Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Jolly?

’Tis the season to be jolly? Unfortunately, not for everyone.

For some people, the holiday season brings along with it no joy or peace but depression and despair. I am offering some hope.

I wish that all people could be joyful and peaceful on any particular day. But, that just doesn’t happen. We sometimes ignore or neglect those loved ones and others who seem down during the holidays because they make us uncomfortable. After all, depression can seem contagious. Or, we may want to fix it for those people and we may get irritated or sullen if they don’t take our advice.

Instead of trying to talk others out of such negative feelings like being disheartened, lonely, or anxious, what if we just acknowledge or accept that they may just be feeling those ways? What if we pat them on the back, figuratively or physically, and say that we are there for them during this season supposedly full of happiness and light? Maybe then, these people might feel a tiny bit of connection with and understanding from us. Or, maybe they won’t.

We cannot talk anyone out of their feelings. Not children, not parents, not friends. Life just doesn’t work that way. Yes, we would love for others to feel better. We also wish we could help them, but trying to tell a hopeless or depressed person that they just need to count their blessings and be grateful for what they do have, is like sticking in a knife and twisting it. That kind of talk often prompts them to feel worse. We, then, have to deal with our own feelings of being powerless to change their lives for them.

We psychotherapists have full offices at this time of year. Those without loved ones often feel terribly alone, and those who do have a support network can sometimes feel bad too because of conflicts within that group, maybe feeling excluded, rejected.

Those of us who do experience joy, peacefulness and hope can surely be available to help those less fortunate. But, how?

I recommend to all who know anyone who may be suffering around this time of year: Get in touch with just one such person. Tell them that you are thinking about them. Ask them how they are doing, and be prepared to listen if they want to tell the honest truth. Then, look deep inside yourself and see if you can remember a time in your life when you were feeling down, angry or upset. Did anyone reach out to you during that time? You can draw upon your own compassion for those in pain, even if their behavior is obnoxious at times. Respond to them with love and caring, or just listen and reflect their feelings. Know that you may have added just a tiny bit of meaning and connection to their experience during these often troubling holidays.

'Tis the season to be giving.

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