Thanksgiving is upon us
There are no change of colors in So. Florida; no falling leaves unless you have Oak Trees garnishing your yard; no more pumpkin patches and hardly any leftover candy! So, what’s next? Turkey, trimmings, ham, sweet potato pie, and much more to stuff ourselves. We can look forward to gathering together with family and friends, Black Friday, the storm having passed without too much damage and lots of Alka Seltzer! Of course, there will be football, pumpkin and apple pies, and turkeys grateful they were passed by; bellies full, some added weight, a change of temperature and much to be thankful for. Best of all, the elections are behind us!
On the other hand, many will be without friends and family. Many will be alone, without turkey, trimmings and pumpkin pie. It’s a time to reach out with a generosity of spirit and help those who are alone and deprived of what we have. It’s a time to give, a time to share, a time to forgive and a time to be grateful!
What does is mean to be grateful?
Each of us have our own way of giving thanks on this festive day of Thanksgiving. In our family, we stand around the decorative banquet table, filled with a horn of plenty, food prepared by each family member and endless chatter. We hold hands, with hearts filled with an abundance of joy, feeling the love and connection. Each of us says something they are grateful for. We give grace for what we have.
The Value of connection!
Whether you spend the holiday with family, friends, neighbors or alone, we need to have connection. If you know someone who is alone, reach out and invite them to your holiday dinner. If you are alone, reach out and find a place where you can be with others. There are many places where you can join others to celebrate Thanksgiving.
We are hard wired for connection! If we disconnect, we go into crisis. Those alone, without connection will walk a slippery slope. Our brains are hard-wired for connection. It is the only organ in our body that cannot self-regulate. We need another brain to regulate our own. To be isolated, alone without another, is to be deprived of a secure attachment. Having a secure attachment begins in the womb. Babies in the womb know if they are wanted. Studies have shown that the mood and state of mind of the expectant mother can be neurologically felt by the embryo. What happens after birth will determine how and if a secure attachment is established. This takes two parents! In the US, ~90% of women deliver a child and ~20% of those women will develop a mood or anxiety disorder during or just after pregnancy. This is an extraordinarily high rate of mental illness. Mental illness during and after pregnancy harms mothers, their children, and their families. (Jonathan Powers, MD. PhD.)
There are those mothers who may not have wanted a child or are not mature and ready for parenting, unable to create and maintain a secure attachment. Without a secure attachment, a child will grow up looking for love and attachment in any way possible–hence, addiction, depression, anxiety and codependency. Without a secure attachment, the success for healthy relationships will be almost impossible without help. We repeat the past unconsciously. Freud called this Repetition Compulsion; Alice Miller, MD called it the Art of Absurdity. The truth is, we need each other. I am not talking about codependency; I am talking about connection.
This is why I chose Inner Child Work to be the most predominate modality in the work I do with individuals and couples. For a relationship to be successful, the wounds and trauma from our early childhood development must be resolved to achieve good results in our relationships—that includes our spouses, life partners, couples, children, friends and co-workers. A secure attachment means you had good role modeling. Good role modeling means you saw the value of good communication in your family of origin. How did your parents resolve their conflicts? Did they talk things through or did you experience the silent violence? Was the relational space in their relationship polluted? How did it feel growing up in their relational space? We only know what we know. If you did not have parenting that included good communication and conflict resolution, you can be certain unless you have professional help, you will repeat what you know.
What can you do to break the multi-generational toxic shame?
To know only what you know from your family of origin is very self-limiting. If you have an open mind and recognize the self-destructive behaviors as a pattern that is interfering with the quality of your life and your relationships, it’s best to seek professional help and learn new ways of communicating and expressing your feelings. You must be in touch with your feelings. Too often due to a lack of a secure attachment, we don’t know how we feel. We don’t know what we want and what we need. We have lost connection with ourselves. In order to know the correct way to communicate, using fair fighting rules and more, you must have an open mind, be willing to admit you have unresolved issues that keep cropping up and be willing to learn new ways to strengthen your relationships and marriage. Having a closed mind will only keep you stagnant and rigid. Ask yourself if you would rather be right than happy!
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection.
This holiday is a time for reflection on your state of happiness—reflection of what you need to do to make yourself happy. We each have and deserve that right; the right to be happy. Only you can effectuate making yourself happy. It may mean disappointing others, hurting others, angering others, even losing others. Decide if your have the right to make yourself happy despite the effect it may have on others. Being a martyr will never make you happy! If you have difficulty in giving up a self-proclaimed trait of being self-sacrificing, its time to get help. We only have one life to live. Everyone wants to live a long life, but nobody wants to get old. If you live a long life, you will get old. Learning and accepting the aging process is the best way to get old. Giving yourself permission to be happy is your right and your choice! If it’s guilt and toxic shame that prevents you from achieving happiness, then find ways to eradicate the guilt and shame. Whether you were indoctrinated by your religion, your family of origin or self-imposed, its time you learn to have the pursuit of happiness. You are intitled to it in the Declaration of Independence and I’m suggesting it as well. If you can’t make that happen, seek professional help. The seeds of discontentment can only be eradicated by you, or else they will surely blossom. You just may learn a new way of living your life.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It may not be a reality for you, but know that you can create and maintain it if you make that choice! Like Nike says: Just do it!
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. In private practice since 1978, she specializes in individual and couple’s therapy, grief therapy, EMDR, NLP, Inner Child Work and codependency. Learn more about her services at www.joanechilds.com.