Posted by Lissa Carter, LPCA
My clients are rock stars. They do a lot of work, and it pays off. They practice mindfulness daily until their anxiety becomes manageable. They discover the strength to live by their values despite the demands of depression. They show up authentically in their relationships, even when it is hard. And then the holidays hit.
Perhaps for you, as for some of my clients, the holidays are a reminder of a terrible loss.
Or the holidays drive home the unfortunate truth that the people we love the most bring out the worst in us.
Or perhaps all of your self care simply flies out the window in the face of the extra stressors of the season.
If any of this is true for you, read on! Here are four steps that will help you get exactly what you want for the holidays.
1) GET COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, CRYSTAL-CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS SEASON.
Don't fast forward through this part! Set aside some time, perhaps this evening before you sleep, to really settle in and ask yourself what you most want to feel. Joy? Warmth? Authenticity? Comfort? Healing? Adventure? Friendship? Curiosity? Delight? If your light feels really dim (especially if you are grieving) it can help to flip through a few magazines and cut out images that jump out at you. Ask yourself what draws you toward each image. Notice what you yearn for, what tugs at your attention when you are walking down the street. Now put that into words.
Once you are absolutely clear on how you want to feel, do the merlin process.
Legend says that Merlin lived backward through time, which gave him the ability to apply the lessons of his future to his present moment. This exercise achieves a similar result.
Imagine that it is mid-February. You are writing a letter to a friend about how wonderful your 2017 holidays were, and why. Write IN THE PRESENT TENSE about what your life is like now that you have survived the holidays with such grace. Write how it feels to have created the holiday experience you most desired.
Describe what your holidays looked and felt like. What did you feel, smell, taste, see, hear?
It is key that you write this in the present tense! This allows your brain to believe in the reality of these possibilities NOW rather than projecting them into an always-distant future.
“Dear Emily, I am still basking in the glow of the winter celebrations. Somehow, I managed to stay centered and calm throughout the holidays. Somehow, I managed to connect deeply and authentically with my children, in spite of how stressed I was feeling in November. I am so proud of myself for the joy and delight I was able to create by savoring each of the tiny moments of beauty that arose. I asked my family for exactly what I most needed, and they really showed up for me. I feel so grateful and loved, and I really feel that I helped everyone I love feel how much they are appreciated. I had plenty of time to sit still and rejuvenate myself, and I am still feeling nourished now because I was so careful to set aside time for myself to recharge ….”
And so on.
Place this writing where you can see it and take a few moments each day to close your eyes and imagine yourself in the reality you described. This reminds your brain what your intentions are and helps you to prioritize the thoughts, emotions, and actions that will take you in the direction of your desires.
2) CONNECT WHAT YOU WANT TO YOUR DEEPEST VALUES.
If you are anything like me, it is very easy for you to foreclose on what you most want. "Well, it's not realistic for me to have that," you might say, "I should really concentrate on what my partner/parents/kids/boss/political party wants instead."
Of course in the long run, if you are not getting what you want, the chances of your partner/parents/kid/boss/political party getting ANYTHING of value from you are scanty indeed!
To help yourself remember why what you want matters, connect your desires to your deepest values.
For example: I desire, for one hour per day, to be left completely alone.
Now that is a desire that can very easily be foreclosed upon. "Who has the time," I might say to myself, "to spend one hour doing NOTHING!" Or I might think "It's not fair to my partner or my kids to take that time for myself, they see so little of me as it is."
But if I take the time to connect this desire to my value system, I might see something like this:
Alone time is in service to:
the quality of my attention
honesty with my family
It is much harder to foreclose on my alone time when I remind myself that my alone time feeds my spirituality, my honesty, and my ability to give quality attention to my family!
I often conduct a complete values sort with my clients to help them get a clear understanding of what values guide and underline their lives. If you aren't clear on your top values, download this values word list and circle the ones that are most important to you.
3)ASK, ASK, ASK, ASK, ASK.
NOBODY CAN GIVE YOU WHAT YOU WANT IF THEY DON'T KNOW THAT YOU WANT IT. Seriously, setting our loved ones up for success by telling them EXACTLY what we want is one of the kindest things we can do for them.
This year, in the weeks leading up to his birthday, my son wrote a wish list in gigantic letters and taped it to the back of the front door, where everyone had to see it multiple times per day. This worked so well that his sister and his little brother followed suit when their birthdays came along!
By telling us exactly what he did and did not want (quite explicitly....have I mentioned my son is a bit of a character?!) he ensured that he would be utterly delighted by his birthday gifts. And did I resent this? Quite the opposite! I was extremely grateful to be told exactly what my son needed to make him happy.
Now there is something we need to look at here, and that is the possibility that you may not get what you want.
Had my son put "a vacation to Hawaii" on his wish list, no matter how much I may have wanted to make that wish come true, it is not in my power at this time.
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN HE SHOULDN'T WRITE IT DOWN. Who knows when the opportunity for a trip to Hawaii might drop into our laps? And even if it will never, ever be possible to take my son to Hawaii, I now have the opportunity to connect with him around that desire.
"Why do you want to go to Hawaii?" I might ask him. And thereby learn that my son has an interest in surfing. Or hula dance. Or the geological formations of volcanoes. And those are interests I can follow up on, even by doing something as simple as checking out a library book on the subject, to show my son that I care, and he is heard.
Maybe what you want the most is something you can never have, like one more hug from your parent who passed away last year, or for a broken relationship to be repaired. Stating this out loud is the first step in healing your grief. It is okay to state your impossible desires; they help you understand what you most value. Then, slowly, you can begin to imagine how you might get those needs met in ways that aren't impossible.
Next time someone asks you "is there anything I can do?", be your own fairy godmother. Speak up for yourself. Ask for exactly what you want.
say: "Yes, actually, what I want is ....."
and be as clear, descriptive, and concise as possible:
one hour per day completely to myself.
for someone else to do all the dishes for the month of December.
to feel as special and important as I did when my mom was alive.
tickets to Hawaii.
a pair of mittens that keep my fingertips warm.
one dinner free of arguments or sarcasm.
a cup of tea in bed tomorrow morning.
You get the idea!
4) SAVOR EVERY TITCHY MOMENT OF BEAUTY
Now that you have clearly defined your desires, connected your desires to your values, and asked for what you want, LET IT GO. Tape that list up to the back of the door or stick it to the refrigerator with a magnet and turn your full attention back to the moment you are living now. You don't want to miss your wishes coming true!
Maybe your desire for a holiday filled with love and intimacy is being met in this very moment by your pet cuddled up on your feet. Maybe your deep wish for solitude is actually happening right now, as you read this post!
Take the time to really savor and breathe in the moments of deep beauty. Give them ten full seconds of your time. Joy will expand into the space you give it!
Try these four steps: getting clear on what you desire, connecting your desires to your values, asking for what you want, and savoring the good that comes your way.
You are worthy of every good thing! May your holidays be blessed with deep rejuvenation, joy, and warmth.
and if, for whatever reason, you still aren't exactly sure what you want, we have an idea for you!
Maeve and I spent some time dreaming up exactly the retreat we most wanted...a hibernation, a deep drift into slow spacious time, with plenty of naps and endless cups of tea and many opportunities to wonder and wander and dream and meditate... and acres and acres of open wilderness for wandering in...and of course someone else would cook delicious food for us, and there would be circle dancing and yoga classes and herbal footbaths if we wanted them...
So. Here it is, Inner Light Counseling Collective's First Annual Retreat. We hope you can join us. And if you don't know how you could possibly take the time/spend the money, DON'T FORGET TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT! You are worthy of every good thing.
I always love to hear from you. What are you facing in the holidays this year? What do you most hope for? Comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.