SHEDDING THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS' PAST

                              "Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that."
Erich Heller
 "Hey, kids! What time is it?" Does that remind you of something long forgotten?  (At this point, a typical 'baby boomer' will think, "Howdy Doody Time!"  Someone younger many simply look at his or her watch and try to answer the question) 
How about this one: Imagine someone standing before you, arms raised with fingers curled, slowly lowering those arms with a "scraping" motion.; a most chilling experience, yes?  Or...Consider the odor of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. What is the first thing that occurs to you?
There are many anchors in our lives. They trigger the various states of consciousness where information is stored. We frequently use them to retrieve both pleasant and unpleasant events. Think of your favorite song. Why is that so? In contrast, is there a song you will avoid at all costs? Why does that occur? How do you experience red and green house lights, heavy traffic and cold weather? To some people, these anchors represent harbingers of memorable festivities to come: A favorite time of year, Christmas.
To others, however, Christmas anchors contain only ghosts of the past that scare the Dickens out of them; or otherwise cause pain. The "holiday season" may be a time for coming home -- a family portrait in the Currier and Ives tradition. But a typical Currier and Ives scene fails to portray the intense anxiety, hopelessness and pain experienced by many families at this time of year. Surrounded by an angry sea of adversity, these people consider the holidays a time to take inventory; to rate the year as a whole: Financial burdens, family strife, and great-- but unmet-- expectations. All of these stressors become "stacked" in the original bad anchor making it even more foreboding. In a split second following the firing of an anchor, the past becomes the present. And the present becomes the future. Before you know it, busy streets, crowded malls, children's school concerts, timely melodies...and increases in airfares all trigger comments such as, "I'm not looking forward to the holidays." The ghost has reared its ugly head. Red and green have become blue.
But a ghost lacks substance. And so does much of the fear people experience at this time. A common human experience involves considering something bad that once happened, that could happen again but as yet has not, and then feel bad about it ahead of time! Why wait and prolong the agony when you can feel bad now? Do some of these comments sound familiar? "Why should I shop at the mall? I'm sure everything will be too expensive." "I'm not looking forward to Christmas dinner. I know there will be a lot of tension in the family." "I feel so depressed. I can not imagine myself enjoying the holidays." So how can one shed the ghosts of the past? The key may be in how such a ghost is perceived: You need to be in better spirits. Let your unconscious be your guide! A ghost can signal change as well as repetition. Imagine, for a moment, making a difference this holiday season. Imagine seeing yourself differently! Change the internal experiences you make at this time of year until they contain people, places or events that at some time in your recent past have been associated with "accomplishment", "sharing", "relief" and "love." This holiday season, be a little selfish. Give your self the most memorable of presents-- one which will last long after the wrapping paper has been recycled: The motivation to "get on with it!" essential to this present is your consideration of what is present; a vital contrast in thinking from, "what's missing." Vividly imagine three ways you would benefit now from having already participated in some aspect of holiday festivities. Be sure to step into each experience-- be there! Before actually performing any task, be sure to allow yourself the pleasure of deciding which of the three benefits was most powerful and enjoyable. Then go for it! Happy Holidays.