I recently spoke at a local church for one of their Christmas events. I was asked to speak about the pain of the holidays. I was surprised and delighted at the same time.
As a psychotherapist, I am entrenched in the pain of the holidays (while as a parent I still get to witness the magic!). I have to admit, I was proud of this Ministry Director for addressing such a tough topic when it would have been much easier to push forward with lights, candy, and carolers. Here’s what I was asked:
What are you seeing in women?
Pain from wounds from family of origin
Pain from the wounds of trauma
Pain from grief
Pain from broken relationships
Pain because women are dealing with shame
I see women isolating because they are dealing with depression and/or anxiety
I see women warring with their bodies through disordered eating and/or self-mutilation
I see women self-medicating to cope
I witness the pain of women’s humanity.
What are we, as women, tempted to do with our pain?
When we are hurt, we are not unlike other creatures. We fight back, we run away, or we get stuck (frozen). We may lash out at people we love or at everyone. We may isolate ourselves or abandon our relationships because they feel too difficult. We may get stuck in habitual behaviors with alcohol, drugs, or other forms of escapism because we just don’t want to feel so badly anymore. We may attempt to regulate our moods with over-spending, over-eating, or over-involvement, which leaves us stressed, depleted, and weary.
What can we do instead of fighting, isolating, medicating, and warring with ourselves?
We can stop running from our pain and start listening to it. Pain is a communication of need. When we listen to our needs, we can more fully find a healthy way to provide care.
We can learn to believe that we are loved, we are worthy, we are forgiven, and we can be accepted. Every part of us can be accepted. There is no piece that is too big, too dark, or too much. We are all worthy of love and belonging.
Brene Brown is one of my favorite researchers because she tackles some very difficult topics. Brene has done research that has uncovered how shame works; how it debilitates instead of motivates, how it destroys rather than builds up. In one of these projects, Brene narrowed down the difference between those who had a strong sense of love and belonging from those who did not have this in their lives. There was only one variable that separated the two groups. The people who had a strong sense of love and belonging BELIEVED they were worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believed they were worthy.
The greatest gifts you can give this holiday season…
Gift #1: Accept your own pain. Stop running from it and listen to what it has to tell you. If your foot hurts, it needs rest. If your body is weary, it also needs rest. If you are lonely, you need connection. Stop running, distracting, and disconnecting from yourself, and listen to what you need. Give yourself the gift of meeting your needs.
Gift #2: Accept someone fully. You can choose any relationship you wish to sustain, including your relationship with yourself! You do not have to agree with everything someone does to accept them. Acceptance is merely that- accepting that this is where this person is, right now, in their story. Your acceptance will always bring greater healing than your judgment.
Gift #3: Choose to believe that you are worthy of love and belonging. If you believe you are worthy of love and belonging, you will experience love and belonging.
Love yourselves, and each other, well this holiday season.