Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holidays Can Hurt

There is an irony about the holidays that many of us find difficult to acknowledge. After all, this is a joyous time; it is not an occasion for allowing one's past or present emotional scars to resurface or to reopen. So, many of us smooth on a heavy layer of denial salve or repress the wounds with strongly bound emotional bandages. And for the few of us who are willing to let the voices dancing around in our heads about the discomfort and anxiety of the holidays come through, it is still an emotional tug-of-war about whether or not to talk about it to anyone. Let's get it out in the open once and for all. There is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting "holidays can hurt."

During the holiday season, many of us find that we are required to be somebody that we really do not want to be or cannot be. Because of social expectations, family traditions, or societal norms, we put on a false persona, or a front. When we do this, we negate our real selves (our authentic selves) and we do not honor our own truths. This is self-devaluing and it breeds bitterness and resentment. Understanding that we must navigate in a world of respect and dignity towards others, I am not suggesting that we unleash our innermost injuries onto others. What I am suggesting is that we take some personal time, each day or whenever we feel the need, to be honest with ourselves about our feelings. If we are sad, admit it. If we are angry, say it. If we are wounded, write about it. While we are doing this, we also need to give ourselves some private time for meaningful reflection, meditation or prayer. When we are ready, we need to release our hurts. Let them go, a little at a time. But, let them go.

Also, it is during the holidays when emotions which are normally contained become easily triggered. Although there are many reasons for this, one simple reason stands out - holidays are filled with memories, good and bad. While it is important to honor our truths and our perspectives, it is equally important to weigh the amount of time and energy we are putting into our pasts, especially if the memories are painful and injurious. While we cannot change the past, we do have control over how much control it has over us. If there is any good to ponder, spend time recalling those times, either privately or with trusted individuals. If there are only painful recollections, we need to honor our truths briefly and again, release their hold on us. If we are revisited by them, let them go again. And again.

Wellness tip: The holidays can hurt. However, how we choose to acknowledge that and how we take care of ourselves in the process can and will alter our experience. We can navigate them with a bitter and hardened heart, or we can embrace them with a well and whole sense of being.

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