I have to admit that, as a psychotherapist, I have never looked forward to the holiday season. It is a painful time for some, riddled with memories of family violence. Being deployed to a war zone and perhaps enemy fire. Or, in my case, death anniversary dates. As such, it is easy for me to lapse into a bah humbug attitude. It is easy for me to become the Grinch.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is my favorite Christmas show. And by the way I am referring ONLY to the cartoon version narrated by Boris Karloff, not any recent movies. It reminds me that I too can get very grinchy this time of year, mainly becoming cynical, muttering such things as “This season shows people at their worst, defining their worth in terms of stuff.”
Among other things, the Grinch challenges me to examine my heart for resentments as well as for self-pity. I often find plenty of both. But the Grinch also challenges me to open my heart for healing of those resentments and self-pity. For How The Grinch Stole Christmas is after all a redemption story. When the Grinch’s heart grows “three sizes that day”, he was redeemed from his life of self-centeredness and resentment. He found that also in his heart was generosity and a desire to be with people.
I know for many the birth of Christ is significant because He came to redeem us. I still don’t grasp what that means. But I do understand redemption. Any of us who have been freed from addiction know what redemption means. The Grinch helps me to remember and appreciate that I too have been redeemed.
The Grinch reminds me how I can easily isolate myself, especially from those whom I love and, more amazingly, who love me. He reminds me that, if I open myself to the reality that I indeed have “hands to clasp”, I will get a glimpse of the meaning of Christmas.
The Grinch reminds me of my capacity to judge others. He clearly views the people of Whoville to be greedy, only to have that judgement dramatically challenged. He is faced with evidence that he was wrong. He faces the need to make amends and gets to experience the joy of being welcomed and forgiven.
So the Grinch challenges me to by grateful that, as a counselor, I can be of service to people during a difficult time of year. He challenges me to open my heart to healing of resentments and self-pity. He challenges me especially to be grateful for the many hands to clasp with which I’ve been blessed, knowing that, even though those hands may be far away, I can clasp them in my heart.
So, in facing your Inner Grinch, don’t judge yourself. Rather be open to the healing and redemption that can come this time of year as you face your own resentments, your own self-pity, your own isolation. Celebrate the hands you have to clasp and remember what Mr. Karloff says at the end: “Christmas Day will always be/Just as long as we have we.”
Reflection: What is your Inner Grinch like?
Thank you for pointing out that Christmas is not a pleasant time for everyone, especially those who have lost family members, either by biological or violent means. I believe that self pity is not a “wrong” emotion, just as anger is not a wrong emotion. I think we should acknowledge it if it is there, let ourselves feel it, but not stay with it too long. If it becomes chronic, it can entrap us. Resentment COULD be a wrong emotion, because it could indicate that we have not learned healthier, more adaptive ways to cope and grow after having experienced a person or event that harmed us.
Similarly, I believe that the pursuit of “stuff” (material wealth) is not wrong until it blinds us to that which is eternal (i.e., love). As George Clooney stated, “All you really have in the end is your actions. What you have done in your life when it was not convenient”.
Once again, you nailed it! Thank you, sir
My “Grinch” likes to feel sorry for herself, to inventory all that she doesn’t have. Poor me. Missing my delightful, rich, quirky Christmases. Growing up overseas taught me there are many ways to celebrate, and I miss the variety. I miss joy, Poor me.
Then I have to stop myself, relish that I was lucky enough to have had those Christmases that were out of the ordinary. Like the Taiwanese children who came to our door with paper bags on their heads, decorated as temple lions–beautiful, calling out “Trick or Treat.” They remembered Halloween and thought we were at it again.
I have to choose to remember that fondly, rather than longingly. To count my blessings, which include that I was lucky enough to have those experiences and get over that there was no snow or extended family around to complicate it.
I am grateful. My Grinch has receded back into the shadows of her cave. Until next year.