People often feel puzzled as to why “the happiest time of year” leaves one feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, angry, and lonely, especially if you are someone who has a “good life.” It doesn’t seem to make sense.
I want to pose the idea that for some people trauma gets kicked up over the holiday season. Holidays are full of memories, smells, sights, tastes, and sounds. If you had a childhood that was problematic, especially around the holidays, it is quite possible you are feeling either consciously or unconsciously activated by the holidays.
In the writings of trauma specialist Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., he reflects on how the body holds sensory memory even though our thinking memories of the past may be suppressed. For some, the smell of a pie baking in the oven evokes a warm feeling of yumminess. For others, the smell can be repulsive. Why is this? The body holds memory in all forms and even though we may not know the conscious memory of why we feel a particular way, it is stored inside of us. If there was an incident where an angry parent smashed a pie against the wall and flew into a rage, this may haven gotten wired into the brain and body. Pie might not invite warm feelings any longer. Especially if something like this happened repeatedly.
Grief and loss is another feeling stored in the body and is often triggered around holiday time, no matter how long ago the loss was.
We are products of our past. Be kind to yourself this holiday time and reach out to those who love you if you are having a tough time. Share your stories with someone you trust and take really good care of yourself. Remember, this is a season, and seasons always change.
Don’t mean to be a downer here, just a realist trying to provide support for those of you who don’t have a picturesque family.
Even if you do have a picturesque family, it doesn’t mean perfection lies there either.
If you have a less than ideal Thanksgiving, you aren’t alone. Kick the fantasy about what you think everyone else has and know in every social media post there will be a story you haven’t heard. You won’t see the tension, the looks, the alcohol consumption, the tears, the absent folks, the loss, or the feelings stuffed inside. Sure, some people might have it all this holiday, and I hope you do too. But if you don’t, I get you. Be kind to yourself.