It’s Christmas Eve and shops will be heaving as people search for any last minute presents they they ‘need’ to get for someone they forgot or someone they have ‘under-bought’ for. My husband and I had the conversation last night as one of our son’s presents hasn’t arrived – do we get him something else just in case? Is there enough?
Of course there is enough – he’s only 7 for goodness sake!
And yet there’s the constant niggling that perhaps there isn’t. I have been learning a bit recently about values that become beliefs, that in turn produce behaviours. It’s a common enough theory in psychology. The values you learn between birth and 7 influence most, if not all, of your behaviours for the rest of your life. So what is it that makes me want to buy, buy, buy and conversely get, get, get for those around me at Christmas?Well let’s take a step back. A couple of years ago we decided to donate to the Phillipines’ relief fund instead of giving anyone presents. We also said we were happy not to receive any. I then expected to lie back in the dappled light of righteousness and a job well done. Instead I couldn’t shake this awful feeling that I had done wrong by my friends and family, and desperately missed the presents that could have been. Why? It certainly wasn’t a logical reaction.
My theory is that the need to give and receive presents is rooted in the Christmas story: 3 wise men (i.e they knew what they were doing) travel from afar to give expensive gifts to the New born King. So for at least 2000 years the giving of gifts is a mark of respect and an indication of the value of that person. The more expensive and lavish the gift, the more value that person has to the gifter. That’s quite a premise, repeated over and over every year in every Nativity scene and each time the story is told.
Since I was raised in a version of a Christian tradition, have my behaviours reflected this story? I think so. From a small girl, getting and giving the ‘right’ present has been an important indicator of how much I am loved and I love. Putting it starkly like that makes me realise how illogical and silly that belief and behaviour is. It’s a belief that drives all of our mental Black Fridays, Red Tuesdays and Pink Mondays and puts us and our planet all under unnecessary stress.
It will take time for me and my family to change our behaviour around Christmas and subsequently around birthdays, but the change is already happening. They key is to realise permanently changing any behaviour will only happen if you understand why you do it in the first place.
If you are thinking about why you behave in certain ways every Christmas, maybe look at what your beliefs are behind them. Self awareness is the first step to making lasting positive change for yourself and the planet.
Merry Christmas and all the best for a peaceful and self aware 2016