Xmas time is coming…. so many people I see seem very unhappy this time of year.
When I was growing up, there was a phrase bouncing around: “The Age of Anxiety.”
As far as a quick glance online, W. H. Auden seems to have popularized (if not originated) the phrase with his book length poem.
Bernstein’s 2nd symphony was based on this poem.
I’m listening to it right now. Very nice.
But I think we have moved way beyond the anxiety of the 20th century.
It seems to me that it is in 21st century America, it is hysteria that dominates public and private discussion, rhetoric and interaction.
So I thought I would share some little anti-hysteria maxims and info today.
First, I want to pass on a definition of maturity:
Maturity: the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny.
What I think this means around Xmas time is focusing more on your own head than other people’s heads.
This means examining our own feelings and sorting them out a bit.
At least that’s how I see it.
In order to think more clearly about one’s own stuff here are some good ideas are to emphasize.
First of all we need to identify and support strength in each other and ourselves not our pathologies.
Sounds easy, but right now hysterical pathology sets agendas in families AND in congress.
I think we need to emphasize challenge in our lives, not seeking comfort. If possible it helps to try not to run away from challenge.
Better to commit oneself to a lifetime project of being willing to be continually transformed by our experiences not running from.
This time of year people seem to be seeking weird levels of comfort with impossible expectations of themselves and others. It is the challenges in life that will help us live life more fully.
Finally it might help to emphasize self-definition (differentiation) over herding.
Right now it seems to me that often people are caught up in group think with the people they think they agree with.
It doesn’t occur to them to rely on themselves, at least not at first.
But the more we try to manage ourselves and quit willing others to change, the more we will be able to take responsibility for our own stuff. After all the only one you can really change is yourself, right?
All of this hard to do in a society that is more oriented toward safety (BE CAREFUL) than adventure.
It helps to remember that usually things are going to be okay.
Christmas hysteria seems to focus on children.
So here are three laws about children and parents.
1. Children who work through the natural problems of maturing with the least amount of emotional or physical residue are those whose parents have made them least important to their own salvation.
I take that to mean that if you’re doing ok, you’re parents probably had a healthy attitude about loving you and bringing you up.
And that if you have children, most of parenting is once again focusing on your own stuff not willing your kids to do a certain thing.
Good to remember that nobody really does any of all this good stuff more than half the time.
Secondly, unfortunately it is the rare child that raises itself above the maturity level of its parents.
Scary but this one seems pretty true. It doesn’t mean one can’t rise above the level of maturity in one’s parents. Just that it’s very hard. And rare.
Lastly, parents cannot produce change in a troubling child, no matter how caring, savvy, or intelligent they may be, until they become completely and totally fed-up with their child’s behavior.
If you’re still reading this and you know me, you have guessed by now that I am basically passing on Ed Friedman quotation and insights.
I usually find myself for one reason or another re-reading this man’s work this time of year.
Heh. Go figure.