The holidays are rapidly approaching.
New Flash! Not everyone experiences the warm and fuzzies, viewing the holiday season as “The most wonderful time of the year”.
I have walked along side of countless people in my practice over the years who have learned to despise and fear the holiday season. People who dread the upcoming holidays and begin spiraling downward at a rapid pace around the end of October as though it is a scheduled event.
Many times, there is a common denominator many of these individuals share…
Divorce, Separation and Break-Ups.
A divorce in the making, past divorce, or current divorce proceedings.
Whatever the situation or dynamics might be, struggling with the up-evil divorce causes can surface its ugly head during times that generally are thought to be wonderful and heartwarming.
I have often thought Halloween must serve as a starting point (trigger) for people who expect to crash and burn over the holidays. They buckle their seatbelts for the crappy devastating lonely ride they are expecting to endure. The guilt, dread, sadness, trepidation, and “I am not good enough” dungeon they carefully construct is eagerly awaiting their arrival or return.
I am not by any means discounting the horrific terrifying indescribable feelings accompanying a divorce or resolvent of a relationship. It sucks. A loss of a relationship is just that – a loss and requires individuals to go through the 5 stages of grief, which I wrote about, in an earlier article. Going through these stages are imperative in order to finally land in the last stage, called acceptance.
What I would like to address are the complicated self-harming sabotaging behaviors individuals will find themselves in…sometimes even when they have convinced themselves they are “over” the breakup.
Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors.
Our thoughts lead us to our feelings…our feelings lead us right smack dab into our behaviors. Such as “I should have someone during the holidays to spend time with.” This leads to feeling sad, regretful, ashamed, and lonely. This leads to self-judgment (“not good enough”) resulting in poisonous behaviors such as isolation, binge eating, substance and alcohol abuse, mood swings, lack of sleep, obsessiveness, and anger outbursts.
I have witnessed this phenomenon repeatedly over the years during the holiday season. The “I should be” or “That’s the way we always did it” and even better, “Everyone else has someone…everyone else is so happy” and this for sure will flip the “Not good enough” switch to full blown overdrive.
Dangerous behaviors and thoughts leading to the hellish black hole of emotional mutilation during the holiday season…
- Your Selective Memory is Your Enemy: Only remembering the amazing wonderful times. Don’t pull out the ornaments, photos, stockings with your looser ex’s name on it and sleep with it. Trash the stuff if it makes you feel better, or better yet, donate it. Don’t follow your urge to hand deliver it to your current ex’s flavor of the month hoping to make an impression. You will make an impression but not the one you want to make.
- Believing Traditions and Practices Can’t be Changed or Modified: Come on! Is there only one way to experience a great holiday season? Create your own traditions, memories, and do what is healthy for you! Start volunteering and observe others who are in need and you may learn traditions are not that important.
- Believing You Can Only Be Happy with That Particular Person Who is Now Gone: This can also be called self-loathing. Okay, this is normal (for a short while) and most of the time needed to get through the pain but don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable in this zone. This starts to appear pitiful, and people won’t want to be around you. Vent and then go on….
- Torturing Yourself: Looking at old photographs, listening to certain music, gazing at every single ornament he/she touched for hours on end, or driving past (for the hundredth time) the “special” romantic places you once shared. This is called emotional self-mutilation and you don’t deserve it.
- Stalking or Creeping: This proves to be a torturous slow death. Being overly interested in what your ex is doing, driving by their house or work, who they are with, what they do as a couple, how happy they are, and comparing yourself with the new person and their lifestyle will not bring you joy and peace over the holidays.
- Social Media: Don’t set yourself up to compare yourself with all the millions of people, friends, celebrities, ex’s, neighbors, church members, high- school and college friends, sisters, brothers, cousins, ex-friends, and current friends. Trust me, everyone has something they need to work on, want to forget, or are hiding from the rest of the world. Viewing a photo on social media does not paint the true picture of anyone’s life.
- Sharing Feelings, Opinions, or Thoughts with Children: Guess what? Your kids don’t want to hear your opinion or comments about their other parent from you if they are negative. They don’t need to hear how miserable or “down” you are. Kids observe parents and learn coping skills. Keep your opinions to yourself or talk till you are blue in the face to a friend, therapist, family member or journal about your anger, betrayal, resentment, bitterness, and what a total jerk he/she was to you. Don’t share any of this with your children.
- Seeing Yourself as the Victim: Victims attract victims or even worse, people who think they can change or fix you. You don’t need to be taken care of or fixed. Focusing on mindfulness, you can “fix” the things you feel need fixing. This takes work but it also proves to be the most important thing you can do for yourself. Find a therapist or good trusted friend to talk to.
- Staying Isolated: Self-torture and ruminating in negative feelings for an extended length of time is not healthy. Isolation and sadness are a normal part of the grieving process but there is also a time when you can’t allow yourself to stay stuck in the self-torture. Make yourself get your butt up and do something physical. Walk, run, find a yoga class, take your dog to the dog park, join a group, join a group at church…. something…just get up and move.
- Believing You are Not Worthy: This may very well be a deep seeded core issue from childhood that has resurfaced. These thoughts can easily create a victimization type role. Beating yourself up and reminding yourself of every single flaw can also guide you down a destructive path.
- Believing You Will Never be Happy: Being happy is allowing the process of your life to happen. Believing and trusting there is hope and a light at the end of your dark tunnel.
- Comparing Your Moral Compass and Happiness Based on One Person: Being happy and achieving personal goals starts from within. It is your thoughts, leading to your feelings, then behavior. Another person no matter how awesome they are can make you happy. They can’t complete you. They can be the icing on your cake, but they can’t be the entire cake.
- Show Up at a Family Function Talking Smack About Your Ex: Silence it golden here. Trashing your ex with family at a holiday event only focuses the conversation on you. Your weaknesses, bitterness, resentment, and proves to ruin or create negative memories that are rarely forgotten. Talk all you want to a trusted friend or therapist but don’t play the victim or “whoa is me” with family. Don’t over drink and get lit up like a Christmas tree, saying things you will regret the next day. Redirect the conversation to something positive and loving. Be the person who take lemons and makes lemonade. There is an appropriate place to ditch your ex, but it is not at a family holiday function.
- Posting on Social Media Your Feelings: Come on. I get it. People post stuff on social media to slam their ex. They post subliminal junk with the hope of this person experiencing a miracle wakeup call and calling you. They also post things in the same subliminal way hoping to make someone jealous or to slap them across the face. Guess what? We know when someone is doing this, and you look silly and ridiculous. Save your energy, time, and mindfulness on something worthwhile and figure out why you are stuck in the spot you are in.
The holidays are what you make of them.
The holidays can be tough. They can bring on intense sadness, loneliness, and regret. The holidays are what you make of them. I encourage you to take time and address your thoughts… not your feelings. It can change your life.
If you are feeling stuck and need to talk, I would love to meet you! Email or call anytime to schedule a session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.