Did holiday regression turn you into a teenager? Here’s how to get yourself back.
Did you, a reasonable and mature adult, turn into a child around the holidays? You’re not alone and there are ways to feel better and potentially repair any damage caused by the sudden regression.
Perhaps you were at the grocery store with your sibling, going in on the bill for a holiday meal together. One minute, you’re tallying items and the next, you’re arguing about who got more assistance from your parents growing up, and by that, you mean love. If you could stomp across the hall and slam a door in their face, you would, but instead, you have to ride back to your childhood home together in a sensible minivan and return to your spouses and children. Hypothetically, of course.
Or maybe your mom asked you a simple question about her iPhone again, one that you’ve answered a million times, which is easily Google-able, but jeez, why doesn’t she ever listen when you explain? You aren’t her personal Apple Genius.
And if she tells you one more time, there are more cookies in the pantry when you said no thank you and plus, she’s not exactly not the reason you have body image issues to begin with. What is she trying to do? Doesn’t she see how this affects you?
This is normal, apparently. It’s a psychological phenomenon dubbed Holiday Regression.
Around the holidays, the idea is all the sensory cues, from the people you’re around to the smells of home to the feeling of sleeping in your old childhood bedroom, create an environment where it’s incredibly easy to slip back into a younger version of yourself.
“We may have shifted in our adult life because we have new relationships and a new sense of ourselves,” clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone told CNN.com, “but going back for the holidays, being with your parents and sleeping in your old room, that’s what’s going to trigger you and bring back all those old feelings. Not on a conscious level, but it can put you in that frame of mind, and it can put your parents in that frame of mind, too.”
See, it is your parents’ fault!
So, let’s say you lost your cool, and you feel atrocious. Or still angry. What now?
First off, you want to figure out why you reacted the way you did. Is it just holiday stress or more likely, is it old anger or resentment that got triggered?
“We tend to fight with our loved one about the same few things over and over in different forms—content might change, but context rarely does,” clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica L. Dubron told Upworthy.
“I frequently tell patients that people generally stick to their brand and we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration by thinking that something we say or do will magically change them,” she continued.
Okay, fair, but what about those hurt feelings you might be left with? Or maybe a feeling of guilt from overreacting?
“For hurt feelings, simply identifying what happened is important. If this is holiday regression, there is power in recognizing that, honoring that, and sharing what happened with someone supportive. If you feel hurt, let yourself feel exactly that. It’s a physical sensation that will subside if you allow yourself to experience it,” Dubron said.
“Guilt is different in that you may benefit from doing something to make amends. You can’t control how the other person will react, so just think of what you need to do to feel like you’ve taken accountability while at the same time being considerate to the person you feel you’ve hurt,” Dubron told Upworthy.
Dubron explains this could look like having an in-person conversation, which she generally feels offers the best chance for communication and repair, or sending a short message in your chosen form of communication if the intensity is still hot. “Keep the message short, sincere, and unequivocal in the accountability you are taking,” she said.
If you’re feeling stuck, says Dubron, the key is to “ask yourself, in a year from now, what would you have wanted you now to do? Most of the time, we ultimately don’t want ourselves to die on the hill of any holiday conflict. Letting go is not usually done in an instant. Like forgiveness, it can take time,” Dubron added.
Completely sensible and reasonable. Like you!
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