Welcome to the middle path
- Jana Svoboda, LCSW
- Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Home for the Holidaze
Christmas and Hanukkah are boom times for therapists. What is it about holidays that cause so much trouble? There's the obvious: the extra activities to cram in too already crazy busy lives, the financial strains, the booze and sugar hangovers.
And there's the poignant and sometimes painful difference between the Hallmark commercials of ideal family communion and reality of messy humans coming together with their messy selves.
We spend the latter years of our family-of-origin time struggling to develop identities that resonate with our souls. Part of that journey means turning away from the very sources of our safety and nurturing-- to be able to find enough differences between ourselves and our parents that we can leave them.
And then the holidays come. And with it, questions unconscious or not.
Can I be different and still belong? Can I be true to me and still be loved by you?
Visiting home, or reuniting with relatives, we bump into our younger selves. Dependent, less competent, locked into family or community roles we may have long since left. Oftentimes these self portraits aren't held so much by others as projected by us. Boundaries shift, alliances conflict, and sometimes we fall apart.
We may also struggle to see others as they see themselves without us, and call them back into roles that no longer fit.
Reunions seem to work best when we notice our thoughts and judgments, and remind ourselves they are just that-- impressions and projections, not facts. I read in a book on some subject seemingly unrelated to therapy-- I think it was economics-- that people are all looking through their own very narrow aluminum tubes, and thinking they are seeing the same thing that others see, looking at different points through their tubes. When we can rise above ourselves take an eagle eye view, we gain understanding and compassion. We get that in any given moment in time, we are acting with the limitations with us right then-- just like everyone else. Sometimes we are being very limited. We snap and complain, out of tiredness or just confusion from being out of our element or stretched past our resources. We overfunction, out of hopes we will be shown the love we need. We isolate, out of fear we don't belong. And yet we still want acceptance, or at least recognition of our validity. As do those we love, acting out of their own limitations of the moment.
If you find yourself with loved ones trying hard to conjure up some love, see if you can show them the same acceptance for who they are as you are hoping them to show you. Even or especially if you disagree with their choices. In between reminiscing in the sweetness or horror of how things used to be, remember to be curious about how things are now for them, and who they are becoming. Relinquish your internalized limitations for them and maybe they can do the same for you. If worse comes to worst, try the OLA strategy.
As hard as you try, no one can escape the horror of Christmas, so you may as well be with your own family."—Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
May the holidays and the new year find your heart ever expanding,