Learning from the Christmas period
For those of you who didn't really have such a wonderful Christmas time, and are surprised, disappointed and exhausted, what's the learning here?
Sometimes we need to learn the lesson over, and over and over again before finally we get it. Certainly, that was the case for me for many years. When we try to conform to others' expectations, we go against our natural grain and that's when stress begins. Celebrations like Christmas are one time of the year when many of us are 'expected' to behave in a certain way (cultural and religious difference excepted, of course) - to decorate our houses, play similar music each year, shop for similar presents (depending on what's trending), write out cards (making sure we have spares 'just in case we get one from the guy in the office/across the street we'd forgotten'), shop for food and sit down to eat it on the same day as our neighbours, family, friends, strangers at roughly the same time and watch the same TV programmes as everyone else, themed around our behaviours and customs. And we wonder why it's stressful?
But to the over-carer, the over-giver, the co-dependent, it's a logistical and emotional nightmare. Everything has to be perfect for every individual they orbit (because the over-carer revolves around others' needs) and it has to all come together precisely on the day, in the fairytale way they'd imagined it, with everyone happy and laughing and fulfilled and when all of these things are in place, then the co-dependent is happy, fulfilled and can feel good about themselves. But I'm sad to say...Disney lied. There is rarely a fairytale ending (if ever) and in these attempts to please others, the over-carer becomes increasingly fraught, anxious, exhausted and soaks up any anxiety around them, like a sponge. Depression is increasingly common amongst the over-carers.
So, what's the answer? Well, there is a miracle cure. A real-life solution. The festivities will continue but the difference will be that the over-carer can learn to invest less (of themselves) in the process. If others are disappointed, behave badly, etc. the over-carer can learn to understand this is not his/her fault. If things don't go to plan, they can learn to carry on without becoming burdened by this.
Learning to allow others to take responsibility for their own actions, reactions and behaviours is part of the process of recovering from co-dependency, and what better a time of year to begin? No need for the January Blues - there's a bright new year ahead, filled with promise. If you are an over-carer, this could be your year to work on your most important relationship - the one you have with yourself.
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Lorna Payne - LMP TherapyNovember 7th, 2017