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Kathi Whitten, LCSW
The True Spirit of the Holidays
No. VA Psychotherapy Associates
. http://www.kathiwhitten.com/

The True Spirit of the Holidays

Everyone has an inner fantasy of how wed like to spend the holidays in an ideal world. Some people do feel warm and close to the people who matter to them and participate in their usual traditions with great pleasure.

Others find the holidays painful. There can be a feeling of disconnect between what they yearn for, and what is realistically available to them. They may wish to be with family who is too far away, or give gifts they cannot afford, or feel caught in memories stirring up sadness instead of happiness. Despite the good cheer that emerges in this season, some feel unhappy instead.

Let us consider what the true “spirit” of the holidays represents. Everyone has a very personal idea of what makes this time of year joyful, but some feel that if they cannot recreate this inner image, the holidays are not a success.

The word “spirit” connotes the essence of something. Often people can discover more holiday happiness by thinking of the holiday “spirit” in this way. People tend to become sad at this time because they think about what they dont have. They dont have their family, gifts, parties, certain music, food, or other traditions that give meaning to this season for them. They become so focused on what is not there, they forget to consider the true “spirit” (essence) of what these things mean, and ways they can, in fact, experience them.

The spirit of most of our traditions can be realized (made real) by stepping back a bit from the details of what feels missing, and focusing on what quality makes a particular memory or wish so compelling.

Perhaps one has a memory of family together, sharing meals and gifts, attending religious services, singing songs, or putting up decorations. Is it necessary to re-create exactly what we remember, or would finding the “spirit” of these activities provide the joy that feels missing?

One can join community events Toys For Tots, helping in homeless shelters, or Meals On Wheels, to discover how good it feels to connect with others that costs us nothing. Most of us know someone with no place to go on the holidays, and we could begin new traditions by keeping the “spirit” of being together, even if it is someone different than before. Is it some exact food we need, or is it the “spirit” of the preparation and sharing of food, no matter how simple, that brings warmth and pleasure?

Many worry about gift giving, but one can always give the gift of oneself offering something meaningful to the other a shared experience, performing a service, or an evening of babysitting. These are the “gifts” that truly connect us to others. If you will allow your imagination to lead you, there are many ways one can experience the “spirit” of the holidays. I invite you to explore your own new traditions this year.

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