During this holiday month we find ourselves experiencing more stress, more family, more expenses, more parties, more food and just plain MORE of anything and everything. We also can feel more love, more hurt, more gratitude and yet more sadness. More can be hard. More of anything in our life demands adaptation skills. Adaptation skills require extra emotional energy. And extra emotional energy is hard to find as “more” is heaped on us!!! A season filled with more is a difficult maze to navigate! When we add grief, depression, anxiety and loneliness to all of this “more” you can begin to feel like the holidays are an emotional avalanche ready to bury you!
These feelings are common during the season from Thanksgiving to New Years. One of my favorite quotes that sums up how a lot of us feel is “Home for the Holidays, Therapy by New Year’s”! These feelings are so universal we find them throughout Christmas themed movies, songs, and literature. Who hasn’t felt Elvis’ pain of a “Blue Christmas” or let our mind drift to a place we long for while listening to Bing Crosby sing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. Movies often times represent our shared psyche as a culture. We see ourselves in these characters and the more they hold up a mirror to us individually and collectively the more the movies become part of tradition. Christmas movies hold a special place in our Christmas culture because we feel what these beloved characters feel and we watch as their “humanness” is displayed for all to see on the big screen.
So, which character reflects your feelings this Christmas?
Ebenezer Scrooge – “I feel angry” – Scrooge hates Christmas. He is pessimistic, ill-tempered, and resents even the idea of allowing people to get emotionally close to him. He has forgotten how to play, laugh, and love. Christmas is threatening to him because deep down he is fearful of what it might require from him. But, like all good movies, the most depraved character awakens to a new beginning. Scrooge is changed by dreams of the past, present, and future. He sees the error of his stingy ways and opens his heart to the people around him. Scrooge inspires us to change today in order to avoid the fate of tomorrow. We cheer for him as he embarks on a transformational journey from bitterness to love.
George Bailey – “I feel trapped” – George represents that part of us that just wants to give up sometimes. He is a desperate man that doesn’t see his value. He is trapped in a life that looks very different than the life he thought he would live. He is a man drowning in grief. He can be described as a man simply going through the motions of being alive but not really living. And then, when we think George is at his end, an angel named Clarence enters and performs a lifesaving refocusing of George’s life. Gratitude replaces hopelessness and an angel gets his wings.
Elf – “I feel unwanted” – Buddy the Elf is the ultimate fish out of water story. He doesn’t fit. Literally. He is too big to be an elf yet too socially awkward to be a human. He struggles to find his place and to find love and acceptance. He romanticizes everything that is Christmas but longs to find real connection. He just wants to belong. Buddy struggles to navigate the difficult relationship with his father but in the end (and we all prefer a happy ending) Buddy the Elf uses all his lovability and quirkiness to turn his father into a kind, loving person.
Ralphie– “I feel unheard” – Ralphie keeps telling everyone what he wants but no one seems to be taking him seriously. It is very simple. He wants an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. He even resorts to asking Santa because his mom and teacher have shut down his BB gun desires. This is a story that takes us to a place of wanting something so much and yet having so little ability to get what we want. Ralphie is a hero to everyone who has ever felt powerless and in the end, he is victorious in his quest even as he lives out the self-fulfilling prophecy of shooting his eye out!
Clark Griswold – “I feel responsible” – Clark is an idealistic, over-achiever, who sees other’s happiness as his responsibility. Sure, he likes being the hero but he also has a big heart. Christmas has become the stuff myths are made of for Clark and we see him strive for the unattainable and fail in humorous ways over and over. He takes expectations to a new level and experiences the depths of disappointment. His wife tells him “You set standards that no family activity can live up to” and yet he continues. Clark represents the doer in all of us. It is the idea that if we do enough we can make people happy and achieve perfection. Of course, in the end Clark has his family surrounding him and he proclaims “I did it”. The question that lingers is: At what cost???
The Grinch – “I feel hurt” – There is a reason his heart is two sizes too small. Somewhere in the past the Grinch was hurt deeply. He now looks down on the Whos in Whoville with a mixture of resentment and abandonment which just leaves him feeling isolated and alone. Sure, he acts out with anger but it comes from a place of woundedness. He acts out of his pain much like Scrooge. The Grinch, though, has not filled his life with any real successes. He only desires to take joy from the Whos. In the end, he is touched by the Whos’ resiliency to celebrate without all the trappings of the traditional Christmas. He sees good in them and in himself. The hurt gives way to hope. In that moment, his heart grows three sizes because he realizes he can choose how to respond to that hurt just as he has seen the Whos in Whoville respond to their hurt. His heart is healed by their joyful singing.
So … “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store… Maybe Christmas means a little bit more”
Whatever you are feeling this Christmas season please remember that these feelings are common to all of us and can be intensified because of the “more” that specifically happens during this season.
Blessings this Christmas season!
You’re not alone and we would love to join you as you take steps toward a stronger, healthier future.
I believe we all need a safe place to explore the issues that may be preventing us from experiencing a full and satisfying life. My greatest reward as a therapist is helping my clients examine ways to make the changes in their lives that will allow them to look forward to the future with hope. I am a bilingual (Spanish-English) LPC.
Our team will reach out to you soon!