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‘Tis the Season

christmas-tree-night-xmasThe joys of the holiday season: the picture-perfect weather, the dazzling holiday displays, and the ugly Christmas sweater parties. Even SantaCon is worth a couple chuckles.

But amidst the holiday cheer, there is a percolating stew of resentment and anger. Past slights, buried deep in our mental recesses, foment in our minds. Family volatility: the gift that keeps on giving.

Lamenting my strained relationship with my father, I understand your jagged pain. If you are estranged from a family member, the holidays can be particularly painful. As Facebook friends cheese it up in family selfies, it is tempting to wallow in Two Buck Chuck and trashy novels. With bated breath, you count down the days, hours, and seconds until you can unceremoniously dump the Christmas tree on the nearest curb.

But don’t let the holiday season — and its cavalcade (or is it drone?) of smiling family visages — defeat you. And then defeat you again.

For holiday parties of one, it is easy to despair. Emotional pains, once vanquished, return with a Scrooge-like sneer; we feel vulnerable and isolated. Uneasy family memories juxtapose with our idealized family image: beaming, smiling, together.   

Neither vino nor Danielle Steel novels can shield the pain. As well-meaning friends pepper me with, “Are you returning home for the holidays?”, I reflect on my own strained familial relationship with a mixture of incredulity, disgust, and despondence. It is Vegas-like tempting to unleash a Mattsuvius eruption: a screaming phone call, an acerbic email, a shrill voice message toward my distant father. “That will show him; he will really get it this time,” my mind seethes.

My hurt, resentment, and anger is justified — even warranted. So is yours. But hurt is different than heal. You can resist the screaming urge to spew venom.

But how? How do we control those uncontrollable feelings?

Take that burning energy and redirect it to your passions. As in multiple.

For me, writing is my therapy. It is more affordable than counseling, validates my feelings, and provides perspective on my hurt. It gives me a sense of control; I can express my feelings in a constructive manner. And, of course, interject a little snark without damning consequences.

Hot yoga has also been a revelation. Writhing in pain during the class, I silently mutter expletives. Admittedly, I am a baby yogi–some of the time more baby than yogi. But finishing each class, I stumble out in a contented daze. As for my righteous anger? I am namaste, thank you.

When depressed or despondent, we ruminate (at least I do), starring in a one-man holiday pity party. While rumination is a coping mechanism, it slowly drains energy. Instead of sinking within your mind’s mental quicksand, redirect your energies to more constructive activities. And save the snark for a Psych Central column.    

‘Tis the Season

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). ‘Tis the Season. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Dec 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.