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BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Christmas, Carols & Counselling

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For many people Christmas seems to dominate the month of December. It can be a magical time of the year but also a potentially poignant one. It can provide occasions for fun, love and laughter but also create opportunities for argument, despair and disillusionment. 

Perhaps that confusion is not surprising. For a few chaotic days families are thrown together with high expectations which cannot always be met.  The rituals of Christmas demand much from our emotional as well as financial resources and sometimes those demands can be overwhelming.  If copious amounts of alcohol are then added to this combustible mixture there is a volatile situation just waiting for a spark. What should be a peaceful and exciting time becomes fraught with a potentially explosive spark likely to emanate from any number of sources.

Perhaps one such source is the sense of regression which can particularly beset those who return to the family fold after time away. Sibling rivalry is played out by adults who re-enact childhood squabbles but with grown up guile, whilst parents who are grandparents regress to playing mind games left over from Christmases barely remembered from many years before.  Those ghosts that Dickens once created to haunt Scrooge, can take on many different forms in contemporary life.

These challenges can be intensified within families who have become divided by divorce or separation and where children may be confused in finding Father Christmas living into two different houses. There can also be very difficult emotional demands placed upon families who have experienced loss during the year. This loss will be exacerbated by that first Christmas dinner with the very real sense of someone who has been so important to family life, clearly missing from his or her usual place around the table.

Whatever the cause it is certainly true that the festive season can create challenges but these can be issues to be worked on. Maybe some of those concerns will subsequently surface in counselling rooms in the following months. It may be that discussions and disagreements will be replayed during some individual therapy work or couple counselling, or perhaps in a session of a logical rational based therapy such as CBT.

Yet despite all this potential angst, the Christmas period still retains a wonderful potential for magical fun.  Presumably that is why we spend so long preparing and planning for that one day.  Of course there will be arguments but so long as these can be safely contained, maybe those harmless squabbles can be seen to have a humorous side and actually contribute to the unique nature of this one remarkable day.  

The carol tells us that the ‘hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’. Perhaps that line resonates with the importance we place on this single day. Carols of course celebrate a religious story and we may all have a very different take on the religiosity of Christmas Day.  Nevertheless it must be a very hard heart which is not moved by all that childish excitement evident on Christmas Eve – even if some of that excitement actually comes from the adults!

So eat, drink and be merry.   Enjoy the break – and if some of those difficult relationship issues should stay around for a little too long after the last cracker has been pulled, then you can always arrange to talk in January with a counsellor in Basingstoke, Hampshire or wherever.

Seasons greetings from the world of therapy – and for these special few days, may the force be with you, whatever you wish that force to be!



Geoff Boutle

added on 2nd December 2012

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