mind conjure up a tropical island with a sun-kissed beach? Do you think of adventure? Do you think about reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in ages? Or does the phrase evoke a sense of tension, sorrow or even nothingness? Are holidays for other people, but not for you?
For some taking ‘time out’ in the summer is seen as a natural part of each year, a well-earned reward for hard work put in during the previous months. The person looks forward to the time off and can use the thought of the upcoming holiday as a comfort when the day seems grim. Despite whatever setbacks that occurred during the year, some people won’t deny themselves the right to have that easy time and when it comes along, the person switches to a carefree, happy frame of mind, where work and daily stress seems far away. The person feels a natural joy whether they jet off to a distant climate or whether they stay in front of the TV in their pyjamas for two weeks.
There is nothing wrong with having a jam-packed, adventure filled vacation in a faraway place or staying put on your couch watching your favourite TV programmes. The difficulty arises is when your daily life is filled with a series of high-stress situations and holidays are filled with as much as stress, worry and nagging feelings of doubt as a typical day at work. Even when you are ‘on holiday’ you feel as if you are going through the motions. Or, you feel as if you never deserve a holiday, whatever that may involve, because there’s something else that you ‘should’ be doing and the priority is ALWAYS about looking after things or others and NEVER about enjoying yourself.
So often, we focus on the stress and strain of work, finances or relationships and we may perceive them as the core reason for our current unhappiness, but we may never focus on whether we actually give ourselves the permission to take time out and let our minds truly relax—however and whatever that may involve.
In counselling and psychotherapy, the work involves looking at many aspects of a person’s mental well-being as well as looking at their current situation. One of those aspects is looking at how the person gives themselves permission—permission to be themselves, to reward themselves, to praise themselves and to enjoy.
At the moment with the Olympics going on, we recognise the amount of effort and training it takes for an athlete to compete in the Games, but their tough training programme also recognises the importance of sufficient rest and relaxation time. We wouldn’t expect a runner to do well in a competition if they had spent their previous days continuously running a marathon without doing anything else, but how often do we subconsciously expect ourselves to continuously run our own mental marathons whilst wondering why we can’t seem to gear ourselves up for the major events in life? How often do we examine whether we have lost the knack of really ‘taking it easy’ and if you restore the idea of really being able to ‘switch off’, how much more energy will you have when you have to be really ‘switched on’?
Each model of therapy has its particular concepts to look at the amount of balance a person has in their life. The model that I use is Transactional Analysis and one of its concepts is the idea of negative early messages. In Transactional Analysis, we call these Injunctions. These early negative early messages occur where a child has taken in an idea that certain things, such as enjoying themselves, is somehow not allowed. No-one may have ever directly said to the child ‘Don’t Enjoy Yourself’ when they were growing up, but through a series of events, the grown adult may have drifted into this way of thinking without ever being aware of it. If you find yourself feeling ‘I just can’t seem to let go, relax and enjoy myself whatever I do’ or ‘Whenever I have fun, I feel guilty’, this may well be an early negative message that you have taken in over time and which has nested in your subconscious. That message does not have to stay there. Sometimes becoming aware that you carry such early negative messages or Injunctions can be the first step to freeing yourself from them.
In the 70s, Bob and Mary Goulding first put forward the idea of ‘Injunctions’. The Gouldings listed particular commonly recognised injunctions but they also observed that a person can have unique injunctions. There are about twelve commonly recognised injunctions. Some of these include ‘Don’t Be You’; ‘Don’t Belong’; ‘Don’t Feel or Don’t Feel a Certain Emotion’ and ‘Don’t Enjoy’.
To see whether you carry a subconscious early message not to enjoy yourself, ask yourself the following questions. Does something always seem to get in the way of you taking a holiday for yourself (whatever that holiday may involve)? Do you not bother with holidays unless something is planned? When you are on holiday, do you find yourself thinking about work or people at home more often that you think about what is going on around you? Do you feel almost relieved to get back to check your work e‑mails? When’s the last time you really laughed hard at something? When you are out enjoying yourself how much tension do you feel at times in your body? How much of the time do you spend feeling as if you should be doing something else? When’s the last time you had a good night’s rest and felt revived the next morning? Growing up, how often do you remember the adults around you having fun which was not dependant on having large amounts of alcohol or drugs? What are you REALLY looking forward to next?
When you answer these questions what sort of picture is emerging for you? Is it a picture where there’s enough joy and relaxation going on in your life? If you feel that you have lost the knack of really enjoying yourself or you feel as if you’ve never been able to have fun and cannot see a particular reason for that loss, therapy may be able to unblock that ‘don’t enjoy’ injunction that you may carry with you which interferes with your ability to enjoy life.
Remember it is not so important WHAT past-time or holiday you take for yourself or what time of year that you take it or whether it is two weeks or a different span of time. What is important is whether you give yourself that relaxation time and whether you REALLY enjoy it, be it two weeks of doing nothing except watching the TV or going on a hike up the Himalayas.