Written on Christmas Day, 2016.
This is for all of us who have ever sat through Christmas with our family feeling sick inside.
For those who forced down forkfuls of Christmas Dinner along with unspoken undercurrents of rage, resentment, sorrow, or simply silence.
For everyone who gets depressed this time of year when they are “supposed” to feel cherry and nostalgic. This is for the trauma survivors.
If Christmas is something you genuinely enjoy then this will probably just be upsetting, but it could also be informative.
I never enjoy Christmas nowadays and I stopped celebrating it a few years ago, but this year, today, I felt especially terrible. I felt sad and sick inside all day and didn’t know exactly why.
At first I thought I was simply feeling the resonance of all the suppressed feelings that so many people all across the world are stuffing down in favour of the holiday spirit, right now.
Because our dysfunction and trauma doesn’t go away simply because it’s December 25th.
How many children are, right now, sitting across the Christmas table from that uncle who molested them?
How many adults are returning home to be with the father or mother they fear, or resent, or secretly despise, who beat them and berated them as children, or neglected and repressed them, none of which has never been acknowledged?
How many will go to bed with upset tummies from too much food piled on top of unexpressed emotion?
This, plus the commercialization, the celebration of consumerism, the debt that people will go into in order to manufacture that special experience….
Not to mention screaming, terrified children on Santa’s lap….
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
I’m not into Christmas for all these reasons and more, so I figured that was why I was feeling so sad and unwell, but I just discovered that it was a lot more personal than that.
I decided to take a very hot bath which is often where I will go when I can tell that there is something that needs to be felt into, processed and expressed… but I don’t know exactly what that something is. The weightlessness and warmth seem to lend the subconscious buoyancy and what has been hidden can float up to the surface and be seen. And what did I see?
I saw myself as a child, but not the outward self.
As a kid I thought that I loved Christmas – as far as I knew I truly did. Like any other kid I loved to receive presents and I also enjoyed giving things to others. I remember that magical Christmas feeling of expectation and abundance. That was the outward self and it was the only one that I was aware of as a child.
And there was genuine goodness and love there, for sure. But there was also everything else, which is makes trauma so tricky. It’s often interwoven with good stuff.
Today in the bath I saw, and re-experienced in my body, those unspoken energies. I remembered bits that I had, as a kid, pushed under the unconscious rug.
I remembered the feelings of let-down after it was over. Kind of an empty feeling that I would fill with eggnog and cookies.
And more, I felt the anxiety, depression, explosive rage, and terror that had been present in the undercurrents of that environment.
It was always present, but extra forcefully, and unconsciously, repressed on Christmas in favour of that ‘ol holiday spirit, and that repression and internalization made it even more viscous.
Like a caged beast.
It was like I was seeing a wild animal inside my childhood self – the mammalian self, the body that feels all, especially that which is unacknowledged, and that wants to destroy that entire scene.
So I let it rip.
In my imagination, with all my senses and emotions participating, I killed my family, and destroyed Christmas.
Horribly… this next bit though imaginary is graphic.
Heads flew from bodies, and I strung the Christmas tree with intestinal tinsel ripped from their guts. Blood spattered the walls and I howled with glee as I rampaged through the holiday halls. I felt that primal, victorious satisfaction of the caged, abused beast that has, at last, been let loose to have it’s vengeance.
And boy do I feel better now! For real. In fact I just had a lovely Christmas dinner with my son, my wife, and her parents.
I know this may seem shocking, but perhaps, if you are still reading this, you have a caged beast within you as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love my family and I stay in contact with them, but it doesn’t change the fact that I emerged from my nice, suburban childhood with complex PTSD because of what I experienced. And those internalized traumatic energies stay locked in the brain and body until we find them and allow them to do what they want to do.
Remember, I was just taking a bath. From the outside I was pretty still. This all happened very quietly, and extremely intensely, in the imagination, emotions, and in the felt sense – the sensations of the survival energy being released to finally act.
It’s important to know that this kind of internal annihilation work takes time and practice to do safely without overstimulating the system, which can be re-traumatizing. This practice is also in conflict with many spiritual traditions that say that we must always be kind and compassionate, even in our thoughts – but those traditions do not understand the physiological reality of suppressed trauma and what needs to happen to let it OUT – so we can genuinely be kind and compassionate with others, and more importantly, ourselves.
To read about how to develop this way of transforming the stored-up internalized energies that cause us pain and suffering, check out this article I wrote a while back… sethlyon.com/this-is-when-its-ok-to-annihilate-somebody/
So that was my Christmas. Just another day and a great opportunity to do some healing work and lighten the global load of bullshit just a little.
Here’s to authenticity, and the courage to do what’s right for YOU, even if it flies in the face of what’s expected. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew a thing or two about that.