Finding Goodness 

The approaching family holidays are fun for some - mostly for the children who may get happily occupied with the illusions of joy and generosity.

However for many adults and adolescents the expectation of the holiday is diminished by their disappointments of their past holidays where the actuality was quite different from their wishes about the holidays. Depression and frustration frequently abound at this time of the year.

There are very few leave-it-to-Beaver sit-com families in real life. Enjoying the holidays can mean letting yourself go to play with the good hopes and real possibilities of any day of the year. Limited pleasure can be a lot better than NO pleasure, and may be enough to leave you feeling satisfied.

Besides the loneliness that family holidays illuminate and underline for some there are many whose anxiety and depression prevent them from finding some way to make the holidays enjoyable for themselves.

Very few people talk to anyone about their feelings and miseries because their childhood did not present the opportunities or possibility of intimate contact with others. Instead of learning to contact each other, as humans need to, many were raised in the tradition of "don't talk about it," - don't admit to anything but the feelings that the people around them wanted to believe existed. To too many individuals the belief of their being a "private person" took root and actually often means that they were not able to learn how to comfortably communicate. Many depressed, anxious, obsessive compulsive, and phobic people do not communicate well with themselves. Communicating well with oneself is the first requirement for being able to talk to others. If you cannot admit your feelings full enough to yourself you will not effectively look to others and therefore you will not experiment enough with others to learn who to pick to have a pleasant interchange with.

If one is afraid of what one feels or thinks, even if they are not conscious of that fear, they will remain locked in that sad little box that their early life taught them to live in, without realizing that they are cutting themselves off from life. People defend themselves against knowing anything that causes them to feel or express that which goes against the patterns of living that they developed within their family life but they are usually unaware enough of their deeper feelings, and therefore do not realize the hidden connections between their feelings, thoughts, and actions to be able to control these feelings well enough to have the possibility of a better life. "Aware enough" is the real clue - they may be able to know enough about themselves to have some idea of how they got to be themselves but NOT enough to make positive changes in how they operate in life and what that way of operating brings to them.

Insight oriented Interpersonal Psychotherapy is one of the possible routes for unsatisfied people to find a less anxious, less depressed, non-phobic ridden way of living. One has to attend regular weekly sessions with a psychotherapist who helps them to look behind and under their feelings, thoughts, and actions so that they have a chance to learn how to direct their life in the manner that fits them.

Not being able to direct oneself as one needs results from one's history and also leads to a future that becomes an unpleasant history unless one can learn to find, and make some joyous time for themselves.

Learning to give a good time to oneself requires learning to like oneself, give up any profound sense of inferiority that may have developed as we grew and accept the real expectations and pleasures of interpersonal contact. Staying "a private person" can mean remaining fundamentally lonely, anxious, and depressed. If an individual cannot comfortably accept themselves then they will not find others whose acceptance of them warms there hearts.

Enjoying "the holidays" if it is at all realistically possible for you, often may mean being able to tolerate gaps between the ideal and what your family is actually like. Many families may be enjoyable to a sufficient degree, but some are not. Finding ways to give yourself as kind a time as possible may have to be learned.

by Dr. Lehrer