Doing the Holidays Different

Tradition. Something that is so revered and encouraged to be upheld in society. But when does tradition morph into unhealthy habits, poor boundaries, enmeshment, and dysfunction? It can be difficult to see the difference between the two, especially at times of year that promote habit and tradition, like the holiday season.

If you are celebrating the holiday season in the same way as you always have this year and that works for you, fantastic. It sounds like you have found a path that is comfortable and works for you.

If you are celebrating the holiday season feeling tight, miserable, upset, triggered, and wanting to escape or numb, then it might be time to leave the idea of ‘tradition’ behind and consider doing things different. This might be a little bit different or a lot different. I know for myself, the last two holidays have been a drastic departure from how I ‘celebrated’ the holidays in the past. For 34 years I allowed myself to be hostage to a dysfunctional family of origin that used the holidays to uphold the image of family love and togetherness. I never felt this or connected with it, yet I participated because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Last year I had some sort of awakening (or rather a moment of clarity informed by strong PMS hormones which I will be forever grateful for!) that allowed me to break free from this legacy of dysfunction. For the past two years I have spent the holidays how I want to, with the people I want to be with. The first season was difficult and uncomfortable with constant thoughts of ‘how can I do this? Can I really do this? What kind of person does this?’ There’s a bit of that thinking this year but, for the most part, the thinking is now, ‘This is awesome. I love this. I’m happy.’

Change takes whatever it takes. We never know when it will come, how, or where and that’s okay. We can try to force it, but that usually doesn’t work. What does work is being patient and going step by step. If you feel trapped, consider taking a step to free yourself, whatever that might look like for you.

Wishing you a happy, joyous, and free holiday.

Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist at