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The Dark Side of Christmas by Scott Carroll

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The Dark Side of Christmas by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor
If the thought of Christmas is bringing up deep anxiety and fear for you, I assure you that you are not alone. Statistics show that the incidence of depression is higher this time of year, but there are steps you can take to have an emotionally safe and anxiety free Christmas.
The Christmas season is constantly referred to by the media as a time for families to reconnect, and to demonstrate their close connections and love by exchanging gifts. For many people this time induces an almost primal deep fear and anxiety. For some, family of origin is often the source for many dysfunctional, obsessive and addictive behaviours. Or for many others, they have purposely distanced themselves from their family ties in order to avoid being drawn back into a highly toxic environment. People in each of these situations often feel guilt and shame as they compare their own family relationships to the romantic notion of a close knit and loving family.
My belief is that, like at any other time of the year, it is important to do what is necessary to look after yourself and your own emotional health. After this you can then be available to participate in family celebrations to the extent that you wish to. Looking after your own emotional health might include mediation or just doing something kind for yourself. I would suggest another way to do this is to find someone safe (close friend, counsellor, 12 Step Group etc) where you can express your true feelings about your family members. In this safe environment it is important to just be listened to and have those feelings validated.
Denying these emotions do not make them go away, they just get suppressed and often are acted out in destructive ways. Acts of self care not only benefit you, but make you a healthier and emotionally safer family member to be around.
It is very easy for dysfunctional families to effectively go back in time during celebrations such as Christmas, and for adult children and parents to revert back to toxic behaviour and roles that existed when the children were physically children. Emotionally healthy family members will be less available to participate in their original roles and hence the family game can be broken.
For those individuals willing and able to do the work necessary to break down their own toxic family of origin behaviours, I applaud you. I believe this is the work of warriors with a heart, as research has shown that toxic family behaviours is usually multi-generational. Breaking these down can not only free yourself, but the next generations.
If you are in interested in reading more on dysfunctional and toxic family systems, and more importantly how to reclaim yourself and your own inner child, an excellent author on this subject is John Bradshaw.
Practical Suggestion for an emotional safe and anxiety free Christmas
• Give yourself a personal gift of kindness – parent yourself the way you wish you had been
• Express yourself – safely !! (ideally not to other family members still caught up in this web)
• Do what feels right for you – Engage with your family to the extent you feel safe to do so
• Seek professional help – Emotions relating to toxic families can feel primal. Seeking help is sign that you are worth looking after.
Further Reading
John Bradshaw – Healing the Shame that Binds You.
Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focusing on working with men and on male related issues. He is also available for telephone consults and appointments on week nights and Saturday mornings. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.

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