This time of year — from about Thanksgiving to the New Year — is often distinguished by many of the adults literally disappearing. Well, let me explain that a little differently: Adults, at any time of the year, periodically REGRESS when there is emotional pressure/energy that is challenging. A particular individual may “look” like she/he is an adult standing right in front of you, speaking, but in reality, consider the possibility that sometimes you are dealing with an individual who is emotionally between 5 and 13 years old! Or that you yourself suddenly feel far younger than your obvious biological age!
Adults regress on a regular, likely daily basis, for brief periods of time — in a difficult encounter, in any moment of time that is emotional or challenging. Emotionally charged interactions can frequently cause each of us to “get little, feel little, act little.” The adult has left the conversation when you think things like: “what is wrong with you?” “why aren’t you listening?” “You aren’t making sense.” “Do you really want to act so childish?” And for US individually we have that sense that we are over-reacting, not making sense, curiously confused and inappropriately angry or tearful.
Regression occurs when something about the individual or the situation triggers old unresolved memories/experiences from childhood, and we/they regress emotionally to the AGE of the INCIDENT….it usually passes quickly….hopefully. But during the holidays, many adults actually take a longer and extended “holiday,” hopefully re-emerging in the new year!
Holidays come with an extraordinarily emotional charge. Family memories, experiences, and life long celebrations that include happy and joyful moments and those of loss and grief and disappointment are fueled by media, movies, music, ENDLESS commercials, and what could be called “the great Christmas Machine” ….multiplying the emotional whammy each of is hit with daily from Thanksgiving on. Actually it now starts around Halloween!
THE CHALLENGE? It’s to stop comparing your reality to the one that is blasted at you in every possible media format — messages intended to sell things –so stop comparing and measuring your life experience by what you see and hear…..sometimes a big order!
Each of us begins to reflect on past holidays….and our emotional responses match the life conditions from those memories. We REGRESS to the age of the memory. For people with great memories and experiences, the regression is likely fun, happy, joyful. And for people with pain and disappointment, perhaps even abusive memories and experiences, the regression is depressing, disappointing, painful and angry.
The point? Pat attention. First to yourself. Then to those around you. Then to all the interactions you have with family, co-workers, friends.
Next make a decision to be as present as you can possibly be — for yourself and for those you love and care about. Ask YOURSELF how you’re doing. And ask others. GO SLOW. Reflect on what the holidays actually mean to you and to those around you.
Do things that bring you joy regardless of past experiences. Spend less money! INSTEAD, spend time — with people you truly enjoy rather than showing up for all the celebrations and parties you aren’t truly interested in or don’t have a meaningful commitment to. My best recommendation is stop buying things for people who actually have everything they need. Instead give to your favorite charities or the favorite charity of the individual you want to “gift.”
Be the best version of the truly good person you already are. Be grateful for what you have. And regardless of your faith, embrace it.
Finally, when you feel 5 or 10 or 13, embrace that amazing kid you were at that age. Tell her/him: “I’ve got your back.” “I’ll take good care of you.” Believe it or not, with practice, that works. Happy holidays!