Daddy Humbug

8 Dec

Letterbalm Pitiful Christmas TreeDear LetterBalm: Christmas for my family is very stressful, mostly because of me. I get annoyed, stressed and moody. My wife and kids have to wait to put up decorations and hide the wrapped gifts. My daughter has to browbeat me to buy my wonderful wife a gift – I give my daughter money, and she buys and wraps it. I can’t help myself. My irritation and bad mood last through New Year’s Eve, when I finally feel better (and we can take the family photo for next year’s Christmas card). The only year I felt good about Christmas was five years ago when we all went to the Bahamas for a vacation and didn’t have any of the traditional trappings. I don’t understand why I feel this way. It makes me sad to make what should be a happy time for my family such an ordeal.

–Scrooge on Steroids

Such a shame that your moods spoil the merriest day of the year. Do sit quietly and reflect on your childhood. What happened during the Yuletide? Christmas is fraught with emotion and meaning at the best of times. Was there religious conflict or fighting in your family during Christmas? Skinflints who didn’t want to spend money on greeting cards, cookies, decorations, and gifts? Smart-alecks who mocked the season? Think carefully because it sounds like you were damaged at a young age by a skewed meaning of Christmas. Ms. L.B. advises two things: first, enlist the help of a cognitive therapist to break this dysfunctional pattern and help you learn to accept the holiday, and second, sit down with your family and explain why you’ve been the Master of Humbug:

Family, it’s about time I explained why Christmas is such bad time for me. Throughout grammar school and high school, every Christmas was a battlefield. My mom and dad – and you know how they can be – fought over everything. Dad didn’t want to spend a penny on gifts and decorations, Mom had some kind of fight going with some relative or another, and she didn’t want to go to their house to celebrate. For me, it was loud and abusive, a nightmare, and I have those horrible memories to this day. Remember when we went to the Bahamas during Christmas several years ago? I didn’t have a problem with the holiday because there was little to remind me of it. Christmas was never happy, and I apologize that I’ve made things so bad for all of you all these years. You don’t deserve this. Well, I’ve told your mom that I’ve started seeing a cognitive therapist who is helping me break these negative patterns. I never realized until now how they were crippling me and stopping me from celebrating with you all.

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