Holiday Angst, Pt 3

Several years back a husband/father in his 30’s came to see me one day in March for a consult. After the usual pleasantries I asked what I could help him with.

He said he needed some insights from me to help with getting through the upcoming holiday.


I can still remember the mental processes this started in me. As I listened to him elaborate on his concerns I was having the following internal dialogue:

(“What holiday? The only thing on the horizon is Easter and I have never heard of Easter being an anxiety-ridden holiday for anyone. As a Christian I love Easter – it is one of our most cherished holidays. And while I know that isn’t true for everyone, still I’ve never heard of families having knockdown – drag outs on Easter. This is a first!”)

My inner conversation continued:
(“Surely I’m missing something here. Or maybe I’m assuming something. While I guess there are families out there who hate Easter get-togethers… I’ve just never heard firsthand of this being a problem. This just seems odd. I’m gonna ask the obvious question.”)

So, without couching it in a leading-question way I simply asked (all the while expecting to hear – “Easter of course… what do you think!”) “Exactly which holiday are you concerned about?”

To my surprise he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I should have said right off the bat.” And then he told me.




Thanksgiving was eight-and-a-half months away from the time of our session.

That’s 35 weeks.

245 days.

This brings us to the subject for this post on thriving through this holiday season.


Refuse to pre-suffer.


Pre-suffering is a straight-ahead concept. No elaboration is needed on this term because it means just what it says – suffering ahead of time.

There is no human alive whose existence would not be markedly improved if he or she would practice this one principle – don’t pre-suffer.


We could be talking about next week’s dental appointment, tomorrow’s presentation at work, that blind date a friend has arranged for you for this Friday, or any other event in which it’s easy to allow ourselves to pre-suffer.


But in this post, we are applying the concept to holiday gatherings.

There are a number of problems with pre-suffering but the most obvious is – it is unnecessary pain. It infects today with tomorrow’s anxiety or dread. It robs us of life.

We are promised access to grace and strength for “today.” If we take on dread of a day that lies 245 days… 35 weeks… out into the future – we’re on our own.


[su_pullquote]Pre-suffering is a straight-ahead concept. No elaboration is needed on this term because it means just what it says – suffering ahead of time.[/su_pullquote]







Take a page from my client’s book.

He was wise (if premature) to seek needed help in developing new strategies and skills for dealing with holiday family dynamics. He was unwise in letting it cause him to pre-suffer.

It’s more than possible to do the former without allowing yourself to experience the latter.

If the holiday family gatherings are something you dread, I suggest you take the path my client followed.

If you sense you need some help with the holidays, find a book that speaks to your concerns or seek the help of a professional. There’s still time.

But I would encourage you to refuse to pre-suffer. This does nothing to help you with the day you’re dreading, but only robs you of the joy of today.


Dr Michael Ruth, Growth Resources, Personal Growth