The Hectic Month and Attachment Pain
It’s that time again. We are set to experience the most hectic month of the year for most of us. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can’t wait for the holidays. Or maybe we dread this time. Or, chances are, we are somewhere in between. But, we all have hope that this is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever. The best Christmas ever. And then when we actually spend Thanksgiving and we actually celebrate Christmas, so often we don’t feel jolly and we don’t feel much like bringing joy to the world. So, what do you think, is this year going to be different?
Well, I don’t know what is going to happen with your holidays. But, what if I can do is give some insight from what I am learning about the brain and the holidays from neurotheologian, Dr. Jim Wilder, and why we experience what we experience during the holidays. It is all about the attachments we have with other people.
Welcome to the attachment center of your brain. Brain research suggests that this area of the brain is the foundation for the entire region of the brain that helps us experience and regulate emotions. When this area of the brain is securely attached to others (including God) in healthy joy-filled relationships, we can have tremendous capacity to enjoy life and relationships. We might even call this “love.” When life is characterized by joy and positive emotions it affects every region of the brain. When the attachment center is well developed, everything we think, do or say is changed. When there is high joy, lots of smiles and shining eyes, when we are glad to be together, then no problem, Merry Christmas!
But what if the person you are attached to is missing?
What if they have died, or what if you are divorced, or what if it is an adult child who has moved away?
Whomever this might be, if it is an attachment, your brain doesn’t allow substitutions. If you lose someone you can’t just simply replace them. What you are experiencing is attachment pain.
Attachment pain comes in another way, too. If people you are attached to will not be glad to be with you this holiday season. Or peoples. You see, there are individual attachments and group attachments.
Holidays are miserable if any of those attached people are missing.
And holidays are awful if attached people will not be glad to be with us.
We become unhappy if a group doesn’t get along well.
And the more people who don’t bring joy, the more reason we dread the holiday season.
So, what can we do to make the experience better, generally?
What has been your experience when a loved one was missing at Christmas?
Why We Can’t Just Fix It
There is no built in solution to turn off attachment pain. When we try to just forget about it and pretend it doesn’t matter. This is the Bah humbug approach.
Sure enough, you can eventually convince your brain that you don’t care. Trouble is, your brain will disconnect the thinking part from the feeling part. You will still have attachment pain, but you won’t know it. Then you’ll ask yourself, Why do I feel so blue this Christmas?
With attachment pain, we have little or no control over our defenses. So, we still dread getting together and we look for ways not to meet.
This also, has something to do with our dreams. We all have dreams about what life should be like. We have been dreaming since we were little.
“I am going to dream about having joy when I grow up. I’m going to be happy. Jesus puts joy in my heart. Everyone will like everything about me. I will be popular and people will be happy I am there.”
Nothing bad happens in those childhood dreams.
But, when we grow up, our dreams don’t all come true. If our joy is dependent our dreams coming true, we will be disappointed. And when we have a high degree of attachment pain, everything is filtered by it.
We see kids having joy during Christmas and are full of joy…usually.
But, what about if your child dies or your child is sick? What if you want children but are having infertility issues? What seems to bring everyone else joy, those happy children, isn’t bringing joy for you.
Alright, nice bit of Christmas cheer I’m bringing, huh? Well, God gives us a way to experience joy even during the pain.
Have you or someone you know, had a hard time at Christmas when every around you seems happy? What was it like?
Here’s What Can Happen When You Invite God Into the Season
There are ways God designs, that make it possible to join with him and make progress in addressing attachment pain. For instance, if you are missing someone, try doing the things you think they would want to do during the holiday. Fir example, if grandma has died, bake her favorite cookies. Decorate like she would decorate.
Remember, all good attachments are an expression of God’s love to us. As I receive the love of God, I can become the love of God for others, and I can carry on the love and goodness that God placed in that person, the one I miss so much, even if they are no longer here. When I share the love and joy they shared, they are here.
Whatever was good about them can be shared by me.
And when your dreams don’t come true with some of those around you who aren’t glad to be with you, take that to God. Ask him. God you made me. How are you dreaming for me, God? Who do you want me to be? Who do I want to be? Listen to how he answers. Get a sense of what he might be saying.
Now, if you are being physically hurt or damaged you will need to remove yourself from the relationship for any healing to occur.
But, if it is just an unhappy relationship, it is mainly because you are not being the person you really like to be.
Just be who you are. Your best true self. Go back to acting like the person you would be if you were loved and cared for. How would you act if you were treated like you want to be treated?
Be that person. Go ahead and act like yourself.
Oh, and one more thing. If your pain isn’t too overwhelming, then what if your dream is to start joy in low joy places? That is God’s dream for every one of us. Grace is when God puts his people in the middle of the parts of the world that could use extra joy.
If our dream is to show up in some low joy places where we bring a bit of joy to the world, there’s a chance to grow joy in a way that people don’t really ever dream of. And when you think about it, some of the people we admire most are those who bring joy in low joy places…
When we act like we would act if we were treated like we want to be treated, now might that change the way others see us?