Christmas time can be the discount bin of emotions. There is the occasional gem but there is a lot of stuff that is no bargain. Yes I am talking about the neon leg warmers of feelings, guilt. In recent years I’ve been a little more savvy in my approach to my finances for Christmas. I put aside a set amount a month and create a budget. By Christmas time I know what I have to spend on everything from gifts, food, travel and clothes. Since I know the amount I will have, my brain has a framework and things seem to slide in rather neatly. That is the financial side. The other part, the emotions thing, can occasionally grinch it all up for me. It doesn’t just leave me with a curled lip patting my little dog while looking down on Whoville. It tends to push me down the mountain and bundle me in any layers of guilt I might roll across. In the past the temptation was to spend without a budget because I didn’t have any money anyways. Excellent logic. Now the temptation is to purchase that one extra thing. I say I do this because I want to give and that is true. I say that those I love are worth it. They are but honestly I also want to feel good and pretend that I’m not as pinched as I am. Gift giving season makes me think about my finances and I don’t want to. Worse I do not want anyone else to know that I cannot buy them the ultra deluxe turnip twaddler with the GPS feature. This is when the worst of the guilt appears. It is the irrational guilt, the things over which I have no control, the things I should not carry, that jumps right into my shopping cart. This is the big ticket item. Out of anything you pick up this season this is the one you cannot afford. You have to put it back.
The real harm in this sort of guilt is that it usually brings its seedy little friend judgement. We label ourselves for things that are out of our control. I feel guilty for not being able to live up to some artificial standard. I feel I have failed and it must be my fault. Rationally I know this is not true and it is this truth that has to guide my feelings and behaviour. I have to switch from distorted thinking to accurate thinking. A great blog post on doing this is Renee Jain’s http://blogs.psychcentral.com/stress-better/2014/11/forget-positive-thinking-try-this-to-curb-teen-anxiety For this Christmas season I want us all to receive the gift of freedom from unreasonable guilt, the freedom from judgement that should have never been.