Saturday, November 06, 2010

Why is the Holiday Season both Wonderful and Difficult?

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year to reflect upon all that we are grateful for, but it can also be a stressful time for too many families. At the heart of this paradox is the expectation we have unconsciously accepted about the Christmas season. We expect everyone to be happy, jolly and generous. We expect generosity and abundance. But reality is not always accommodating. Too often, life presents challenges rather than illusions.
In order to avoid depression during the holidays, it is imperative to accept reality as it is and not as we wish it to be. Life has a way of delivering what you “need” rather than what you “want,” according to the Rolling Stones.
During the holiday season there are two big illusions that cause most of the depression: the expectation of financial abundance, and the expectation that families should be happy and emotionally healthy.
Advertising pushes the abundance theme in order to promote sales. If this goal is unattainable, one natural outcome is emotional exhaustion or depression.
The second illusion is the fantasy that every family will be happy and emotionally healthy during this season. Because the majority of people are unconscious about their human nature, this illusion leads to disappointment when we encounter family dysfunctionality. Families are dysfunctional. There are no “always happy” families. We all have emotional wounds, and most people cannot adequately deal with this pain. When we uncover the pain and agony of human interactions, we can be thrown into depression. Seeing the family dysfunction at Christmas is especially painful.
The truth is that families are a mixture of light and dark. Every family has its dark side and the majority of humans are incapable of accepting and dealing with this dark side. Very few people are trained to deal with the trauma of their families. When they are confronted with this pain, they can become depressed.
The key to avoiding depression is to accept that these two illusions are illusions. You are very fortunate if you have enough financial resources to be as generous as you want to be. You are also extremely lucky if your family is loving and kind most of the time. Very few people have both financial stability and family emotional health. Only Disney characters have everything they want. Hollywood sells dreams, and it is imperative that you do not automatically buy into the dream world created by the entertainment industry.
The emotional pain in life is always a function of not accepting what is true. Life is suffering, but once you accept that this is the nature of life, you cease to suffer, and you can then be grateful for what you do have. And probably what you have is some financial freedom, and a measure of family joy. No one has everything. Only Hollywood can create such an illusion. And in order to avoid the pain so many people experience during the holiday season, accept what you do have, and work on improving what needs to be improved.
And while the holidays can be difficult — for all the reasons mentioned above — that doesn’t mean they have to be. Once you understand the dangers of illusions, you can give what you have to give with your heart wide open. Most people want love and acceptance during the holiday season, and that costs nothing to give. So have a wonderful holiday season and love your family to the best of your capacity. Happy holidays to all!