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Survive, Transform, Soar! - Issue #90
How To Avoid The Toxic ‘Holiday Hook’
Article by: Sandra L. Brown, MA in SurviveTransformSoar.com | Friday, November 30, 2018
The holidays are coming. If you are feeling hurt or betrayed, it’s painful to see others “making merry” when you are in so much pain. How can you change this?The holidays are stressful under the best of situations. Add to it a dangerous and pathological relationship and you can have a prescription for **guaranteed** unhappiness.

The pathological relationship never lies dormant during the holidays. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with you–of course “just to wish you a Merry Christmas.” He has a million hooks he will use to get you back in…and here’s a big one! Christmas!

A text message of Happy Holidays is not good cheer. It’s a hook. A Christmas card is not a mass card to everyone–it is a targeted approach for you. A gift left on your doorstep isn’t a thoughtful gift–it’s a manipulation because being the good-mannered girl you are, you’ll call and thank him and then he’ll have you on the phone….and it all goes downhill from there.
Hint: That man who comes around bearing gifts during the holidays is not "real."
Then there’s the mistletoe, and the date for New Year’s Eve, and the gift he left for your child or your parent! The holidays are one BIG OP-POR-TUN-ITY for Mr. Opportunistic.

He’ll be testing your boundaries to see if your no-contact rule applies during the holidays. If it DOESN’T apply and you respond to him or send him a text/card/call, you have just taught him where your loophole is. You have also said something very LOUD to him. You just screamed in his ear “I’m Lonely! Come snuggle with me.” And you know what he’s thinking, “You don’t have to ask TWICE!”

Heed the Lure of the Christmas Fantasy
Christmas is ONE day of the year that is laced with a lot of triggering memories. Maybe from childhood where you believe “miracles happen on Christmas” or “everyone should be together then” or the sights, smells and memories of past Christmases with him are rehashing in your mind.

Don’t stay stuck in that ‘air brushed Christmas memory’ — how about you pull out your memory list from the other 363 days of the year and how he behaved then? Not just one night with the twinkle of Christmas tree lights and a ribbon on a gift…that doesn’t make a pathological man stable!

Get out of the fantasy. Christmas has a way of hypnotizing women into the fantasy of his positive behavior and his lack of pathology. Nothing changed because we hit Christmas season. It’s just a BIGGER opportunity for him to hook you.

On The Flip Side, Transform Your Negative Beliefs
The holidays can be enjoyable or miserable, based on your beliefs about them. Negative beliefs can fill you with anxiety or depression during the holidays. If you transform your negative beliefs, you transform your experience. How do you do that? You can do that by:
      • acknowledging your negative beliefs (cognitions)
      • recognizing how negative cognitions have affected your life
      • transforming negative cognitions into positive cognitions with EMDR

A negative cognition is evidence that a traumatic event has had a powerful effect on your life that hasn’t been assimilated or resolved. These negative cognitions can be from childhood events. They can even come from recent events with your abuser. These events are locked in our nervous system in the form of these negative cognitions, plus emotions and physical sensations that feel the same as the day it happened. They can be triggered by holiday people, places and things.
A toxic relationship may have created negative cognitions for you, but you CAN change that.
A negative cognition is a negative belief you have about yourself now in relation to the past traumatic event. The negative cognition is usually inappropriate and dysfunctional. It is usually based in one of four themes:
      • Shame (I am something “wrong.”)
      • Guilt (I did something “wrong.”)
      • Safety (Vulnerability)
      • Control (Lack of choice)

Some examples of negative cognitions are:
      • “I am not good enough.”
      • “I should have known better.”
      • “I cannot protect myself.”
      • “I am helpless.”

This is the negative vicious cycle:
• I was taught, through trauma, how to think, act and feel about myself, reinforced by experiences, family, friends, abusers and society so…

• I am afraid of the world due to my negative cognitions being reinforced and validated by abusive people in my life and…

• I behave in negative ways to gain validation of my shame, blame and guilt, therefore…

• My experiences continue to reinforce the negative cognitions that I was taught to think & feel about myself and others by my abuser(s),

EMDR Is an Effective Tool for Toxic Relationship Recovery
EMDR moves an event from short term memory storage into long term storage. This is where what is useful is learned and made available for future use. The negative cognition becomes less and less vivid and valid with each set of bilateral stimulation (eye movement or tapping or tones).

If you want to make this happen:
1. Go to www.emdr.com , click on “Find an EMDR Clinician”, to find a trained psychotherapist in your area, make an appointment. Go and make it a gift to you for the holidays.
2. If you don’t have insurance, call your local mental health center to find an EMDR trained psychotherapist who works on a sliding scale.
3. Be safe. Do what is safe and good for you during the holidays instead of doing what you think you “should” do.
Channel your sentimentality trait into valuing the treasures in your own heart.
Beware (Be Aware) Your Sentimentality Trait
You know one of the things we found out in our research? You tested unbelievably high in ‘sentimentality.’ What are the holidays all about? SENTIMENT! If your sentiment is on caffeine, what do you think it will do? Be restrained or have a knee jerk reaction because all that sentiment is coursing thru your veins?

One slip up now could cost you a year of trying to get rid of him again. Call a support person and tell them you VOW to them not to have contact this season. Then make plans to fill up your time so it’s not even a possibility.

Sentiment --> Loneliness --> Relapse
I have ‘lectured’ our readers about loneliness because this 4-inch stack of research sitting on my desk that you ladies completed tells me that you lapse and lapse and lapse again when you feel lonely. Holidays induce loneliness. Plan ahead and safeguard. “I was lonely” is not an excuse for starting something that will once again destroy your life!”

Instead, do something wonderful with your kids. Get outside, take a walk, go to a movie with friends, do some scrapbooking, get some of our books to read, go to a nursing home and visit someone! Sit in a chapel alone and count your blessings, walk your dog more, go to the gym!

Do anything except have a knee jerk reaction to your excessive sentimentality gene!!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with new possibilities!

"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions." ~ Bill McKibben 
*  *  *
Sandra L. Brown, MA is the founder and director of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education. She is the award-winning author of Women Who Love Psychopaths and How To Spot a Dangerous Man and is most noted for being the first to research the effects of psychopathy on female partners.
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