For the majority of people, Christmas is a time of celebration. It is a time of giving and caring and carols and sleigh rides and Santa and church choirs and nativity scenes...but for a small percentage of the population, there is what I call Christmas Dread. What is Christmas Dread you ask?
Well...Christmas Dread is an extreme apprehension or reluctance over the Christmas season. For some of us...Christmas was NOT a magical time filled with joy...for some, it brings back memories of tragedy that may have struck during what was supposed to be a festive time of year. Some have experienced the loss of someone very close during the holidays, for others, they may have been serving our country in a forward area overseas and met with traumatic conditions. Still others endured growing up poor and never having a home in which to celebrate the holiday, or no presents, or abuse of many kinds, or the loss a sense of security...maybe over a traumatic home robbery.
Yes, for some...Christmas is anything but celebratory. Anything but...magical. Many have good reason to dread its arrival. But the holiday none the less, will arrive. It will come complete with all the memories attached to it, good or bad...but it WILL arrive. So what can one do to ease the stress and lesson the dread of such an event?
Well...first...one must recognize that our experiences are only given place in our mindspace...by us. It would serve us well in other words, to limit the amount of space we allow these dreadful memories to take up. They steal away from us, the time we have now to make new, better memories.
I don't say this lightly and without heartfelt concern for those who struggle. For I know first hand. As a person who grew up in an abusive home, I can tell you of horrible experiences that took place during the Christmas Season. But I have chosen a different path. I have chosen to find ways to reintroduce the Christmas holiday and REPLACE those dreadful memories with new ones which contain the things that bring ME happiness and joy. Here are a few suggestions to help you reignite the spirit of the holidays and make it the best ever...for you...
SEND A CHRISTMAS CARD...TO YOURSELF! It may sound a little goofy...but send yourself a Christmas card! Write something in it that will wish you well and inspire you to find better ways to interpret the holidays!
Write something like..."I know this is a difficult time of year for you because of (fill in the blank), but this holiday, I hope you can do (fill in the blank) to make new memories."
WRITE SOMEONE A LETTER... Maybe you don't have money...maybe you have no family around,but you can always find a way to write a letter. You could write it to a military person overseas...maybe to a shut-in with whom you are familiar.
VOLUNTEER... Find ways to give. I'm telling you...nothing can help get rid of those yucky feelings better than trying to find a way to make someone else's Christmas better. As a person who understands the sadness of the holidays...who better to help others through theirs...than you...who knows...you may end up helping each other!
If you are able... go out...if you are NOT able to go out...invite someone in. Getting outdoors and spending a little time in the sun each day raises your Vitamin D levels which increases your serotonin levels. This makes you less depressed AND...lowers your blood pressure! Besides...from one person with depression and anxiety to another...I can tell you...I always feel a little better when I've FORCED myself to spend at least a half an our in the fresh air.
Understand...I am not suggesting any of this is just...easy peasy. But what is the alternative? Will you continue to allow past dreadful memories to steal away opportunities to replace them with good ones? Or will you reach out...and help yourself? A person can ALWAYS find a reason to smile during the Holidays. The past is the past and it isn't easy to think differently about it...but it is NOT impossible. I am LIVING PROOF that one can find new ways to replace old dread. I hope this helps...just look at the picture below and tell me there's no place to find joy at Christmas! You get to choose how to respond and how to feel. Choose to be happy and find a reason.
A children's story...for adults
We remember, don't we? We remember getting up early and running downstairs to see if the biggest, happiest, jolliest old elf had paid our homes a visit. We stayed up half the night to see if we could catch a glimpse of this magical figure...and we always ran over to the little empty plate where cookies used to sit and the half-filled glass of milk PROVED that he had been there! What excitement surrounded us as children at Christmas!
I also remember the year I found out the truth. Like most of us, even before the truth was revealed, we kinda already knew, right? It wasn't quite adding up...although my father could be quite persuasive...for a while.
ME: "So dad, let me get this straight...if Santa brings the presents...then why are there presents under the tree right now?
DAD: "They're empty."
ME: "But why did you wrap them and how will Santa fill them?"
DAD: He's magic! Now go to bed!"
Can't argue with... magic.
But I intimate that the TRUTH...is nothing of the sort...there IS a SANTA! As sure as I am sitting here writing this...there is a Santa Claus! Let me explain...
What is belief? According to the dictionary, belief is...
"...Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof"
In other words, putting trust in things which require little or no proof. It is the same concept used by those who choose to follow a certain religious ideology.
Something does not have to "materialize" to be true. Some things are true, even if they are not tangible. As an atheist, I can tell you that, although I may not believe in a god, I DO believe in the power of belief...and further understand that...believing makes many things real to us individually.
Those who believe in the power of religion have seen lives changed for the better. They have seen men who spent there entire paychecks on alcohol...after their religious experience...now spending that money on milk for their children.
Apart from religion, we have seen belief operate through the sacrifice of men and women on the battlefield...because they dared to believe that ALL men are created equal...and ALL men should be free. Freedom became real...not because it already existed...but because men and women DARED to believe in it!
These things can't be proven with the five senses, but none the less...they are very real. We may disagree on implementation, we may disagree about the proper way to believe, we may even disagree about whether Santa should be the focus this time of year.
But one thing is certain...when we were little...Santa was as real as the falling snow on Christmas morning. So...after we find out otherwise...that Santa is...less than physical...why do we step away with such disdain? Our dreams have not been broken. He WAS real...in those moments as a child...he was VERY real...and no one could tell us otherwise...he was real...because we dared to believe it.
We may know that Santa Claus is an intangible figure...but the heart of someone wishing well for all children (and children at heart) still exists. People still wish there were a present for every child in the world...people still hope for peace on Earth and good will toward men. And people still believe in finding that one special gift for that one special someone...because they dare to believe in the power of giving.
No friends...Santa is not an abstract figure from our past...he still resides in the hearts of all who choose to believe. I choose to believe in Santa Claus! So this year friends...if even for a minute during the Holiday season...dare to believe.
Let's stop adulting momentarily, and remember what it felt like when we believed. Because...once there was Santa...and the world was magical! BELIEVE.
To my son Christopher who is serving our country abroad at Christmas. Love you son.
Ah... the good old days! We all want to know about them, we all want to read about them, and many wish they could experience them...either again...or for the first time. This blog sets out to find the source of that which makes something part of the good old days. I mean, not everything was good back then. As Billy Joel sang, "The good old days weren't always good and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems." So...what part of the old days made them good?
Now...there have been many blogs written about how the old times were times of struggle and not all that great...siting such horrible things in our nation's past, such as school segregation. Yet knowing this, we still long for days to be as they once were. But rather than discussing why longing for the good old days is counterproductive and shouldn't drive us...we will instead take a moment to find out what those good old days provide us that makes us long for them.
In studying this subject, I have identified 2 main themes that drive people to this longing...
Simplicity- It appears the majority of people longing for the good old days are in search of a time when things were less stressful. They seek a time when things seemed much more simple. They seek a time when there weren't as many distractions , rules, safety concerns, etc. Many of the benefits of new technology would be difficult to give up, but many claim to be willing to give up these luxuries, at least momentarily, in order to receive respite from the everyday grind.
Contentment- The other driving force behind this thought process seems to be a longing for contentment. Contentment is being satisfied with who you are and what you have. People seem to be under the impression that people of long ago had this all figured out. They just got up, farmed the land, were good to their neighbors, were people of integrity, and a hand shake settled most disputes. Now...whether this sentiment is true or not is of no consequence if you think about it. The longing is for the feeling...not necessarily the time.
Such is the case with both themes in my estimation. For me...it begs the question...why couldn't we find things, develop things, or create environments for ourselves that promote those same ideas. Wouldn't we be much happier than just wishing for better days?
So here's the challenge. Holidays can be a great time to find ways to celebrate people or things that are important to us.
"Find time and ways this holiday season...to be the next generation's good old days." ~Braden Daniels~
There are lots of ways in which we all communicate with one another. But how do we know whether the method of communication used at a particular time is efficient at getting the intended message across?
Milton Erickson was born in a poor, small farming community in Nevada. As a result, the family was poorly educated and Milton was unable to speak an intelligible word until he was 4 years old. In addition, he suffered many health problems including colour blindness, dyslexia, and he was tone deaf. When he was 17, he contracted polio and was paralyzed for over a year!
But that is not the end of Milton's story...
Milton Erickson grew up to become a medical doctor and psychiatrist and has come to be known around the world as one of the foremost authorities on psychotherapy. This is how he explains communication...
"Effective communication is not determined by the communication, but by the response."
This profound statement about says it all. If you are wondering whether the methods you use to communicate with others is effective at helping you get what you want from life, ask your self this question,
"How are people responding when I communicate?" If you find people are responding unfavorably...you might find it helpful to learn communication techniques which can help you communicate what you want and need. In my book, "What's Your Point? Learning to Communicate Effectively," I tackle some basic concepts and break them down to make them easier to understand and use. Check it out here...just click on the book image...
About the Author
Braden Daniels was born in Saginaw, Michigan and has been writing articles and books for over 30 years.