Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

The 12 days of Christmas

Well, its that time of the year again; the Yin and Yang of human emotions. On the one hand the great pleasures and joy of holiday time-giving, the family being together and indulgence. On the other hand, the stresses associated with holiday time-giving, the family being together and indulgence! Is it no coincidence that appointments at the clinic go down before Christmas when people have so much to do it is known that admissions to psychiatric hospitals go down during war time or major disasters; presumably there is much on which to focus and there is a need to band together as a community. Christmas would have to rate up there with a major crisis and, logistically, about the same dimensions as the invasion of Europe we have been on a war footing for weeks! Then, after Christmas, like after a disaster, appointments go up as the effects take hold.

Like the 12 days of Christmas, there is a countdown to the big day. It begins, paradoxically, with paying off the credit cards for November the bills helpfully come in just as you are thinking about the Christmas splurge. You realise that your wife (if you are a male) has already done her shopping and the cost is about the GDP of a small South Pacific nation. You, of course, will be rushing around as the shops are shutting, procrastinating and having a panic attack about those last three presents, one of them for your spouse. Then you find the strip on the card has worn out and you cant get any cash. It gets worse as the giving season progresses and the discussions about credit card balances always make great dinner table entertainment for the kids for at least three months.

Then there is the office Christmas party. Despite telling yourself beforehand to take it easy and go home early, you drink too much and tell someone, usually the boss, what you really think of them. Next, you remember that you havent organised your annual Christmas party at home for friends those same friends that never seem to have a party any time during the year and frantically call all and sundry to see who you can round up. But you forget to invite your very helpful and friendly next door neighbour who then rings up the police out of spite when the party is in full swing with the six people who turned up.

Counting down: there is the panic when you realise that if you send the presents and cards to relatives overseas today they might get there around Easter; then leaving the Christmas decorations to the last minute means it is all done in a rush and falling off the roof after electrocuting yourself while trying to get the fairy lights to work is always great fun for the kids and the neighbours; and, dont forget to book the camping site for the holiday starting on Boxing Day, which you forgot!

Organising the Christmas day lunch is always a treat and can lead to serious marriage counselling. There is always at least one relative, often a whole tribe of them, on your partners side of the fence, of course who you cant stand. Youd rather spend the day helping sort rubbish at the council tip and your spouse is happy to oblige. And dont forget not to sit Aunty Agnes next to Uncle Bob she hates him and he always gets tipsy and plays with her leg under the table. Then there are the brats who almost empty the swimming pool after dive bombing all day if they didnt pee in it there would only be six inches of water left. One of the same little terrors will almost choke on the stupid and ancient three-penny bits that gran put in the pudding but forgot to warn anyone about until little Johnny is coughing up his left lung onto the table. Dont you love recent additions to the family who dont tell you they are allergic to shellfish? This necessitates a frenetic rush to hospital as they have an allergic reaction to the shrimp paste you put in the curried chicken. This will invariably be a relative who you do not get on with and who then reminds everyone for a million years about how you tried to murder them.

As we move towards Christmas we generally look forward to it all. I suspect that, for adults, this is simply regressive behaviour in which we are unconsciously recalling the thrill of Christmas from our childhood. Afterwards we swear well do it completely different next year.But, like child birth, we seem to repress the anguish somehow and do it all again next year. Greetings of the season to you all and good luck!


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