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If you had my family, you’d hate the holidays too!

Holiday rageMany of us look forward to the holidays with growing excitement. We have only fond memories and warm thoughts of family, holiday meals, and merriment. But some of us would vote the holidays off the calendar forever if we could. The holidays don’t give us the warm fuzzies at all. For this second group, the holidays conjure up dark images of depression, chaos, and family arguments.

Traumatic memories are a powerful thing. If you have survived your own family horrors from a time of year that the rest of the world likes to call the holidays, then you know exactly what we mean. Each year at this time you tense your shoulders and wait for the endurance contest to begin, and eventually end – hoping that there won’t be too many consequences to pay when it is all over.

Most people that we have met in this class do not even try to change it; they just accept it for what it is. Indeed, feeling memories of the pain and disappointment of holidays past can overwhelm some folks so much so that they have come to expect nothing different. They report that their life experience has taught them that if they dare hope for anything better they are bound to be disillusioned.

We have learned however, that if we are so sure that the pain of our past will revisit us, we automatically brace ourselves for it, and we are seldom disappointed; the pain returns because that is what we were dwelling on. Someone once referred to this as the “self fulfilling prophesy.”

Memories are real. We cannot un-experience what we have been through. Memories are tattooed on to our hard drive. But still, memories are nothing more than reminders of what was. They are not our present reality. If we keep that in mind, we can approach the holiday season with an open heart and hope for a positive experience.

We cannot un-experience what we have been through, but we can add new experiences to the hard drive to counteract the old traumatic ones. Regardless of the past, holidays don’t need to be something we endure rather than enjoy. Holidays are what we make of them. We can decide to follow our old traditions. We can also decide to create new ones of our own. Our holiday season does not need to run according to some social or family script. If the old script keeps us stuck, let’s write a new one.

We can resolve to make new memories to replace those that hurt us in the past. We can also concentrate on making the holidays special for someone else. When we take the emphasis off ourselves and place it on another, we build the foundation for new, happy experiences and memories of the holiday season.

Gratitude can be one specific very powerful tool that can help us create a new positive holiday season for ourselves and for others. Unfortunately, so many of us feel that we have little for which to be grateful for. Start by making a list of anything that has gone right in the last 24 hours. Try this each day for a few days no matter how down or negative you feel. Then start adding something that has gone right in the last week. Then expand it to a month, by year’s end you will be able to make a list of things that have gone right in the past year. If you keep at this for a short while you can begin to rewire the negative thinking with positivity. Your “self fulfilling prophesies” will begin to travel in an entirely new direction.

We know it is impossible to erase the hard drive. You cannot change your past holidays, but you can change your future ones before they get here.

We would like to know what your relationship with the holidays are. What was it like growing up in your home as a kid? Please share with our readers some of your challenges or questions – or you can share some of your successes and the ways in which you have developed a new attitude and have found peace with this time of year. Please ->>CLICK HERE<<- to leave us a comment.


This article was written by John and Elaine Leadem.

If you had my family, you’d hate the holidays too!

John and Elaine Leadem

John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery. In addition to being the co-directors of Leadem Counseling & Consulting Services, Elaine and John are seasoned therapeutic retreat leaders in working with recovering couples. As a team they have thus far co-authored three books:

In addition, John and Elaine are in the final stages of publishing their two latest masterpieces: Raising the Bottoms: A guide to training professional interventionists, and A Decision to Be IN Love: A therapist guide to treating couples recovering from addiction.

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APA Reference
Leadem, J. (2015). If you had my family, you’d hate the holidays too!. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Dec 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Dec 2015
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