Can the Holidays be Merry this Year?

Dear Vicki: This is supposed to be such a joyful time of year, but try as I might, I always end up sad and depressed around the holidays. And of course, with Covid this year, it’s even worse. I think of family and friends who have passed away from natural causes, and more recently a few from Covid, and I miss the holidays of my childhood. I am an adult who has been very content in her singlehood and happiest alone, but this time of year makes me question whether the effort I put into my legal career at the expense of relationships was wise. I know your blog is about relationships, but do you have any suggestions on how I can get through the holidays this year? I act like all the fuss is a colossal waste of time, but in all honesty, a small part of me wishes I wasn’t so automatically dismissive. I don’t expect to be joyful, but it would be great not to be so down. Signed: Sad in Sycamore


Dear Sad: Bless you for reaching out. The holiday season is a complicated time of year for all of us, especially this year. If we were lucky when young, we had parents who tried to make the holidays as magical for us as possible. We likely didn’t see the sacrifices they made to do this, or the responsibilities they juggled to manage it all. Even if we were this lucky, few of us ever experienced the kind of highly idealized holidays that the advertising world seems to insist is normal. Yet when we admit that we just don’t have the time, energy, or means to meet the expectations they create, we feel like failures.

For those of us whose holiday experiences centered on friends and family, the inevitable loss of loved ones over the years no doubt puts a damper on things. And this year, due to Covid-19, we’re all being encouraged to stay isolated, or at least keep celebrations to a gathering of the immediate household. Naturally, we all long for the magic of more normal holidays and times when we could gather freely with family and friends. 

I want to assure you that these are all normal reactions and responses to our current situation and the procession of life through the years. People come into our lives, and people leave. There are wonderfully magical times, and times of sorrow and loss. That is life at its most basic. But that doesn’t mean we are destined to be victims of the past. There is much we can do to manage our response to the holidays this year, so let’s look at ways you can make a difference for yourself.

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She Wants to be Warm and Fuzzy with People, But Can’t

Dear Vicki: I’m fascinated with the idea that our elemental personalities create nurturing or controlling relationships with other people. And now I’m wondering if the individual elements that make up my own elemental personality create “relationships” among themselves that nurture or control. I ask because I grew up in a household with a narcissistic and often depressed mother and a father whose anger frightened me. In some ways, I felt responsible for my mother and tried to help. I did a pretty good job, too, because I’m a determined (and some might say forceful) person. I also wanted things to be fair for my mom, so I often defended her against my dad when she couldn’t defend herself. I’m a serious gardener and manage a bakery from a back office, which I think means I have Earth as a primary elemental personality, right? But I don’t feel very Earthy around people. I never did growing up, but I want to now. Could something in my personality be affecting this? Signed: Wants to Be Warm and Fuzzy

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Dear Wants to be Warm and Fuzzy: The short answer to both of your questions is yes: our individual personality elements do interact with each other via the Nurturing and Controlling Cycles and they do affect how our personalities manifest. We all have all five of the elemental personalities in our personality make up. And as the Five Elements model suggests, the Metal part of our personality feeds the Water part of our personality, our Fire part controls our Metal part, etc. In ancient Chinese medicine, understanding these relationships was central to using the elements for physical health and healing. And as we’ve covered in this blog for years now, these same interactions can also be used to understand and support both our personal emotional experiences and our relationships with other people. So, let’s take a look at what might be going on for your personality both as a child and an adult.

First, it will help to understand the primary elemental personalities of your parents. Depression and narcissism both sit in the Water element. Depression usually occurs when there isn’t enough energy to be optimistic and hopeful (which are characteristics of the balanced Water personality). Narcissism usually indicates an over-abundance of Water energy. It’s very likely your mother was a primary Water personality, but one that was unable to hold a balance. Anger sits in Wood and usually manifests when there is too much Wood energy, as does forcefulness, so I suspect that, not only was your father a primary Wood personality, but you are, as well. A strong desire for fairness in very characteristic of the Wood personality.

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