Happy Holidays?
By Barry Brody, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

Every year about this time several of my patients routinely interrupt their therapy to take a holiday vacation. When the holidays are over, they will return to treatment along with their issues and problems.

This always reminds me of my first job. I was just out of college, and I took a position as an attendant on a locked state hospital psychiatric unit. The patients on the unit were hospitalized because they were too disturbed to function outside in the real world. However every year when Christmas rolled around, the most disturbed patients became incredibly normal so that they could be released from the ward to spend the holidays at home with their families. After the holidays were over, they would return to their ways and return to the ward.

I used to think this was a sign of health in the patients I am describing, but now I’m not so sure.

I wonder where do their problems and issues go during the holidays? How can someone take what consumes them for the most of the year and just put it somewhere else for several weeks at a time? If someone can do this sometimes, why don’t they just do this all year round?

I also wonder which is real? The problems and issues or the holiday healthiness?

Here’s what I currently make of this. It’s not a matter of health or disturbance. Most of us are sanely disturbed or disturbingly sane. Most of us have both healthy parts of our personality and not so healthy parts of our personality. It is just a matter of the balance of these parts and the circumstances that determine which part will be in the foreground and which part will recede into the background. Most of us shuttle between these aspects of ourselves. Given the right set of stressful circumstances, most of us will dip into the not so healthy parts of our personality and they will come to the fore, but eventually we will recover and regroup. It’s at these times that we don’t “feel” like ourselves that we say and do things we don’t understand.

So I wish you happy holidays. And if you do “dip” into that not so healthy part of yourself, don’t worry. It will eventually pass. Pass, that is until the next dip occurs. Of course if you ever get tired of “dipping”, there is always the possibility of rebalancing your self in the consultation room.

Barry Brody, PhD, LMFT is practicing psychotherapist in Florida offering telehealth.