It's Not All Ho! Ho! Ho!


Noah benShea

If you’re a cop, a doctor, a priest, a therapist, or in the recovery business, you know the holiday season is not all ho, ho, ho. And you don’t have to be in the business of helping, healing, or protecting to know this truth to be too true. The holiday season is an equal opportunity emotional omnivore. Over time, few of us have entirely escaped the seasonal run up, Thanksgiving Dinner, The Xmas Dinner, New Year’s Eve without running into or feeling run over by blame, bad feelings, and guilt. My point here is not to give the holidays a bad name but an honest look, a compassionate reach out, and a survival guide.

The truth is that dysfunctional people often come to their problems honestly – from dysfunctional families. Child Abuse, Spousal Abuse, Alcoholism are passed between generations, and the flames of these fires are always fanned hot in the holiday season. Parents and partners who don’t show up, show up drunk, or show up angry are forever tattooed in a child’s emotional construct and adult script. And this sad movie is passed along again, and again, even while Bing Crosby, an abusive father, might be singing White Christmas in the background.

Knowing this doesn’t make me wise. Wisdom only reaches its zenith when it reaches out as compassion. So let us know that even while we are relishing in the warmth and goodness of the holiday season, there are many, many people in pain, uncertainty, and emotionally hiding what they are really feeling and cannot historically escape. People in childhood dysfunctional pain are wary of allowing the emotion they crave into their lives because feeling stuff only brings up all the childhood stuff that made them feel so vulnerable, and even more tragically, inappropriately guilty.  And addiction to negative past nurtures addiction present.

For adult children of tough early times the holiday season is a season to be wary of at least or held at a distance. And if you are working with, married to, in a relationship with, trying to help someone in this situation, here is your survival guide. Be wise to how this is set up, be loving to pain that is born of it, and don’t expect to be appreciated, loved, or looked up to for all the holiday spirit you put out there. Be grateful for who you are, know that but for the grace of God the anger and hurt might be yours, and offer your hand without looking to get a hand.

People can and do change. Next year is going to be another season for all of us. Change is inevitable; progress is not. Look for the best; make peace with the rest. Be okay with who you are. Sometimes the nicest way to get warm is to hug someone who is cold. Stay warm at heart. Being loving is its own contagion, year in and year out. Happy Holidays!

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