This article was read to us at UNI during one of our groups. It happened to be my last group there. I asked for a copy of it. It helped me a lot. While I did NOT grow up in a dysfunctional home there were many parts of the article that struck me! I realized that I am addicted to sadness. I'm not sure why or how long that has been going on (since I was little I would guess). It totally made me think of me and my depression in a new light. It has to do with the holidays but it's filled with such good info I thought I'd share it now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's pretty long but it's well worth the read. Love to you all! Tami
Some Greenery From the Holiday Blues by John Bradshaw
I was an active alcoholic for mor than 20 years, and during that time the holidays were always a terrible time for me. I felt very blue, and from Thanksgiving to the third of January I would be deeply depressed and drinking heavily. Later, in sobriety, I became fascinated by the phenomenon of the holiday blues, wondering why so many people are unusually depressed, suicidal, and acting out their addictions at a time when the idea is to be jolly and rejoice and celebrate the good news.
Some of the blues that people feel at this time are perfectly healthy. Blues have to do with loss and longing. And as each new holiday season dawns; some losses have to be grieved. The first is the loss of childhood itself, with all its magic, excitement and wonder. There's the longing for loved ones who won't be with us this year because of death or distance. And every piece of Christmas music played magnifies a feeling of loss. There is no escaping it and within normal bounds, no reason to.
Some blues, however, are neurotic. Some people are simply addicted to sadness, and they use it to cover up other feelings, such as joy. I have evidence in my clinical archives of a phenonmenon called the sad child script. It results from a child having been disappoinged over and over again, or from the shaming of a child's excitement and joy - so much so that the only way to stay happy is to stay sad. It's a paradoxical solution: "If I never have any expectations, she says to herself, then I'll never be disappointed."
Another type of neurotic-blues phenomenon can be the sad-feeling racket. A feeling racket is family authorized and replaces other feelings. For example, a little girl might notice that when she's happy she gets no attention but when she's sick or down in some way, she gets loads of attention from her family. She may conclude that the pouting that worked so well at home will pay off everywhere in life.
Dysfunctional families specialize in sad feeling addiction and sad-feeling rackets. In many disfunctional families there are deep layers of unresolved grief from childhood pain and trauma. These traumas are maintained into adulthood. Traumatic memories often cluster from what has been called governing scenes. Very often the most traumatic governing scene of the family happened around the holidays. So when the person hears Christmas music, smells the scent of the pine tree, those scenes are immediately evoked. The person goes back into the scene of pain and unresolved sadness. This is why dysfunctional families will reenact those scenes during the holidays - the fights and tantrums with all the screaming and shouting that no one ever wanted - even despite the best intentions. Thus once again the holidays end in sadness and pain.
If you identify with any of these situations, I recommend that you take a few steps. First, allow yourself time to grieve the loss of the magic of childhood, and make a decision to allow the child in you to be present during this holiday season and to enjoy every minute of it. Take some time to grieve the people you love who are no longer with you. And if your family is separated or divorced, let yourself have the sadness over not being together anymore.
If you come from a dysfunctional family, the most important thing you can do is to understand what's happening. You may need to make a decision that you're going to do some work on that unresolved grief so that you can finish the unfinished business. And to just get through the holidays, there's more you can do. You can let the people with sad-child rackets be sad. Don't spoil their day by trying to cheer them up. You might even tell them something awful if you know that's the sort of thing that would please them most. And if your family is into sad-feeling rackets, limit your time with them. Make plans to get out of the house, or if you're visiting from out of town, arrange to stay in a hotel.
Last Christmas a client of mine made a list of 171 criticisms her mother was likely to make during a holiday visit. When her mother walked in the dorr the first thing she said was "your Christmas balls have dust on them." My client burst out laughing. This was one fault she had not thought of. The point is to get involved outside yourself this Christmas and take it all less seriously.
We need to lighten up during the holidays, so find some laughs for yourself. Avoid a multigenerational accident, and make your choice for a joyous holiday.