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Are you stressed about Christmas?

No other time of the year has the potential to create a stronger collision between our expectations and reality than Christmas.  This gap brings with it a race to breach the gap.  We feel stress as we rush around and work hard not only to finish work for the year but also to have all the right presents and all the food prepared while navigating at times complicated family dynamics.  

Are you worried that thoughts and relationship challenges will fester and pester your Christmas?

I just asked someone how she feels about Christmas and she immediately said: ‘stressed’!

No other time of the year has the potential to create a stronger collision between our expectations and reality than Christmas.  This gap brings with it a race to breach the gap.  We feel stress as we rush around and work hard not only to finish work for the year but also to have all the right presents and all the food prepared while navigating at times complicated family dynamics.  

All the old family dynamics pop up at Christmas.  What role was yours in your family system?  Were you the one that challenged the rest?  Where you the one that organised everything, were you the harmoniser?  What role are you ready to drop?  You can always check out your Saboteurs to help you identify what role you might have played: https://www.positiveintelligence.com/saboteurs/

Christmas time is a great time for self-revelation, self-discovery.  To explore our ‘attachments’ – what matters to us and what keeps us stuck.

You might feel obliged or unable to have a difficult conversation and so you race between houses during the Christmas days to avoid drama or hurting someone’s feelings.  You might harbour resentment about the pressure you are under and yet you feel unable to say ‘no’.  You feel stuck and obliging, perhaps asking yourself: ‘Why can’t I just have the Christmas I would like’?

Or you might be hoping someone will invite you to join them for Christmas, fearing the prospect of spending Christmas alone. We are so vulnerable to feeling an outsider, not included, so vulnerable to feeling that there is something wrong with ‘me’.  

You might be worrying about someone at Christmas who in the past has ruined family events, perhaps due to their toxic tongue or because they tend to drink too much or create drama.

Or you might be lucky that you simply look forward to the Christmas days.  You enjoy the planning and decorating, you have harmonious relationships, and it is lovely to spend time together.

Even so, it is a time when we are vulnerable to nostalgia: ‘Remember when the children were so young?’, ‘Remember when Aunty Grace was there with her wonderful laugh?’.  This brings on the pangs of pain as you observe how things change and there is loss in that.  (There is also gain but we can’t see that when we are delving into nostalgia. And remember, nostalgia can be dangerous. In fact, the word was first used to describe a medical condition, ‘a cerebral disease’.)

There are things you can do to have a better Christmas.  As always, be curious, kind and clear.

Curiosity

As I have mentioned before in the newsletter, I have felt very challenged celebrating Christmas in the warmth rather than in the dark and cold with all the traditions that Denmark offers.  If you feel that this year is not ideally the Christmas that you would like, then this is an opportunity for you.

See if you can free yourself from the ideas of how it ‘should be’.  See if you can see it with a beginner’s mind.  See the good you have, appreciate the time off, the delicious food, the options of going for a walk or a swim.

Curiosity and Kindness

It is the same principle if you are spending Christmas alone.  When I had a Christmas alone, I realised the importance of keeping a tight rein on my narrative.  I found if I could hold my ideas about how it should be at bay, I was free to enjoy this time.  If I could hold at bay my narrative that everyone else was having a wonderful social time and I was all alone, rejected, a failure.

There is pain in not feeling included, and that also needs our compassion. Apply lots of ‘dear body’ when you notice the yearning or pain.  Address the pain at the source rather than feed it further with a narrative.

Curiosity, Kindness and Clarity

If it is a difficult relative that you worry about, then you can also prepare yourself for this.  Start by being curious about how it feels in the body when you get triggered by this person. Ask yourself ‘What am I attached to that this person challenges?’  Do you feel they ruin the atmosphere, they hurt people’s feelings, or they are indifferent?  Do you feel shamed by their behaviour?

What can you do to avoid being triggered by that?  You can access ‘dear body’.  You can try to see the situation from their perspective – what might be happening for them?  Do they feel inferior?  Do they feel like the black sheep?  Are they unhappy?

You can also have a discussion beforehand where you are hard on the issue and soft on the person.  For instance, if it is someone who tends to get drunk and then behave inappropriately, you might say: ‘I am reflecting on what happened last year at Christmas and I can feel that I am concerned about how it will go this year.  

Not sure if you recall?’  And if they don’t, you might have to restate some of the things said.  And then it is perfectly fine to say ‘There is zero tolerance for such language or being abusive in this house’.  And then you might explore how they might manage that as you would like them also to have a good time. For instance, they could make every second drink alcohol-free, or get professional help for their dislike of the person they attacked.

May curiosity, kindness and clarify lead you way.

Love

Charlotte

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