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  • Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Reality

    One learning I’ve had from from practicing individual case studies is that some holiday stress stems from people’s attempts to find reality at the heart of the holidays.

    individual case studies

    That sounds like a surprising thing to say.  But the yearning for real, meaningful experiences around the holidays actually runs quite deep.

    The Realm of Kitsch and Bling

    In the holiday season, we are surely living in the realm of kitsch, that style of mass-produced artifact that uses well-worn cultural icons or images. It’s a term generally reserved for


    things gaudy or lacking in substance, designed to appeal to a wide audience at a shallow level.  Unfortunately, much of holiday art, design and decoration is kitsch, which contributes to holiday stress.  The same is true of much of holiday storytelling, especially in the mass media.

    We fill the holidays with kitschy symbols and images of Christmas in our culture, and we also fill up the holidays with extravagant gifts, which can easily pre-occupy us during this period.  Yet, for many, the “bling” that accompanies Christmas feels hollow and empty.

    Reality vs. Sentimentality

    Many people experience holiday stress because of the way in which the season is shrouded in sentimentality, which might be characterized as appealing to shallow, uncomplicated emotionality at the expense of depth and real, individual humanity.  It’s not hard to find expressions of sentimentality tied to the key elements of the holidays.

    Tired Symbols in Need of Renewal

    The traditional symbols of the holiday season have lost some or all of their energy or vitality.  Jung would be the first to tell us that, when symbols lose their power and effectiveness in peoples’ lives, they must either be renewed or be replaced.  Over 40 years ago, Ian Anderson sang of the need in our culture for a renewal of holiday symbols, and of the need to get beyond the cloying sentimentality with which it has become encrusted.

    What IS Real?

    Individual case studies shows that holiday stress often reflects our yearning for reality and genuine experience.  Few among us are really complete cynics about the holidays.  Even individuals without religious conviction look to them as a time of increased cooperation and goodwill among people, and, also, perhaps a hope for genuine connection with family members and friends.

    Focusing on a sense of personal reality during the holidays relates to bringing a sense of reality and personal meaning back into our lives in general.  It’s always important to ask ourselves what in our lives carries a sense of deep meaning and reality.  Some of this may have to do with personal philosophy or meaning, worldview, or spirituality.  Some of it may have to do with deep and genuine connections and relationships with others in our lives.  Again, as individual case studies knows, connection with those things for which we have genuine, deep passion is also essential.

    Our yearning for reality during the holidays reflects our need for reality and substance in our lives in general, a key focus of individual case studies that focuses on depth, like Jungian therapy.

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    Attribution   Some rights reserved wellohorld ; VIDEO: “Christmas Song” from album “This Was” © Chrysalis Records Ltd 1968


    1. jamenta


      December 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm -

      Insightful post as usual. Wishing you Brian, and your family, what happiness and warmth may be found for this Christmas holiday.

      1. Brian C
        December 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm -

        Thanks for your comment, John. Glad if you found the post insightful. I hope that you find reality and meaning in your holidays, too.

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