Christmas and New Year's are barreling down upon us, with the usual bombardment of schmaltzy feelgood feels, family togetherness, and big planz riding shotgun. Not everyone can hang. This season, psychologists suggest you talk yourself out of feeling bad, even if you feel really really bad.
Over at the WSJ in a piece called "Time to Spread Holiday Cheer, Even When You're Down," we learn that for people who are single, divorced or divorcing, unemployed, grieving, with a dying person or near death themselves — surprise — this is not a time of joy, mistletoe, nor, one can only assume, baller NYE plans. And no one is immune from the life comparison shopping you'll be forced to do thanks to the glut of social media posts of sweaters, fireplaces, and various hot beverages in an orange-red glow.
But against our most fundamental instincts to withdraw, be bummed out, or walk around like this…
…shrinks say it's just going to make you feel worse to give into your worst feelings. In fact, they suggest you instead do the opposite of barfing against a tree. Drawing on psychologists with expertise in grief, happiness, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that you should more or less lie to yourself and "rewrite the script in your head":
Resist the cynical "bah, humbug" attitude that will just make you feel more distant from others. Instead, adopt an attitude of "wise understanding" about how the season is so much more complicated than the songs and commercials and holiday parties would suggest. Try a mantra, like "It ain't necessarily so," when you find yourself thinking that others have a better life right now than you do.
Bernstein offers example after example of how others have pulled it together in spite of terrible circumstances. A divorcing single mom lit a fire at Christmas time and has decided to get more into the season; a single woman sleeps late on Christmas morning and buys herself a lot of stuff. These emotional bootstraps are meant to be proof positive that you, too, can muddle through somehow.
If they want you to reframe the narrative, then I say reframe the motherfuckin' narrative. Dust it off, and get back out there, and try telling yourself these whoppers!
- You Won't Argue With Your Sister at Christmas
- You'll Find The One in Early 2015
- You Will Make Friends at That Holiday Party and Have a Great Time
- You Will Lose Exactly the 23 Pounds Needed
- You Will Master the Perfect Selfie
- You Will Be Confident That You Are Taking All the Vitamins and Supplements You Need to Correct All Your Personal Issues, From Physical to Psychological
- Your Small Business Idea Was Actually Pretty Great
- And Unique!
- You Will Experience Multiple Breakthroughs In Therapy
- Therapist Will Include You In Case Study Called Runaway Success Stories
- You Will Wear Half the Shit you Bought on Black Friday
- You're This Close to Perfect Hair, Skin, Teeth
- You Will Correct Your Poor Posture With a Combination of Pilates and Sheer Willpower
- That Thing You Do Where You Overthink Stuff and Spin Out?
- Not Gonna Do It Anymore.
- You Never Said Those Bad Things
- Or Did Them!
- People Who Misjudged You Will Now Judge You Correctly — and Awesomely
- You Are Being Invited to All Relevant Parties for Your Social Standing
- And Those Just Slightly Above, Too
- 2nd Grade Teacher Will Send Email Apology for Putting Your Desk in Corner That Whole Week
- Realized Jenny Hudson Was the Spelling Cheater, Not You
- Hey, New Year's Eve Is Gonna be the BEST
- You Will Literally Remember This Night Forever
- Your Skin Will Look Better If You Combine these TWO Products
- You're Going to Get Super Into Hanukkah This Year
- You Will Always Style Your Bangs So That It Makes Your Face Look Thinner
- You Will Never Have Bangs Again
- And Will Finally Learn to Contour With Makeup!
- You'll Finally Be Really Over Him by Feb. 12
- You Actually Do Always Look Really Pretty
- You Don't Know It
- But You Do
- No More Flushing Butt Wipes
- Solve All Your Problems With This One Weird Trick
- You Will Be Less Critical of Yourself and More Critical of Others
- That Probiotic Will Fix Everything
- You Will Not Let That Child Boss You Around Anymore
- You Will Hate-Read Classier Books
- Will Finally Read the Whole Bible
- Or At Least a Very Academic Summary
- You Won't Have One More Drink
- You Will Strike the Perfect Balance of Still Looking Young but Old Enough to Demand Everyone's Respect
- Consider that Fridge Organized
- World Will Finally Validate Your Love for Elliott Gould
- You Will Go Full Paleo This Time — And Stick With It
- If Not Paleo, You Will Go Full Vegan
- If Not Vegan, For Sure No Fast Food!
- You Will Work Out 4 Times a Week, Min
- That Promotion? In the Bag!
- You WILL Have the Baby You Want
- You Will Not Have the Baby You Don't Want
- You Will Never Be Out of Tampons Again
- No More In-App Purchases
- You Will Earn the On-the-Job Respect You Deserve
- Your Husband Will Finally Appreciate All That You Fucking Do
- In-Laws Will Realize You Really Do Complete Him
- You Will Get Up Easily 10 to 15 Minutes Earlier for Awhile
- You Will Do Your Makeup At Home and Not in the Car
- You Will Stop Stealing That Coworker's Lunch
- Your Boss Will Finally Recognize How Late You Work
- Or at Least the Cleaning Lady Will
- 2015: The Year of Really Flossing (Really)
- Because You Went a Long Time There for a While and It Was Gross
- This Is the Year Your Two Best Friends Become Best Friends, Too
- You Will Volunteer for That Thing You Saw
- More Blowjobs, For Everyone
- You Will Find the Perfect Bra
- Break Out the Ol' Rollerblades
- Sunday New York Times Will Be Read in Full, Talked About
- You Will Make Parenting Look Like a Cinch
- Really It's All Going to be OK No Matter What
- It's Not That Bad If You Really Think About It
- Everything Really IS Awesome
Feel better? See?!?
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.