Thanksgiving Holiday, Family Dynamics and Your Inner-Critic

By Nico Gurley

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks and being together with your relatives to
enjoy one of the biggest and most elaborate meals of the year. Yeah right! If this is the case then why do so many people dread this holiday and its activities so much? Well if you’re the one hosting the Thanksgiving diner you probably find yourself overwhelmed with all the details. Making sure the house is pristine to avoid any back handed comments from those present who always like to poke at any flaws, all the preparations for the meal itself, because even though it is traditional for guest to bring a contribution to the party, it all falls back onto the host if anything goes wrong.
Then we get to the actual family dynamics and having to deal with those
questions you cannot stand to be asked: “When are you going to find someone to settle down with?”; “Any luck finding a job?”; “Why aren’t you using that gym membership I got you for Christmas last year, more often?”…. How can people that have known us for so long and know the questions will make us see red, year after year, insist on turning what should be a happy gathering into a full out verbal brawl? They must enjoy it, or is there some other reason for this annual, inevitable line of questioning?
Also, why do these questions bother us so much? Probably because they have
the ability to activate our inner-critic, that voice inside your head that always finds something wrong with you or what you are doing. After all, we are our own worst critic. As functional human beings, we have developed an ability to tamper or ignore this inner voice all together so that we can go about our days without being completely constrained by self doubt, which would most often be considered a good coping mechanism. However, when our family members or in-laws bring up the questions we have been avoiding or ignoring all year they reactivate our inner-critic and its self-questionings with a fury. How dare they?!?
Now you find yourself having to deal with all the feelings you worked so hard to
suppress after last year’s holiday season. The stress and anxiety brought on by these feelings turns into anger, some of which you direct toward the relatives that unearthed the feelings, but some of that anger may end up being directed at yourself for not actually doing anything to really satisfy that inner, critical voice. The problem with being angry at yourself is that it becomes a perfect recipe for depression or despondence, often further propagating the original problem leading you into a vicious circle effect: “I’m miserable because I can’t get a girlfriend, I can’t get a girlfriend because I’m miserable”; “I can’t get my shit together because I don’t have a job, I don’t have a job because I can’t get my shit together”…
That said, you could continue you down this road, year after year of going
through the same routine or you could try tackling the problem at the source. By talking to a mental health professional to address these issues you are making the first move to put an end to your annual cycle of the emotional roller-coaster and taking charge of and maintaining your sanity for the remainder of this and future holiday seasons.

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