Cleaning Up the Post-Thanksgiving Emotional Mess

Welcome back to my blog. I intended to take a couple of days off last week to get ready for our Thanksgiving holiday and for several reasons it ended up being a mostly silent week. In my defense, we had family coming into town for the holiday and that required a lot of preparation; cleaning the house, shopping for supplies, arranging lists of activities and agendas, etc.
The fact that we’re all back tells me that we all made it through the holiday. While I sincerely hope your holiday was fun and filled with the love of your family and friends, experience tells me that a lot of people are seething and dealing with a lot of hurt and resentment this week. In fact, I usually spend the next couple of weeks helping people get over the traumas of Thanksgiving, while preparing them to deal with the anxiety of getting ready for next barrage they expect at Christmas.
Every year I have clients come in after the holiday telling me stories of the hurtful remarks and actions of their family and ‘loved ones.’ The comments like, ‘Why aren’t you married yet?’ ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ and my all-time favorite, a client shared with me last year, ‘Why can’t you be more successful like your gay brother?’
Everyone’s family dynamic is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone’s issues, but I’ve found that the majority of hurt and resentment carried forward from these gatherings are the result of three factors; well-intended but awkwardly worded concern on the part of the speaker; too much alcohol (usually on everyone’s part); and low self-esteem on the part of the client.
So here’s an abbreviated therapy session for free. The prescription to moving on from these holiday disasters usually boils down to three factors; acceptance, forgiveness and self-esteem.
First, you have to realize that people say stupid things. If you add alcohol…or other recreational substances…into the mix, normally well-intentioned people say REALLY stupid things. You probably knew that going into the situation, so why are you now surprised that Mom, your brother or sister, or Uncle Fred pushed that special button that got you so upset? Yeah, it hurt, but in most cases, you expected something like this would happen. Accept the fact that the comment or situation happened and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to make it unhappen. Accept it for what it was and stop brooding about it.
That brings us to the second prescription, forgiveness. You have a choice to make right now. You can keep replaying the incident over and over in your head, or you can forgive the other person (or yourself); put the incident in the past and move on. If you allow yourself to steam and brood over the incident, you are in essence, allowing the other person to occupy valuable space in your mind…rent free. Weather the comment was intentionally hurtful or obliviously stupid, you have the choice to carry those emotional bags around with you, or you can put them down, forgive the person/people involved and liberate yourself from several weeks of self-flagellation.
Finally, no one can make your feel bad about yourself without your permission. Sometimes the reason these incidents hurt so much is that we recognize that there’s a grain of truth in them and that we ‘deserved’ them. However, instead of dwelling on you mistakes, ‘failures’ and shortcomings; how about your turn your head around and acknowledge that you’re a fallible human being who’s doing the best you can at the moment? We all have ‘developmental opportunities’ in our lives and no one is perfect…that’s why life is a journey and not a destination. So how about trying to take a page from Mr. Rogers’ script and tell yourself that you are who you are, you’re dealing with the issues of life the best way you can and…you’re perfect…right now…just the way you are. Right now this minute, you’re better than you were yesterday and not quite as good as you’ll be tomorrow. Just keep growing!
Here’s hoping you have an intentionally great self-affirming day.

By | 2014-12-01T06:52:39-05:00 December 1st, 2014|Counseling, Counseling/Therapy, Therapy|0 Comments

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