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Holidays and Dysfunction go hand in hand.  Grown men and women get reduced to the children they once were.  Expectations are huge and many end up melting down into premeditated resentments.  Depression and suicide increase.  Loneliness is rampant.  

For many of us, we kick into auto-pilot and mindlessness becomes the driver while we take a backseat.

IT'S THE HOLIDAYS.  We are supposed to be merry.  We are supposed to be of good cheer.  We all do it while we are gritting our teeth.  Aspirin and wine become daily companions.  We are determined to gut our way through...just make it to January lst.  January lst we can be ourselves again.

Many of us return to the homes of our youths.  Though we come in adult size bodies, our parents tend to put us in boxes that are impossible to climb out of.  Doesn't matter if you're a CEO or a teacher—you're Jr. to them and the labels that get attached to us as children stick with us for a lifetime.

We drive ourselves crazy during this time of year.  We mount up the debt, we eat and drink too much, we fret that what we get for those we love will not be enough.  

We go home to families so dysfunctional, we become invisible and unseen or we become obnoxious and aggressive. Some of us become Miss Manners and  go through the motions, constantly watching the clock, waiting for our moment of liberation to come.  

Confrontation doesn't come through clear and honest communication.  It gets spit out, in the worst of moments, maybe through tears and maybe through anger.  The inevitable awkward silence ensues until someone breaks the ice with the latest weather report.

My practice is actually busier during the holiday season, even this holiday season where we are all a little more on edge, our wallets leaner.  One of my clients, a Harvard law school graduate and successful attorney, a partner in her firm, comes in trembling at the thought of being around Father.

Here she knows she will face a man who enjoys telling her that she is never good enough, she will never be enough and belittling becomes the appetizer before the holiday meal.

For myself, I moved 1000 miles away to be free of the eyes of my parents who were so blind to me.  "Yes, Mary, we know you graduated from college, but you know, Joan's the one that really should have gone, she's the brilliant one."

I cocooned myself from them in the nest of Boulder, Colorado...far away from the pain of not being seen.  I healed through the creation of my own family, having my own children who I feel quite confident when I say they are seen and loved for who they are.

I realized I hated the colors green and red.  I wouldn't wear a Christmas sweater if my life depended on it.

Several years ago, I realized I didn't have to buy into any of it.  So I changed things, primarily my attitude.  I was an adult and I didn't need to go into mindlessness mode.  I could be awake.  I could be "me".

I filled my home with the colors of bright and bold reds, greens, purples, golds and orange.  I never bought another Poinsettia again.  The crab feast is what dresses the Christmas table.  Silly putty, cartoons on newspaper, and bubbles are part of the place settings.  Manners are not only NOT required on Christmas day, they are forbidden.

I love the holidays now, once I was able to shed the obligation of conformity, obligation and the expectations of others.

The world didn't fall apart and my family didn't disown me.  

So for those of you who know what I'm talking about...take a minute and a deep breathe.  If this time of year is painful for you, what can you do differently, what kind of a shift can you make?  How can you honor yourself while in the company of others?

For those of you who don't suffer from this seasonal malaise, consider yourself most blessed and invite someone less fortunate to share in your holiday joy.


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