I trust you are all well and enjoying the holiday season. This time of year can be a source of great joy and happiness for many, especially when spent with family, loved, ones or a significant other. For others, however, this time of year can represent a time of great loneliness. While getting together with others to celebrate can be great fun, such gatherings can serve as very painful reminders to those who desire a romantic relationship, but do not have one, of their isolation. These reminders can often have disproportionately intense emotional and psychological impacts on those with developmental diagnoses. Indeed, being reminded of not having someone special to celebrate the holidays with contributes in no small part to increases in depression and melancholy. Sadly this post does not permit an in-depth rehashing of the reasons contributing to their distress, so please refer to my previous post on rejection to get the science behind the the reaction.
Without fail, every year, once the holiday season begins, I encounter many young men, who are despondent over their single status. I also receive many more concerned requests for help for parents who are equally worried, as well as frustrated, about helping their young man cope with the intensity of their psycho-socio-sexual tempest. Why frustrated? Why upset? Even, why angry? Why do parents experience these reactions to their young man's pain? Well, for those wondering why a parent would react this way, it is VERY understandable. Dealing with an individual with a developmental diagnoses often involves huge efforts helping that person manage emotional and psychological dis-regulation. Once the individual has identified that source of angst, they very often will perseverate and get "stuck" on the issue as they try to cope with the distress, often by trying to figure it out. When an answer is found, especially one that does not make sense to them or does not meet with their agreement, the perseveration can intensify.
As parents know, it can be extremely trying to get the person to shift to a different topic or just let it go. Many times loved ones do not have the endurance to continue the struggle and become frustrated, angry, etc. It is very common that this time of year especially generates frustration for loved ones because of the triggering nature socio-cultural expectations of our holiday culture. Being faced repeatedly with not having a relationship, when you have never had one, or have endured a break-up, is likely to trigger a resurgence of thoughts and emotions that may have not been dealt with for a long time. I have worked with numerous parents around their frustration and anger over seeing all the work they have done with their young man, or the work the young man has done in therapy on their own, seem to disappear to be replaced by those perseverative, life disrupting triggers that brought them into therapy to begin with. I have to say, it is also a very discouraging time for me sometimes to see similar situations occur, especially when I have seen a guy make so much progress, only to seemingly fall apart when he sees all of his siblings with their significant other at the once-a-year family holiday get-together. Such an occurrence can be massively difficult for loved ones to cope with, not just their own frustration, but to be available to their young man to help him re-visit his source of socially fueled torment. So, enough blah blah blah from me...what can we do to stay sane managing our reactions to processing a topic that we have dealt with more times we can count (while trying not to pull our hair out), while also helping them cope with their reactions?
Here is a helpful (hopefully) handout to give YOU a hand out figuring what to do. Maybe, you may also find it helpful for other situations as well, even if they are not related to dating and relationships. Either way, I would like to wish you the very best of luck and leave you with this gentle reminder that, even without professional training, YOU ARE THE EXPERT on your young man. Have a blessed Holiday season!