Issue 8 December 2003

Holiday Selves
By Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra L. Stone, Ph.D.

Holiday season is a special season for many of us – and it’s particularly special for certain of our inner selves. It’s a wonderful time for the inner Responsible Parents, the Pushers, the Extraverted Party Person, the Event Planners, the Generous Givers, the Loving Caretakers, and the Pleasers. These have a great time – usually for the entire month of December.

And then, there’s January ….. for many people a time for the letdown, the exhaustion, and for catching up on everything  that did not get done in December. Many times, the post-party time brings with it a sense of overwhelm and general irritability. For others, January is a time of renewal, a time to review our goals and make new resolutions for the year ahead. It feels like a fresh start.

In this month’s “tips”, we decided to take a look at the Holiday Selves – those wonderful selves that give us a great time in December but never think about January.  We’d love to see you have your cake and eat it too – to be able to enjoy the holidays completely, but without the following month’s letdown. How can you go about it?

The January letdown is just another example of what we call  “the slap”in our book Partnering, and in the videos and CDs of The  Voice Dialogue Series. It’s the reaction we get when we let one self make an important decision without getting input from the opposite side.

The secret in life is not what you do, but who does it.  Each of us has our own particular set of primary selves – the selves that “drive our psychological cars”and make most of our daily decisions. If one of these selves makes a decision – any decision – we are likely to get the slap at some point further on down the line from an opposite (or disowned) self. Let’s look at some of the inner selves we mentioned in the beginning to see how this works.

If the Responsible Parent takes over in December, it might sound something like this: “I’m a responsible kind of person and I truly love being in charge. I have lots of energy and it’s not a problem for me to run everything.  I know I’ll do it right; but I’m not so sure about what the next guy is going to do. The holidays are important, too important for me to leave the planning to someone else.”People are usually pretty happy to let this kind of Responsible Parent take care of everything. If this is the part of us that does the holiday, we have a great deal of energy during December, but when everything is over, the opposite self emerges. It’s the less responsible self, one that can delegate and believes that others are perfectly capable of handling responsibility. The slap from this self might sound like: ”How could you tell the others not to worry about the cleanup? You did all the preparation. How could you encourage them to just relax – if they had all pitched in, which they are perfectly capable of doing – everything could be done by now and you wouldn’t be faced with this mess! You are such a sucker; I can’t believe that you let them get away with this!”

When the Pusher takes over, there is a great rush of pride in how much gets done. Later, the slap may come in the form of: “You did what?? That’s way too much. It just wasn’t worth it.”

How about the Party Person? “I like to work hard and play hard! I look forward to the holiday season all year! It’s my time to be with others and to play. It’s great not to have a care in the world for a couple of weeks. I think of it as my reward.”  The slap on the other side might be: “You were so excited that you didn’t finish up here and you didn’t think of planning for your return. Now look at the mess you have to clean up.”Or: “In all the excitement, you forgot to pay your property taxes. You’ve missed the deadline and now it’s going to cost you a big penalty. You just weren’t paying attention – this didn’t have to happen!”

And the Pleaser or Generous Giver: “For me, the holidays are the best time of the year. I love all the hustle and bustle and it makes me so happy to get just the right present for everyone. I just love making this time of year special. It gives me such pleasure to see others happy.”The slap here is your inner Scrooge, who is less than happy when the bills arrive.

What can you do to avoid the slap that follows the holidays? You drive your own psychological car. Try to consult your inner opposites before you make your decisions. Listen to your:

-“Expert at Letting Others Do It”as well as your “Do it All- Responsible Parent”

-“Inner Scrooge (or the Bill Payer)”as well as your “Generous Giver”or “Pleaser”

-“Cautious Planner”as well as your “Party Person”

-“the Beach Bum who’d rather go away to Hawaii than do the holidays”as well as your “Pusher who can accomplish miracles”

– “the Spiritual Self who would like to feel the meaning of the holidays”as well as “the Extravert who loves the parties and the excitement”

Last, but not least, ask yourself: “What would make me happy this year? How might I be cared for?”as well as listening to the selves that only know how to care for others: your “People Pleaser”and your “Caretaker”.

In this way, your decisions will be more balanced, they come more from you rather than from a self. The slap will be avoided as well as a good part of the annual January letdown.

We wish you Happy Holidays and may your New Year be blessed.

Hal & Sidra Stone