Dear Dr. Fournier:
Year after year I promise myself that the next year I will not allow myself to be drawn into the non-stop merry-go-round of Christmas. I think of Norman Rockwell’s scenes of a happy family enjoying the holidays and at peace with each other. Then comes Black Friday, the advertisement bombardments, the parties, the neighbors’ over the top decorations and worst of all the feeling of guilt I have that I cannot measure up. How could I not give my children the best presents, serve the best turkey and dressing and wear the best looking “we are a happy family” clothes for church? I have done it again this year, and have been sucked into all if it. Where do I go wrong? Do New Year’s Resolutions ever work? I always think I can do what I promise myself, then, I don’t. How can I talk to my children about keeping their word when I can’t do it for myself?
Our lives our full of what I refer to as “chatter.” This chatter can be broken down into two distinct types: Internal and external. The internal chatter comes from deep within us, and is what some might call the “little voice inside.” The external chatter comes from everything and everybody we come across in day-to-day living.
During childhood, our parents, teachers, pastors and many others direct our vision of a tomorrow with everything they thought was good. We were supposed to take those visions imparted by others and live our lives to make them true. Depending on how much we commit ourselves to the dreams of past generations, our inner voice will approve or-if we break away from expectations-disapprove. There are many deep psychological reasons for “chatter” that have been studied by notables such as Freud and Jung that require longer explanations than can be provided in an article. Let us suffice to say that you ultimately have two options in how you choose to deal with your chatter: Let it (and thereby society’s expectations) define the decisions you make, or follow your own path in spite of the chatter and define your own values. To confuse the matter even more, there is no right answer! Each is correct depending on the individual person. Some are more suited for the first option, and some for the second.
In your case, the “chatter” you are dealing with is internal. This is the stuff of dreams for the advertisers you mentioned in your e-mail. These marketers have studied these “reptilian hot button” feelings and know only too well that as a society we have been brought up with ideas like bigger, better, faster, more! If you doubt whether or not this sort of bombardment is effective, look at the number of injuries and mace wielding consumers ready to risk assault and bloodshed in order to capitalize on Black Friday deals.
WHAT TO DO:
Give yourself a break. You did not get on the merry-go-round all by yourself. If you want to create and have a holiday of your own visioning, you can’t wait until the season has started.
Just like cramming for an exam is the worst thing a student can do, the same applies to you. Cramming means waiting to the last minute to do what should have been done before, forcing one to put on blinders and grab for all he or she can. Unfortunately, once the test is done, said student forgets everything and moves on.
The same goes for us. You can’t wish for how Thanksgiving should be when you already have a turkey in the oven! Likewise, you can’t have the Christmas holiday you envision when the holidays have officially started.
Perhaps we can solve both your Christmas dilemma and give you a New Year’s resolution at the same time:
Think of what you would do different and (most important) think of why:
I will begin to write my Christmas gift list in January.
Why would I suggest such a thing? You will have the time to look for meaningful gifts and most likely for much lower prices. You will still be spending money but it will be little by little throughout the year. This will assure I keep up with my bills, and not have exorbitant new ones. (That alone may make you smile more during the holidays!)
Ask my family what they loved most of the season (presents not included) and what they wish they could have done without.
Why? You will have their help in creating a vision of the holidays that is right for your family even if it is not right for anyone else’s.
Make a list of the things that have made holidays a nightmare instead of a joyful occasion.
Your list will grow (and shrink) throughout the year and from year to year. As you read and review it, you will have a chance of lowering the volume of your inner and external chatter. With time you will realize that what you are listening to is your heart telling you how to get rid of the fake happiness and instead make each holiday an enjoyable one that everyone will love to remember. May you have peace in 2012.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER