Holiday Angst, Pt 1

Thanksgiving and Christmas – the very words cause many people to cringe and break out in a sweat.

Year after year for 25 of ’em now, my appointment book puts on weight around the holidays. Calls inevitably increase in October from people wanting help with surviving the rapidly approaching November and December.

Just what is it about the holidays that generates such dread and angst?

Clinically, I get it. But I must admit to you that, on the personal level, I cannot relate. From my earliest recollections until now, the holidays have been filled with nothing but great family experiences and memories for me. And I am thankful for that.

I realize this is not the case for many people. So to that end, let’s see if we can offer some help for the holiday season.

Here’s the starting point for understanding holiday doldrums:

The holidays magnify your reality

In and of itself, there is nothing regrettable about this fact at all.

In fact, if you are like me and had wonderful holidays in your childhood and now in your adulthood with the family you and your spouse have created – this fact is wonderful news! Our family loves the fact that the holidays magnify our family realities.


But for a great number of people, this cardinal rule is a big problem. For example:

  • If there are family of origin issues and attitudes that have not been put to rest, their energies will intensify around holiday time.
  • If there are tensions around spouses that have married into the family, you can bet those tensions will be stronger during the holidays.
  • If there is a rebellious child or children in the family, that fact will amplify the tensions when intergenerational get-togethers (read holidays) occur.
  • If, a loved one has passed away in the previous year, the pain will be felt so intensely during the holidays that it will break your heart.

The holidays magnify your reality.


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The inherent characteristic in this fact is that
magnification distorts both proportion and perspective

Now again, in and of itself, this is not bad news. If your family has a great time around the holidays, the principle of magnification makes them even better. It puts the proverbial cherry and whip cream on top!

If the contrary is true, well… this principle makes things worse.

Let’s look at these two important terms associated with magnification, relative to the deleterious effect they can have on an already unpleasant seasonal get-together.

Proportion considers a part of a thing – a portion – in relation to the whole. In relationships, proportion has to do with relative value of a part when seen in the light of the whole.

In other words – the fact that the holidays magnify reality can make it very easy to blow things out of proportion.

When something is in proper proportion it possesses balance and symmetry.

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it may be a good time to ask yourself: “Am I keeping the issue(s) that concern me regarding the holidays in proportion? Am I taking a balanced view of things?”

Remember, the holidays magnify your reality. Remember too that magnification can easily distort proportion – and take away a balanced assessment.

Isn’t it interesting too that proportion is a factor concerned with… harmony!

Next time we will examine the second aspect of magnification – perspective.

’til then,


Dr Michael Ruth, Growth Resources, Personal Growth