Christmas kit-list

Christmas isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You may even be dreading it – not least because it involves spending time with people who you have a tricky relationship with. I frequently hear people describe a fear of ‘regression’ back to adolescence, or even toddler-dom (these states can feel very similar), after spending a few hours in the close quarters of mum/dad/cousin/aunt – family dynamics can grip very hard, and for a very very long time.

My first question around fears of family festivities is whether you need to be there at all – maybe you really don’t, or at least you can avoid it for one year without great fall-out. But if the price of skipping a usual family Christmas is too great, then do you have to be there for the usual stretch of time? Would it be possible to contract it down at all to a few hours or a day or just a night?

And when you get there, I know that insight isn’t enough. It doesn’t help just to know that we may get intensely annoyed or upset by another, it can help to prepare ourselves for the inevitability. Spend a little time reminding yourself that behind the anger, or annoyance, or other upset, there is an inevitable vulnerability that only you can attend to now. Give yourself some compassion for the younger you who still feels an injustice in the face of another. Most people find this a really difficult thing to do, so the next best thing may be to imagine you are someone else – another young child in distress, who is far easier to comfort.

The other trickier bit is to believe that we are all doing the best that we possibly can – and this includes the people who upset us. This doesn’t mean we have to let them off any hook, but it may work just to get you through a day….