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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Relations

December 3rd, 2012 · No Comments · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Every year, I post something on individual psychotherapy and holiday stress.

individual psychotherapy

My intent in doing this is not to be a “downer”, but rather to plead with all of us to be real at this time of year.

Interacting with certain relatives in holiday situations can be a debilitating stressor.  Individual psychotherapy knows, that if there is any time of the year when we really need to “hang onto ourselves”, this is it.

Interacting with Some Relations is a Major Holiday Stress

Of the several issues that make the holidays difficult for my clients, the number one factor cited is encounters with relatives.

These can include encounters with just about any type of relative.  The biggest single factor that seems to contribute to anxiety, depression and overall discomfort is the prospect of spending extended time in the presence of a toxic relative — and feeling aversion, powerlessness or even complete defeat.

Why is Interacting with Toxic Relations So Difficult?

The reasons that certain relatives can be so problematic are very diverse, and depend on the individual’s situation.

The most extreme factors are situations of abuse.  Such abuse can be verbal, physical or sexual.  Here, the individual may risk re-traumatization by even seeing the person, or being in their presence.  Such trauma situations must be approached with extreme caution.

Some relatives endlessly inflict shame. This may be connected with overt verbal abuse, or it may not.  A related experience may be that a relative makes me feel negligible or inferior.

Often, any or all of the above may relate to the inability of a given relative to let me be who I am in my own right — even a little.  This can be painful in the extreme, and it may lead to feelings of deep misgiving and foreboding as Christmas approaches.

Is There Any Chance for Healing?

In individual psychotherapy people often find themselves asking if there is any chance for repair of such a relationship.  It is not uncommon to find oneself oscillating between optimism and pessimism on this point.

Sometimes such repair may be a possibility.  Or, it may be that healing in the relationship with this relative simply isn’t an option.  In such cases, it may well be that the healing that has to go on in this situation is something that must go on inside of me, where I find ways to maintain my own boundaries, and keep valuing myself and living my life — the archetype of individuation.

Living in My Own Story

Whether I go into situations involving a toxic relative, or I don’t, there are some truths that I need to keep in mind.

The first of these is that my life is my own.  I belong to myself.  The perception of even the closest relative does not define who I am.  I have a right to live my life in a manner that respects who I am, and respects my needs.

Living in my own story — even amidst holiday stress — is a key part of the journey of individual psychotherapy.

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