It’s that time of year again, with the holidays upon us and the expectations we have – consciously or not – about our loved ones and our relationships with them. We probably experience the same letdowns and frustrations year after year, so why can’t we just let go and let it be? Why do we continue to back to the well, and coming up dry?
We are trying to get very important emotional and psychological needs met, and I believe we will try to get them met in healthy or unhealthy ways if that’s all we know right now. Some of these basic needs are feeling loved, known, and accepted right where we are. Sometimes we need to feel needed, to feel smart and relevant, and that others see our gifts and appreciate our passions. We know that belongingness is the new key to longevity, which makes sense since it’s biologically built in for our survival…to connect and feel safe in numbers, not to mention how it impacts our identity.
Having needs met, as Maslow explains in his famous hierarchy, helps the brain calm down and get out of self-protection mode. Some examples of unhealthy ways we can try to get needs met is by acting out when we are hurting instead of revealing what we are feeling. We can become defensive to feel accepted and loved, blame to get someone’s attention when we don’t have the ego strength to sit in our reality, or lash out in anger when we are hurting and feel afraid of being vulnerable and don’t know how to set boundaries. Unmet needs are at the core of anxiety, depression and chronic conflict in our relationships. Since setting boundaries I think go hand-on-hand with getting needs met, letting go is everything.
That is because letting go of what we wished was, rather than what actually is happening, means letting go of control over other people and circumstances. When we sit with reality, and deeply grieve unmet needs, we feel tormented momentarily yet eventually we feel the relief. No more striving to control things deep down we know we never could – hence the anxiety – and sitting with ourselves and honoring our pain. Around the holidays our needs that we may have stepped over or stuffed the rest of the year become glaringly apparent, as we are fed images of lovely, happy holiday gatherings filled with non-stop joy. The contrast can really get to us, and that is why we may struggle this time of year.
So sit for a few moments in the new few weeks and get honest about your very valid needs, and what your loved ones have been truly capable of meeting. Taking responsibility for addressing this can be very empowering as it is. So can working on letting go, which sets them free to be wherever they are, and you to honor what your truth is.