How to Feel Secure During the 2020 Holidays
The question of how to feel secure is usually not something we would especially associate with the holidays—but this year is different.
Usually the Holidays are a time when we mostly don’t have to worry about how to feel secure. For many of us, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other seasonal holidays are associated with feeling very secure, at least most of the time. However, this year, we may be having feelings that are at odds with this.
Most of us are heartened by the recent news of vaccines that are now just about ready to be manufactured and distributed, but, for many of us, there’s the feeling that we are facing a long winter of lockdown ahead of us. The holidays are normally a period when we’re cheered by contact with relatives and friends. However, this year, things have a different feel, as for many of us there will be restrictions on the number of people we can gather with for celebrations—in many cases, only one or two people beyond those who live in a household…
Easy to be On Our Guard
Given these pandemic realities, it’s easy to feel like our holidays might be disappointing. In fact, many people experience the present time as feeling very insecure, even though the holidays are coming. The uncertainty of the present situation can certainly put us on our guard.
Human beings, like all other creatures with a nervous system, have an innate system of responses to threats. We may fight back, physically or verbally, we may retreat or run away, or when the threat seems particularly grave, we may “shut down” or freeze. When we’re confronted with a unfamiliar and potentially threatening situation, like at present, it’s easy for us to respond from this kind of hypersensitive place.
If we look around carefully, we can observe all of these characteristic reactions as we try to get through the COVID period—fight, flight and freeze, sometimes in combination! When we hear of individuals responding with physical violence to those who either do or don’t wear masks, or when we find ourselves retreating from going out into the community, or when we find it hard to get up and go in the morning, we can see the presence of ancient responses to threat. It seems very likely that these responses will be with us throughout the Holiday period, and into the New Year.
Denial is NOT How to Feel Secure
Whether these responses and reactions are our own, or those of other people, they will influence the Holiday season, along with all the other experiences of unfamiliarity or strangeness that we might have as a result of the changes that have come about through COVID-19. We are all living with the reality of insecurity and anxiety that the pandemic creates, and inevitably, it changes the way that we experience the Holiday season.
As we go through the Holidays, we can try and pretend that “nothing is wrong”, but it’s apparent that things really are quite different this year. If we try to make out that this is “just like every other Holiday season”, we’re not likely to convince anyone—not even ourselves. It can be easy at times like this to try to deny uncomfortable realities, but we still continue to experience them.
Belonging and Meaning
What can possibly sustain us in this holiday period? What can help us to hang onto a sense of normalcy as we enter this season, when so many things in our world seem more than a little abnormal?
Well, one thing that we’ve learned as the result of the work of renowned brain-body researcher Prof. Stephen Porges and others is that, in addition to the other innate responses to threat in our nervous system, we have a “higher social brain”. This causes certain neural circuitry to be activated when we hear a calm, gentle voice, see smiles or relaxed facial features, and/or experience the calm gestures of others.
In short, we get calmer and feel more secure in the presence of others who give us relaxed “social safety cues”. We can even give ourselves social safety cues that will help ourselves, and others near us to feel secure and safe. In addition, just feeling compassion for others when we’re in their presence can lead to us giving social safety cues to others. Many of these social cues can even be given to others over online connections!
Also, connection with meaningful symbols can provide a sense of security and meaning, as Jungians continually emphasize. These might be symbols that belong to a particular faith or social group, symbols shared by a family, or even symbols that we have discovered to be personally meaningful. (Some of these can occur in dreams, in the arts, or in other parts of our life and experience.)
Some of most important exploration of how to feel secure can occur in the context of an affirming and supportive relationship with a well-attuned /a-midlife-transition. This can help us to cultivate a sense of security through the holiday season, the time of COVID, and in our journey to wholeness well beyond that.
With very best wishes for your personal journey,