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christmas-vacation-1Reflections on the holidays…

Some people absolutely love Christmas, it’s the most magical time of the year. If this is you, you may not want to read further. For others, Christmas can be a tough time and I’ve been reflecting on the reasons for this. It struck me that this is a time unlike any other because it “forces” us to deal with deeper issues and problems that we’ve been avoiding for the rest of the year, and sometimes even most of our lives. Perhaps this is why many people resonate with those “disaster” holiday movies where everyone’s fighting and the turkey falls on the floor. The movies of course usually have a happy ending but that’s not the case for many of us in the real world.

We’re all told that Christmas is the time that we should be happy, grateful, loving and giving. It’s like someone telling you to “cheer up, look on the bright side” when you’re feeling down and blue. This tends to make us feel worse, not better s because human beings generally don’t respond well to messages that tell us that we should be different than we actually are. Contrary to popular culture and opinion, people have far less control over their feelings and thoughts than they think. If being happy was as simple as telling yourself to “cheer up,” we’d all be living in bliss. There would be no need for addiction counsellors, therapists and anti-depressant/anxiety medications. To quote Brene Brown, “we live in the most numbed out, medicated and distracted society in history.”

I believe that the root cause of most of the problems we have during the holidays is experiential avoidance, that is, we avoid issues for most of the year until they’re thrust upon on us at Christmas time. How do you deal with issues in your family or with your in-laws? Many people will say, “I avoid them or I avoid the talking about it.” Or worse, “we always have conflict at Christmas, it’s just what happens.”

So Christmas time is here, the time when we’re all supposed to get together and be “happy.” Well, what if we’re not happy, what if we have issues with our family and friends? What if we don’t like some of family and friends? What then?

The unique opportunity that Christmas provides.

The holidays offer a profound window into our inner experience and authentic selves, a unique opportunity to assess, reflect and ultimately make necessary changes. How we feel going into this time of year can be a “relational compass,” guiding us to those areas of our life that need attention, healing and resolution.

This Christmas don’t put things off, don’t avoid people and don’t avoid conversations or situations because they’re uncomfortable or awkward. Use this time to clear things up, speak from your heart (from your vulnerability, that is) and get back in relationship with the people you care about.  Make this Christmas count and start the new year with a clean slate!