Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Fear of the Holidays: Gateway to Major Life Transition?

December 19th, 2016 · fear of the holidays

Today, we’re increasingly aware that many people experience fear of the holidays. Might such fear be the gateway to a major life transition?

fear of the holidays

This might seem like a disconnected, even outrageous thought. Yet, might it be that examining the roots of “fear of the holidays” might teach us something important about ourselves, and our wants and needs?
Why might any of us experience fear of the holidays? Here are some possible reasons.

Family of Origin and Fear of the Holidays

Many people experience difficult, stressful encounters with members of their family of origin over the holiday period. For adults, these are often rooted in long standing issues and situations in the life of the family of origin. There may be issues that stem from addictions situations, or from physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

These long-standing situations can often have a very powerful impact on adult children. In not a few cases, experiencing such situations in the family of origin again at the holiday season can be the catalyst for real change. People may feel a real need to change the ways they are prepared to encounter family members, or, in some cases may even temporarily or permanently cease from contact. The decision to do so can constitute a major life transition.

Present Life Situation and Fear of the Holidays

Sometimes the holidays, and the amount of time spent with spouses, partners or other members of the family that a person currently lives in can bring about powerful confrontations with hard truths about where things actually stand in relationships, marriages and families. Individuals may dread the holidays, precisely because they can bring us up against the reality of relationship breakdown, due to more time being spent at home and the facts of where things actually stand in relationship are more apparent. Again, this may be a time when individuals decide to embark on major life transitions such as separation or divorce, and when the individual is strongly in need of the kind of clarity that comes through depth psychotherapy work.

Confrontation with the Self, and Fear of the Holidays

Similarly, the holidays can result in time away from hyper-busy routines, allowing us to come into contact with ourselves in some surprising ways.

It can be very difficult to be alone with ourselves at times, but it may be a time when we start to uncover important aspects of who we are, and important truths about what we really want. Embarking on Jungian psychoanalysis can often help individuals to focus in a fruitful way upon these questions.


fear of the holidays

New Year Candle

Major Life Transitions, and the Individuation Process

Along with other possible causes, any of the above — family of origin issues, our present life situation or a forthright confrontation with the self — may be the catalyst that leads us into a major life transition. The fear of the holidays that stems from these causes may contain the seeds of our renewal.

Human beings most often undergo a number of major life transitions in the course of a life time. These events often involve the definitive ending of one way of living, and a transition to another quite different orientation or way of life.

Sometimes an experience associated with the holidays, and with some aspect of fear of the holidays, may act as the catalyst that propels us into the midst of a major life transition. Depth psychotherapy, especially of the Jungian variety, sees such transitions as a fundamental part of the individuation process. Individuation is the process by which an individual moves towards living and being in accord with their most fundamental identity. As Jungian Analyst Warren Colman tells us, “The self is the goal towards which the process of individuation strives.” This is the fundamental core of the journey to wholeness that is the heart of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © Steven Leonti ; Maxpax
© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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The Holidays — and The Psychology of Saying No

December 5th, 2016 · psychology of saying no

The Holidays are here: the season of peace and goodwill towards all. That’s exactly why the psychology of saying no is so important at this time!

psychology of saying no

Now, why would I say anything so Scrooge-like? Have I no respect for the season? Actually I have tremendous respect for it! I think the message of love and acceptance for all has tremendous importance for humanity. However, in company with depth psychotherapists wiser than myself, I believe that the love of the other has to start with a fundamental love and acceptance for oneself.

Does Being a Good Person Mean Saying Yes?

We get lots of moral and inspirational messaging telling us that we should be saying “Yes” to what others want of us. They even take a semi-psychological form in urgings or pressure to be a “positive person” — often a spin on being a compliant person who goes along with the desires and agendas of others.

These pressures take very tangible forms at the holidays. We can feel enormous pressure to invite Uncle Morris to the family dinner, knowing that he’ll arrive intoxicated, drink more, and verbally abuse others. Yet, it wouldn’t be “nice” to challenge the status quo. Or I might feel enormous pressure to have “that relative”, visiting from Waha, WI stay for ten days, who is hypochrondriacal and hyper-critical, and who makes me feel like a stranger in my own house.

If I listen to my “gut”, my instinct, it tells me that giving way to these demands isn’t good for me. Yet I face pressure, internal and external, to be “nice”.

Most of us are trained to be nice and make family gatherings conflict-free. But what about situations where ignoring my own needs concretely hurts me, psychologically — and perhaps also hurts my health?

psychology of saying no

The Psychology of Saying No: Why Do I Feel the Guilt?

The situations described above, and a whole range of others, including pressure to spend money we don’t have at the holidays, or to entertain or go to social events when we may simply be exhausted, may make us feel something we don’t want to feel: guilt. Guilt feelings can be excruciating.

Why do I feel guilt? Well, healthy guilt occurs when I’ve done something that genuinely is at odds with my own particular moral compass. It’s there to help us stay true to what we really value. Therapists know that it’s possible to have guilt feelings when we’ve crossed a social taboo, or haven’t met someone else’s expectations. Yet, just because I feel guilty does not mean that I am guilty. We owe it to ourselves to discern the difference between genuine guilt, and the guilt feelings that occur because we dare to violate the expectations of others.

Individuation: Before You Can Say “Yes”, You Must Say “No”

Jungians and depth psychotherapists speak of individuation, which Andrew Samuels defines as

“A person’s becoming [him or her]self, whole indivisible and distinct from other people or collective psychology (though also in relation to these).

In order to be oneself “whole indivisible and distinct” from others and from collective psychology, we often have to begin by clearly marking where we begin, and where the expectations of others and of groups end. This we call “saying no”. It is almost always essential that we say no in these ways, so that we can begin to say yes to our own fundamental being.

Your Own Way

Poet Gerard Manly Hopkins in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”, writes,

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

‘Deals out that being indoors each one dwells:

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

What I do is me: for that I came. The Holidays serve to remind us that saying “No” in some contexts, to imposed obligations and the expectations of others may be a very important way of saying “Yes”. Yes to our own being, our own real identity, and Yes to our own particular journey through life. Depth psychotherapy is continually moving toward this fundamental “Yes” to the uniqueness and fundamental intrinsic value that we each in our uniqueness are.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © John Henderson ; marc falardeau
© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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