woman sad holidays

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I dream of fun family gatherings, the magic of Christmas morning, twinkly lights, creating fond memories, feelings of love and appreciation… All of that seems entirely possible as fall winds down and Thanksgiving approaches. 

Feeling used

Then I put a lot of effort into a full-out traditional Thanksgiving meal and end up feeling kind of used. Dr. Jonice Webb writes about this in her article 9 Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Makes Your Holidays More Difficult. She says, “When your parents failed to notice your feelings and emotional needs in your childhood, they give you the message that your feelings and needs are unimportant. This plays out powerfully during the holidays when you are prone to be too worried about making other people happy, and not paying enough attention to yourself.”

Staying on the outside of the experience

It is easy to get lost in the trappings of the holidays. All the images about the holidays are bright, cheery and warm — like a family and holiday should be, right? We can go through all the card creating, gift buying, gift wrapping, food preparation and holiday entertaining and not really get to experience the cheer and warmth ourselves. We stay on the surface of it all, where all the work and very little of the warm feelings live.

As kids or partners in insecure relationships, we learn that our experience and emotions are not priorities. Perhaps our parents were preoccupied with making ends meet. Maybe we had/have a sick sibling or special needs relative. It’s possible our parents are immature or insecure themselves and never learned how to access their own emotions, let alone foster someone else’s. Maybe our last partner let us know daily they did not respect our opinion. Whatever the reason, we learn to downgrade the importance of our feelings. We focus on tasks or other people’s feelings. 


It feels comfortable to give everything we have so others feel happiness. That is the pattern we have followed for years. It’s familiar and therefore attractive.

We think if we buy enough presents, create memorable meals and shine warmth and love on others, we’ll be rewarded or at least appreciated for our efforts, but quite often our family members don’t have the bandwidth to reciprocate the warmth and attunement. We end up disappointed.

I sound like I’m campaigning for martyrdom. I do believe a good amount of parenting is catering to the young ones. But I also believe a good amount of maturity is learning to reciprocate when someone gives you their time, attention and hot fudge fondue on Christmas Eve. 

I thought I’d feel more connected 

Many families look normal and healthy on the outside. We can look like we’re emotionally connected, but that empty feeling in our chest tells us something different. The excitement of the potential to connect with family members during the holiday break, sadly often leads to disappointment when no emotional connections occur.

Insecure attachment primed for rollercoaster

Insecurely attached people are especially primed for this kind of rollercoaster. We look for threats on the horizon. Our nervous systems pick up novelty and stimulation (conflict is very stimulating) at a masters level. We avoid all of these to keep our systems calm. We people please to keep the peace, but often lose peace within ourselves.

We caretake because that is what got us attention as children. We were little adults who took care of themselves and others. We carry on this pattern today.

How to break the pattern

I hereby give you permission to break this pattern.

Make yourself a priority before your health deteriorates from stress and fatigue. Slow down on the holiday buying and preparing. Keep rest space between tasks and activities. I know how hard it is to pull back. Your family probably won’t like it, but they will like your new happier, more energized demeanor. No more crying in the egg nog.;)

Ask for help. Don’t beat around the bush. I am a world-class bush beater. I continue to work on my requests for assistance. Not too mumbly. Not too bitchy or naggy. Just right, so they’ll help without getting defensive. 

Don’t give yourself away with the Amazon gift cards and holiday newsletter. Stay present and away from old patterns of subconscious people pleasing.

I hope all of you celebrate the season without getting too wrapped up in the trappings. Let yourself feel the experience of it. Get away from the cold surface tasks and into the warmth of the season’s beauty and joy. May you get through a holiday gathering and still feel uplifted. 

Do you get excited and then deflated around the holidays? How do you remedy this? 

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Exciting news! I’m working on an online course about connection. It’s tentatively titled: The Secrets to Creating Connection with Ourselves and Our Partners. I intend to release it in January. Stay tuned for more details. You will be the first to know! 

For now, pick up a copy of my book The Quiet Rise of Introverts. It makes a special holiday gift. 🙂 Click the image below to purchase. Thank you!!