Updated: Mar 30
Well I was wondering what to write about for a Christmas special. A few different themes came to mind… such as teaching kids about gratitude, generosity, kindness… Or a story on the questionable concept of “naughty and nice” lists… or a piece about how this time of year can be full of triggers for people… But the thing I noticed as I was thinking on it all was that nothing was particularly gelling for me. I am sure a contributory factor is that I am not an overly Christmas-loving person. I see those who really get into it with cute Christmas outfits and epic decorations and all the baking… and I do find it so endearing. But it’s just not me! I realise that even entering into Christmastime-thinking for this article was a little bit of a stretch for me. It was in the pondering of the resistance I felt inside, that something did land for me… the concept of forcing feelings. Forcing feelings is a little in over-drive at Christmas time, don’t you think? We are literally given instructions all over the place to “Rejoice!”, “Celebrate!”, “Be Merry” and “Discover the magic!”. No wonder there comes with it a sense of expectation to be feeling a certain way.
Then at the same time as these messages of positivity, there are of course also practical expectations that come with creating these wonderful feelings… preparation of meals… purchasing presents… attending events… decorating… spending time with people you have a fraught relationship with… Now here is a curious thing about positive expectations. If you expect to feel a certain way, and you don’t… or you expect something to turn out a certain way, and it doesn’t… what happens? You will feel disappointment. Or frustration. Or a maybe a sense of inferiority – that it’s not as good as it should be or not as good as the other people are experiencing. Even if the expected result does occur, it strikes me that the expectation leading up to it has the potential to be stressful. Weirdly… Expectation is the antithesis to joy. And it strikes me as I write that sentence that this is quite the opposite of the usual Christmastime messaging. So much of Christmas mythology is about the build up… thinking about the presents you want (/expect)… thinking about traditions and rituals that we create along with an expectation in mind of how good that particular Christmas experience will be… "But maybe the joy that is felt is not really within all the expecting. Maybe the joy is found in the being… in being fully present within the experience."
What if you were to let go of expectation, and simply paid attention to the experience of what ever is?
Just letting it be.
Instead of needing things to be a certain way you might just notice what is around you and what is special about whatever unique, imperfect thing might be happening in that moment.
I guess we could call it a mindful appreciation or acceptance…. And then it’s ok if you feel tired and cranky! It’s ok if that Christmas dessert got burned! It’s ok if your child is not thrilled with their present… All the feelings are allowed… any time…. all the time… even at Christmas.
Dr Angie Randell is a clinical psychologist with a PHD on the topic of child development.
Angie has been working as a Psychologist since 2006, and in much of that time she has focused on working with children, adolescents and their families. She has an interest in development across the whole lifespan. She currently works in private practice at Samford Valley, Brisbane City and online.
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