Happy autumn and Happy Thanksgiving. For many people this is the start of the holiday season and for many people Thanksgiving is the holiday they look forward to as it doesn’t seem to carry the baggage of other holidays.
When I take a history from new patients at the beginning of therapy I ask people if there is a religious belief system which played a part in their lives growing up and is there one now. “I’m not religious I’m spiritual” is a common answer and I often think of Thanksgiving as being representative of this understanding which people have of themselves. For many people Thanksgiving may have religious significance and for others it is a time to have a sense of gratitude for whatever they experience as bounty.
In psychotherapy offices this is also the beginning of the “angst” season when people express concern about being with family members they don’t like, don’t get along with and people they would not choose as friends. This may sound harsh but I have heard it so much so consistently over the years that I accept it as a truth for some folks.
If the person believes that it is just too difficult or awkward to not be with family then we work on strategies to help him/her feel in charge of themselves. Remember we pretty much can’t be in charge of how others act but we can kindly, respectfully assert ourselves and have clear boundaries.
A number of years ago I was at a destination resort hotel over the Thanksgiving holiday and overheard a very interesting conversation between the hotel manager and a guest who remarked on how busy the hotel was and how surprising this was to him as he assumed that families would be at home. The manager answered with “this has become a major travel time particularly for families who want to be together but not ‘that together’. They can meet for activities and meals but then go back to their rooms for some down time and quiet. We have been booked for months and many families make next years reservation before they leave.”
Even at this time of year which can be joyful and stressful we can make choices that may meet many people’s needs, not all, but many. If Uncle Pete is angry with you because you don’t want to sit next to him because he drinks too much so be it. If you like Uncle Pete see if you can get there before he is drunk. This may sound silly but it is not because you did your best to try to have a visit and you are not trying to control him…..you are taking control for yourself.
I hear on the news that this may be a hard Thanksgiving because of the divisive and distinctly rancorous election we all just experienced. Many people are pleased with the result and many are not. Around the table at least the focus needs to be on the enormous gratitude we must have to live in a country where we have the privilege of voting and take this one day to be grateful for that opportunity.
Now, that said you can be peeved at someone who didn’t bother to vote at all. No excuses!
I wish you peace, contentment and good food, be it a drumstick or tofurky