It’s pretty much a given; there are a lot of therapy blogs out there, and we all write about the holidays. Most posts fall on either side of a line: are the holidays good or bad for a person’s emotional health? They have a point, since solstice holidays are family holidays, whether genetic or chosen, and family is intense for everyone. That said, this idea of an event (or anything!) being simply good or bad is a falsehood -- family holidays, like everything, are both good and bad. And this points to a useful way of thinking about therapy, that of increasing the mind’s capability to tolerate and.
So let’s take a moment to talk about the concept of and, because it’s not how we’re taught to think. People, all of us, find ease in separating the events of our lives into the categories of good and bad. Rarely is this an accurate understanding of the world. I think my iPhone is good, but I also think that slave labor is bad. Yet when I use my iPhone it’s rare that I spend much thought on the slave labor that went into its construction. This is useful because I get things done, but it also leaves me feeling anxious about my moral choices when I lay in bed. Being able to hold both would free up a lot of headspace, and it’s hard.
So why is it helpful to cultivate that skill? Let’s take a look back at the given example: family holidays. The fact is that our families have spent a lot of time with us, so they have a sense of us at our best and at our worst. This is ultimately both a relief and a bummer. Being seen at our best, our families may cling to harmful expectations of how we should act/look/be. Being seen at our worst, we itch with the shame of our ugliest moments. And.
And, they already know us. They have a sense of us at our best and at our worst. This frees us from the burden of trying to market ourselves to our family members. It’s too late to hide our blunders, our shame, our secrets. They know, and they are still around. I have two cousins who are sisters. For the last twenty years I’ve mixed up their names every time I’ve seen them, and they still put up with me. Do I wish I was different? Certainly, but so far I haven’t been able to change. In the meantime, it’s awfully reassuring that they still call me family.
Many people instead choose to hide their whole selves from their families, which is, of course, healthy and unhealthy. Research into addiction, anxiety, depression, and a slew of other issues is very clear: community helps. While exposing parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of is terrifying, the amount of energy exerted on restraining them is exhausting. And what’s more, if we never expose those parts of ourselves, we can never unwind the shame that we’ve swaddled them in. Like it or not, our families know about these parts of us, and can’t stop being our families - it’s in their blood.
This is why it’s important to hold both bad and good, so we can learn that fear and freedom arise in the same moment.