The Christmas and New Year holidays are a time when we make a huge investment.
We tend to think that this investment is wholly financial, and of course the cost of Christmas can make a large hole in the family income which requires repayment of some kind over the next few months.
We also make a large investment emotionally and want Christmas to be "the best ever" or idealise the season and have huge expectations of perfection. The media encourage us to hold this ideal family Christmas made perfect by the gifts they want to sell us set in the context of a smiling happy family.
Families come together in the hope that this year will be different that all the simmering or boiled over resentments from the past will not reoccur. We are endlessly optimistic that people who have never got on with one another will suddenly become close and love one another again.
The realists, or pessimists may choose to spend this time alone with the clarity of previous family reunions still fresh in their memories and make the conscious choice to lick their wounds alone.
Of course their are many thousands of people who do not have a choice whether or not to spend time with their families. They live alone, or perhaps in prison, hospital, in the armed forces or work abroad.
For those who travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be with their families, reunited after years apart, living for 2 weeks in close proximity with family members they have had little contact with in the interim (maybe with very good reason) with alcohol flowing freely tensions build and hurtful accusations are made.
Relationships which are fragile for the most part set against high expectations "that this year will be different" and that everyone will get on for a change sets up all kinds of subconscious "games". Rows break out between the "usual suspects", sides are taken and the perfect family Christmas implodes to everyone's surprise.
If you are reading this hoping I will give you the answer to how to make the family Christmas work then you will be disappointed? You will get plenty of suggestions elsewhere on a "Stress Free Holiday Period" and once you have read through them all you may think this is all just common sense, which they are.
So why do we get blindsided? Why is it always such a surprise when it happens? Why do we go back again next year hoping the outcome will be different? Surely we will have learned how to be this time?
As a TA therapist I see "script" as a fundamental part of the whole Christmas holiday equation. The subconscious decision we all make as young children about how we are and will be in the world and what we can expect from others towards us. Our scripts can be banal, tragic or winning and the games we initiate and become involved in may be ( 1st, 2nd or 3rd level) minor, moderate or deadly. These aspects of ourselves come into play when we are under stress and the holiday period offers us plenty of opportunities for our scripts to unfurl.
If you are reading this as someone who is considering investing in counselling or psychotherapy in 2014 because the same bad things keep happening to you then I hope this blog may have been helpful to you. I welcome your feedback and wish you a Happy New Year for 2014.