It’s mid-October, and I’ve already managed to run over a Christmas display with my shopping cart at the grocery store. Most of me believes it was an accident, yet there is a part of me that felt something twisted and naughty toward the cardboard Santa I flattened.

I love the holidays, don’t misunderstand; but I also realize that for many, holidays are fraught with repressed emotion, easily activated by the traditions of the past.

A special holiday song, a scent, or even a cardboard Santa can trigger the hard stuff, particularly if we’ve experienced a recent loss or are living with unaddressed emotional pain.

The part of me that felt a tingly, pleased sensation after my encounter with Santa—as if justice had been served—is the part of me that realized that some, not all, marketing machines know exactly how to use our repressed emotional pain as a way to extract money from us because we are easy targets this time of year.

They know we need stuff for the holidays and many of us have specific due dates, such as Hanukah, Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Marketers know how to push our emotional pain triggers and then we react to the unconscious discomfort by purchasing a goodie, or the latest, greatest dinglehopper, that is, of course only on sale that day, so that we feel temporary relief from the discomfort it originally triggered.

We will pay for temporary relief almost anywhere we go.

It’s a game we will lose if we are not in a good place coming out of summer. And every year, marketing strategies are so successful that they start earlier with the gimmicks—Santa is out in October. Yet, the answer is not cynicism.

This year, we can level the playing field by refusing cynicism—to the contrary—we will enlighten this season. The light in us is bigger, much bigger, than the pain.

You are not your pain. You are not your choices.

The following is a repost of a piece I wrote last year as a guide to making it through this season and coming out with your integrity intact in January.

We can do this!

As I began enlightening, I saw the big thing that we all have to see to dare to change our lives and metaphorically eliminate the victim/powerless/reactive mind-body.

It was my eat, pray, love moment, minus the trip to Italy, and Javier Bardem, and the best-selling novel. 

It was one of those moments that instantly changes your life. I call these tiny moments of big clarity. Huge clarity. I saw myself as the world did—a victim of life. That’s how I felt, too.

The world felt harsh and cruel, and every choice I made was a reactive choice that I thought would ease the pain. In some cases it worked for moments, yet it was always temporary. Oh, and then there were all the unwanted consequences of those choices down the road.

Spent too much, gained too much…Sound familiar?

However, that was only part of what I saw—and it wasn’t the worst part. The realization that made me finally begin to do something about my behavior was this: When we engage in victim behavior, we also engage in villain behavior. You can’t embrace just one or the other.

When we believe we have been victimized or have endured experiences of trauma, and feel powerless to change, we are reactively, and almost continually, reaching out for some sort of relief.

We are not designed to live in pain.

These behaviors are ways to control others and medicate the mind-body state. This is what the victim state looks like.

Living as victims, which is how we feel, we are very difficult to live with, creating very challenging worlds for the people who care about us and count on us.

Our unconscious reactive behavior creates real stress for children, marriages, and friends. We are not the people we want to be for them—many times we become the villains in their worlds.

I felt like a victim, yet was acting like a villain to others.

Every perspective, every choice I was making was that of a victim. The clue to recognizing whether your story is one of a victim or a villain is asking yourself: “Is this something I was ever supposed to control?”

My stories sounded like, “I’m not happy because the weather is awful.” This was the cover story for being emotionally activated and not knowing the real reason. (People who complain about things no one can control are so much fun to be around, right?)

I would then react to the story and the mind-body pain by eating, drinking, or spending as ways to distract myself. These coping mechanisms gave me a sense of relief.

Our victim/villain stories are dangerous because they imply we are ever powerless. The more we tell them, the more they fossilize within us; we use them to justify the chaos of our current lives. Then we set up a life based on feelings of powerlessness and we make choices that powerless people make.

In the victim/villain mindset, we make choices as if the choice itself will cure the powerlessness. We think that we can choose enough safety to feel powerful again. Enough insurance. Enough money. Big dogs, and fences, and guns. I’ll find Prince Charming and I’ll be okay.

All choices made from reactive states bring more reactivity, more chaos, and ultimately, more regret.

Our choices cannot relieve our feelings of powerlessness—they are often amplified manifestations of powerlessness.

The practice of considering choices only teaches us that we really don’t know ourselves. The sooner we address this, the sooner we heal.

I launch this post again before the season of tinsel and fruitcake, aka, the official season of reactivity and choice.

Here’s the good news. At some level, we always know what to do, but mask this deeper understanding with habits of reactivity. The way to a wonderful holiday is to become aware of our reactivity while moving through the season.

Enlightenment (knowing yourself) begins with bringing awareness and clarity to all the tiny moments of choice. Healing from your reactivity and discomfort is about very tiny moment-to-moment wins. A breath in, instead of a lashing out. Hot baths. Slow intentional dialogues with loved ones.

Just like me, when you see what you are actually doing with clarity, it is easy to make a choice for the good of everyone.

When you know what to do with your life, you will still be making choices, but they won’t feel like choices.

Here is my quick gift guide to you as we approach this sacred season.

  • First, I would like to remind you that it was never your job to make others happy—it doesn’t work that way. We can only do that for ourselves. They can only do that for themselves.
  • We make only offerings of the heart. This act may involve money and malls, but is to be heartfelt, free of obligation. The offering or gift needs to be one that honors your family’s life as well as the lives of others. It must be a win-win or it is a no-no.
  • With that rule in mind, you realize that any gifting must come from a place many of us have trouble accessing these days. Currently, heart disease is the number one cause of death in most countries. In the spiritual world, heart dis-ease is about isolation in an effort to protect ourselves from a world that has hurt us. Think The Grinch. We self-protect because we’ve been hurt, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless to heal.

If you can’t give from the heart this season, then you need to give yourself the gift of help.

The BEST GIFT people will receive from you this season is a happy, healthy you.

If you love them, you must first love yourself.