Dr. Martha Stamper, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist

Posted On November - 23 - 2010

As the daylight hours shorten, many people experience a change of mood. Some are excited about their upcoming holiday plans, with their chance to connect with love ones. For others however, this time is associated with a sense of melancholy. Sometimes the cause for this is biological, perhaps as an evolutionary advantage, some people regularly withdraw in the winter months and then are re-energized in the Spring. Often full spectrum light therapy can help with this problem.

For others, the problem with the holidays is more complicated. The holidays, being a time to celebrate connections, is also a reminder of relationships lost.  In the traditions is captured a snapshot of holidays and lives of years past. While these memories can be treasured, they can also remind us of what is missed, as well as expectations and promises that went unfulfilled. Sometimes it might just feel wrong to celebrate and allow happiness in light of a reminder of a loss. Rather than inspire, social pressure to celebrate can feel like an impossible goal.

Pushing away the memories, as covenant as that sounds, denies us of our past, of part of our identity. Getting lost in that past denies us our present.  In this way, the holidays, with all their traditions, creates the opportunity for reflection which challenges us, once again, to find a balance between the past and the present.  Regardless of who we once were, what resources we once had, what social connections we once depended on, we are challenged to put those experiences in perspective to reinvent who we now are, and want to become.

During the holidays it is easy to fall into resentment of those that we might feel are blocking us from attainment of that holiday perfection. Pushing away the people in our lives does not always solve our problems if our expectations are unrealistic. It is much harder to find a way to find room in our lives people as they are, rather than how we wish they were. Taking responsibility for ourselves while resisting the urge to take on responsibility for others can be difficult.

Through this process however, we can begin to set our course for next who we now would like to become, whether that means changing our behavior, developing new connections, or resolving issues with others and redefining a connection.

Perhaps all we can really wish for is that the holidays be a celebration of life –  in all its complexity.