This blog is not about how to better manage Christmas, it is more about helping to create awareness around what might be happening for you…

The Christmas culture, for many, often conjures up a myriad of conflicts, so imagine my surprise when discussing Christmas with a deeply non-Christian person recently. She has been a resident of Australia for some years and was saying that one of the things she has most enjoyed about life here is embracing the Christmas spirit in this country. She went on to describe the delight of her family over such things as, house lights, tree decorations, gift-giving, get-togethers, warm greetings, the light joyous mood evident at community Christmas events, and the general pleasure of giving and receiving.

I was heartened to hear this perspective because I am usually exposed to the reverse. This includes disgruntled, unhappy, people. It is not unusual for me to work much longer hours, to have more *catharsis in my practice, to hear disparaging conversations about Christmas and fear. Fear around; not enough money, not being enough, not doing enough, not having enough… the list is endless.

The experience of Christmas in my practice is rarely good.

Of course, this does raise that question: why might this be the case?

There is a myriad of reasons and I will list here the two top ones that appear repeatedly in my practice.

Many people have varying degrees of acrimonious relationships within their family and with family members, even though this might not be what they desire. And while one can abscond from intense family gatherings for most of the year, Christmas is often mandated… a bit like a trap. It is the one time of the year everyone expects compliance, interaction, and attendance… regardless of family status and dynamics. It is the tension in these areas and these dynamics which create anxiety and dread.

If this is you I would ask, ‘do you feel you can be open and honest with family?’ Do you feel you can explain how you feel? Is it possible to suggest another catch-up date when things don’t feel so pressured? The answer to these questions is often, no.

But then to the contrary, people often fear to be alone. Fear of being alone usually compels many to attend family gatherings. This frequently exacerbates feelings of aloneness… where being with family may even compound that void.

I am suggesting it might be useful to know what your own dynamic is in such situations. To quote Socrates; ‘to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom. See if going into difficult family situations  – with a state of awareness – has a (somewhat) calming effect.

Another issue that appears in my rooms frequently is the feeling of financial pressure at this time of year. Finances can trigger the haves and have nots. People often express how ‘inferior’ they feel around people who are buying extravagant gifts, taking lavish holidays, even the extent of food and alcohol that appears at gatherings. If possible, here, again, perhaps know where your own line in the sand is, and let it be that, feeling content that you have no more and are not comparing yourself to others.

As mentioned in various other posts, blogs and in my book, Delving Deeper as a psychotherapist I am not developing strategies or a cognitive-behavioural approach so much. The most I can do is to suggest and encourage you to stay with your feelings of fear, awkwardness, loss, loneliness, and aloneness (and know the difference). Because the more you understand your emotions the more you give yourself the chance to recover… the cure comes from the development of ones’ own awareness.

*Catharsis -extensive emotional expression i.e. having a massive uncontrollable cry.