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Holiday First Aid for Hurt Hearts

Rachel Alexander Nov. 14, 2018

{2 minutes to read} Divorce can reshape our holiday celebrations into something disordered, gloomy and sad. In the midst of the divorce or in its immediate aftermath, the focus might have shifted to what is lacking rather than what is to be celebrated. Enduring might have replaced enjoying. This phenomenon is prevalent and normal.

The insistence that something should be other than as it is can be punishing.

On my first birthday celebration (many decades ago), when the attendees broke into song, I burst into tears. I imagine I must have felt surprised by the concentrated attention, as well as the underlying demand for my happiness; it was terrible pressure!

To this day, nothing causes me more anxiety than an insistence that I feel something on demand. “Smile” or “It was a joke: laugh,” are unfortunate commands I find positively invasive. Who among us hasn’t had the dystopian experience of a doctor instructing that we “Relax!” while he performs some unnatural act with a foreign instrument while your body instinctively recoils? You know what’s decidedly not relaxing? This!

When I turned one year old, On demand programming hadn’t been invented yet, but if it had, and if I had had the power of speech, complex reasoning, and masterful assertiveness, I imagine I would have exclaimed: “On demand is for movies, not feelings!”

Sometimes the holidays operate as an insistence to feel something, be someone, show up for others in a way that is far afield from how we actually are at the given moment. This can feel oppressive and impossible. This article is offered to normalize the following: sometimes things just suck. And this suckiness can co-occur with an ordinary day or a holiday. The article is also intended to address how we can be with ourselves in times of cognitive dissonance so as to decreases suffering and foster ease.

The following is re-posted from the 2017 Holiday season as its relevance is unchanged.

Ungrateful and Pissed Off? A Curmudgeon’s Survival Guide for Thanksgiving