The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Thanksgiving marks the starting bell for the holiday season. Eat, spend, drink, party, rinse, lather, repeat.
Even if it sometimes feels like forced gaiety, consumerism, and high expectations – the holidays are in fact a special time. Collectively, at this time of year, we do some of the most important work of being human – we step out of busy lives and spend time with our families, loved ones, friends. We come together at parties, dinners, spiritual communities, and gather around trees, candles and gifts.
That said, the high expectations of the holidays can sometimes make for a shiny wrapped package that doesn’t deliver. Just like a narcissist. The ongoing emptiness of a narcissistic relationships can feel like psychological coal in your stocking.
Narcissists exert a unique power during the holidays – for the other 11 months of the year – it is usually their way or the high way, but during the holidays – when the needs of many people have to be simultaneously balanced, their selfish, unaware, and entitled behavior can sap the holidays of joy and in fact fill them with anxiety.
You know the drill:
• Being overcontrolling and requiring that everyone open holiday gifts in a certain order or requirements about table decorations, house guests, meal times, menus.
• Complaints about thank you notes and other missteps from the year before
• “I don’t want to drive all that way to see your elderly aunt”
• “I have a last minute deadline –tell her we can’t come to her party”
• “Please take care of buying the presents for my family……” (and then after you do it) “you bought her what?”
In the narcissists’ worlds – the holiday cards usually look better than the reality.
Too many people turn a potentially joyful time of year into a train wreck by becoming too wedded to expectations and losing sight of what is important –human connection, family, friends, sharing, self-reflection, slowing down, shorter days, and a world draped in lights and even hope. Narcissists tend not to be strong in any of these suits, and can often dampen the holidays to a point of dread. Just like the rest of the year, the holidays can turn into a time of “appeasing the narcissist.”
So how can you keep the Happy in Holidays when you have a narcissistic spouse/parent/sibling/friends/in-laws?
1. Manage expectations. You know how your narcissist(s) behaves during the holidays (and the rest of the year) – do not expect this year to be ANY different. Ensure that you work around him or her, find the joy in the moments, don’t allow your pleasure to be hijacked, and be prepared for the usual behavior.
2. Reach beyond yourself. This is a great time of year to start giving to others – volunteer – at a food bank, toy drive, veterans’ organizations, hospital, facilities that work with the elderly. Giving to others contextualizes the holidays and fills them with meaning (rather than mindless hustling). Then carry it forward into the rest of the year.
3. Prepare. You can set a clock on the typical last-minute disappointments your narcissist will bring. Not only prepare yourself psychologically – but plan on doing the lion’s share of the work – gifts,decorating travel plans etc. (and prepared to be criticized). Get your shopping, decorating, planning done early – and let go of the fantasy that the narcissists will play nice
4. Self-care. Don’t let the holidays run you ragged. Keep exercising, take walks, rest, enjoy the decorations, bake with your kids, connect with friends. Trying to please a narcissist at any time of year is tough, at the holidays it may be impossible. A stronger “you” can better manage the emotional roller coaster.
The holidays are full of myths – Santa Claus, his helpful elves, and the idea that some magical holiday blessing will alight and your narcissist will turn into a sweetheart. It’s more likely that Rudolph and his red nose will show up. Don’t get lost in the fantasies, and take solace in gratitude for some of your realities. Don’t let the narcissist draw a shade over what could be a very sweet time of year.
There is always the new year to get it right……
Tags: expectations, holiday, Narcissism