Happy Holidays!!!!  Really?
Monday, May 21, 2012 at 10:15AM
Elena Taurke in Feelings, PsychoZen Meets Life

My daughter was surprised when I mentioned that I always get a lot of business this time of year.  "But isn't everyone happy during the Holidays?"  Exactly.   Everyone is supposed to be happy, and woe to those who aren't.  Woe drives them to the shrink.

Among the animals, humans are uniquely gifted with the ability to aspire.  We can aspire to generosity, to joy, to peace.  Tidings of comfort and joy can tilt us in that direction.  We hear music; we see lights; and we feel uplifted.   And we seem to need the lift at this time of year.   As my brilliant, mad librarian friend wrote in her blog about blessingsWhen the sun barely appears, when darkness and cold oppress and frighten, when snow and ice hide the life-giving earth, humans need a holiday that promises light, warmth, safety in numbers, food, and the return, someday, of summer.    

So we cling to the promise of light and safety and we cling to each other, and we shop, aiming for that comfort and joy.  If it doesn't come, we experience mild discomfort or wrenching agony--according to our genes and our situation, over our inability to be what we think we should be.  

The journey to the shrink usually begins with the effort to make it fit.   I don't feel joy but I know I should so I'll put on a happy face.  From the outside, this looks like the face of the Stepford Wife, that over-controlled cheerfully hostile desperately unhappy product of a supposedly happy and comfortable suburban life.   Yikes!  I scared myself.   Let me pull back.  From the outside, all we see is the smile.  From the inside, there is a battle going on.  I must be happy.  I feel so awful.  No one must know.  I feel like dying.  Try harder.  Smile, don't let them down.  Don't let them see what's wrong with me.  There. IS. NOTHING! WRONG WITH ME.  SMILE.

You can see this quality in a different form among New Agers who aspire to inner peace but want to skip the part about confronting their demons.   Decades ago a leader of the young and popular American Buddhist movement, Chogyam Trungpa, called it "Spiritual Materialism," and it has since been described as "Spiritual Bypassing."  

Unfortunately, the efforts to make nice, put on a happy face and hide the pain accelerate the cycle for all of us.  The more you fake it, the worse you feel; and then everyone around you thinks they're not happy enough because you look so good.  This is how Zombies proliferate.  They don't breed, exactly, they just transmit.  

Do you want to be part of the solution?  Transmit the truth instead.  Stop trying to make yourself happy.  Start small.  Complain about the weather.  It's cold, maybe, or too dark.  Gradually you can work your way up to talking about how difficult family dinners can be.  Look, they're marvelous too, but aren't they difficult?   It doesn't hurt as much as you might think to acknowledge it, and if you keep both perspectives in mind, you won't sink into infinite misery.  

And while we're at it, could we have a few less parties?  This is not the season for them, as far as I'm concerned.  Anyway, this year they all happened on Tuesday December 13th, which was the date of my daughter's holiday concert.  Hey, can we have a few less holiday concerts, too?  

I am NOT being grumpy here.  I am being appropriate.  It's dark!  and cold!  Let's put on our thick socks and jammies and curl up to contemplate the year.  It's a great time to toss out what isn't necessary, to have intimate conversations, to touch in with our soul (yes, I mean Our Soul). 

And if you want to have a party in the spring, I'll be there with bells on.

December 2011 

Article originally appeared on PsychoZen (http://www.psychozen.org/).
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