Why Can’t We Enjoy the Holidays Without the Meltdown??
It’s nice to see you all. I have been wanting to talk about the holiday meltdown. Since it’s before Thanksgiving because so many people come to me with this history of going, going, going during the Holiday season and then crashing. I typically don’t hear about the crash until after the crash. Everybody goes off to their holidays everybody is okay, and then they come back with all the complaints and frustrations.
We don’t want you to do that this year, as I always tell my patients- how about, we think about the things that are coming up not just the things that have passed. If you have this history of melting down, I just wanted to talk to you about that. It’s not going to take something away from the holidays, to think about this in advance. We’re going to add something to the holiday by doing a preemptive strike. We’re going to solve this before it happens. And then make the holiday a whole lot better, not only for you but everybody else too.
What I’ve found over the 20 years of doing this, is that that meltdown tends to always come because of an imbalance. “I’m doing everything, and nobody else is doing anything,” imbalance. Sounds familiar right? “I’m doing this, this, and this. He’s not doing that, she’s not doing this, she’s getting her nails done, and I’m doing everything.” So you start doing that in your head, and that’s a problem.
Reasons the Imbalance Comes Up
The reasons why that balance comes up. For starters, you are probably doing this all in your head. You get caught up in the traditions, in the pressure from society, maybe some pressure from the family and you go right into the mode. Whatever holiday it is, you go into the mode and not think to stop, and think. Let’s put our thinking caps on together and try to think of what is it that you want?
What do you want?
Prepare a list of what everybody else wants; you can hold on to that but add to it, what do you want? And the sooner you get this out on the table, the better. You don’t have to sit there and wait until someone doesn’t figure it out. We’re talking here a lot about expressing what you want, expressing what you feel.
Neediness is not a bad thing; it does not make you weak, mean, wimpy, or childish. Neediness is a normal human emotion; if you can get comfortable with that, then you can sit with that neediness. Figure out what you need, for example, “this year, I need X Y & Z because last year I didn’t get it and there was a problem.” So get that spelled out, it should be just as clear to you, what you want, as what everybody else wants. You know exactly what everybody else wants, but you don’t stop and say, “I know exactly what I want or need.” And then have that talk with others.
Have it now, don’t wait until the tree is up and the gifts are out where you are bummed. Put your neediness out there, “this is what I expect, this is what I’d like,” with your significant other, so you’re both on the same page. Then you’ll feel like you have an ally through the holidays. It’s not you against anybody, it’s going to be you two figuring out how to make both of what you want, and need, work. Go ahead and have that discussion.
It’s okay to cross people off your list
The other thing I see all the time, is you don’t want to cross anybody off the list. There’s some fantasy, some distorted reality if you cross somebody off your list for whatever it is, the Christmas card or the gift; that you are going to crush them. With the thoughts that they’re not able to handle it. You don’t have that much power in someone else’s life.
This may be a little different with a child; I’m talking about the adults in your life, who year after year, you give the gift and let’s face it they don’t give one to you. Then you feel disappointed, and then you start kind of feeling negative towards them. But it’s not them; it’s you. You have set something up that they weren’t involved in or they’ve never been involved in, and you aren’t getting the message.
Take them off the list
So here’s permission to go ahead and take them off the list. It doesn’t mean you don’t be friends with them afterward. Even if they do notice, it doesn’t mean you can’t then say, “oh, I’m so sorry you didn’t make my list this year. Let’s go out to lunch.” I mean you can make up for it. I rarely, if ever, seen this happen where they come back and say “oh, I missed that gift.” But if they do, then you can do something about it. But to sit here and assume that they’re going to be crushed and you do all this stuff, get yourself all worked up because they may be crushed, this makes no sense. Go ahead, take them off your list and then if something happens you can let them know.
Another trick I have, the other option is instead of saying I’m getting you a gift, you get me a gift; you can recommend an exchange. So, “Hey, how about this year for the holidays we exchanged our favorite book.” Or, “I need help with my computer, and you’re good at doing that thing, let’s have a little exchange of help or assistance.” That way you’re doing something together. Don’t get that resentment if they once again don’t get you a gift.
Don’t do things out of guilt
Lastly, there is this idea that goes around, it’s not true. And that is, “I’ve got to spend this year with so-and-so because she might be dead next year.” I see this with older parents, with grandparents. This is a terrible idea for so many reasons. For starters, you’re doing this, “I’m going to do something now to protect myself from having a feeling in the future.” Typically, people say, “Oh, if aunt
Phyllis dies in March; I’m gonna feel so guilty I didn’t spend Christmas with her.”
You can’t solve future problems; you can’t, you can’t stop feeling a future feeling. It’s not possible, and you don’t need to. You’re a capable adult, if you get those feelings, later on, you can deal with them. To do something for aunt Phyllis now, when you don’t want to or are over the edge, is not fair to aunt Phyllis. That’s not fair; it’s much less fair to pretend you want to spend Christmas with her, so you don’t feel guilty in March if she dies. There’s nothing logical there; you should be promoting healthy intimate relationships; that is honest.
Being with aunt Phyllis and then being resentful, she’s going to figure it out; she’s going to feel it. If you’re resentful, or you’re going to be blowing up at somebody else later on, not of that is good. If you can’t this year, if you already committed or if you feel too guilty to leave someone out of your holiday plans. Think of something else that works better for you. Maybe you want to give aunt Phyllis a call while you’re off on your Christmas holiday in the Caribbean. Or perhaps you want to have a special lunch with her after the whole craziness is over, that makes a lot more sense and will be a lot more useful than just doing it out of guilt.
Here are some hopefully helpful ideas for you to start that holiday season off right. No need for a meltdown, no need for you to deny yourself. It’ll be a lot more intimate and a lot more effective.
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