I look down at my disheveled clothes, wipe the sweat from my face and wonder, “What just happened??” My head feels like I went twenty rounds. I struggle to focus my vision as blood pulses through my temples and slams against my mangled ear drums. In the silence of my car I can only hear a low, white noise-like buzz ringing in my ears. I barely survived that damn shopping mall. And on a Tuesday afternoon, no less.
As an intuitive person shopping malls are not a winter wonderland. The decorations do not dazzle. Shiny bobbets? Festive music? No thank you. These quickly become painful and invasive sensory bombs. A trip to Ikea or Target can leave me exhausted from a sensory overload in April, but in November it reaches a deafening crescendo.
I am not a quick learner. Each holiday season the romantic in me hopes to find the joy of the holiday season and the reverie of “It’s a Wonderful Life” promised to me by both television and its romantic commercials. Nostalgia takes me by the hand: through the doors, past the store windows, and down the aisles of glitz and holly.
With the dream of making the people I love happy, I search for something to buy. I seek inspiration amongst the store shelves and tables, the window dressings and festive catalogs. These dreams sustain me for awhile, but at some point, the idealist in me switches from living in my Pat Boone movie memories to actually experiencing what surrounds me….and that is when the Scrooge-like rumblings begin a rant about how wrong it all is.
The reality of the holiday season pops my inflated dreams like soap bubbles as they hit the frozen ground. Santa should not be commercialized to sell cheap toys. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire should taste better. Ice skating should be graceful and painless. My family should be emotionally available. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Ba hum bug!
The idealist that misleads me to desire the fabled holiday is the same romantic who is so easily crushed by the disappointment. I don’t know who said the quote, “Behind every cynic is a romantic with a broken heart,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if they too were disappointed by the cold, wet reality of dashing through the snow.
I know I am not alone. Each year at this time my clients wonder out loud, “I don’t know why I am so depressed.” Or “Why do I feel so anxious?” As intuitive minds, we are both weighted down and ungrounded by the emotions of this season.
Emotions run rampant in the holiday season. From the unexpressed anxiety about mounting debts to the repressed grief of lost loved ones, people do not want to acknowledge – let alone feel the Shadow of the holiday spirit. What others refuse to feel for themselves, we take on. The unfelt, denied, repressed, and disowned feelings float through the air and swirl at our feet as we move through the streets and shopping malls.
It can be crazy-making for an intuitive mind to be around people who are disowning their feelings. Intuitive minds emotionally entrain with others which means that our own emotional life can either be heightened or hijacked by those around us. Like hopping a train, we can get caught up by, or entrain with, the energy and emotions around us. We vacuum up the unfelt feelings of those around us like an emotional Roomba. Often not even realizing the emotional energy that we collect, we become overwhelmed quite easily. This time of year stirs up more emotions than any other time of year, so while we are out shopping or at family events we consume a heap of emotions that can be impossible to metabolize.
An intuitive mind collects people’s disowned energy and emotions on a continuous basis. Just like the charge of static electricity, emotional static remains until it is transferred to an object with a weaker or opposite charge, or it is discharged altogether. Too much emotional static produces a feeling of being amped up, wired or short-circuited, or burnt out.
As I rest in my car and try to regain my equilibrium, I realize that in that shopping mall, I was vacuuming up other people’s emotional static. I collected other people’s fears, guilt, and resentments. I swept up the sadness and loneliness of not having family or friends, or just being far away from them. I picked up people’s anger at being overworked and stressed out. I absorbed the shame of having a less than an ideal family. Like static electricity, the emotional static had built up an excess of charges that were trapped inside my head and pinging around in my body.
If I cannot intentionally and consciously discharge the build up of emotional energy in a healthy way (exercise, yoga, psychotherapy), it remains in me and weighs me down, or I may be drawn to compulsively discharge it in unconscious ways. I might pick a fight with my husband or the customer service clerk, smoke a cigarette, drink too much, fall into a dark hole of excessive screen time, overeat, or overspend. Maybe all of the above.
If only I worked like that little robotic vacuum machine. I wish I had a sensor to warn me when I had taken in too much: “Error: Please empty dust case and clean brushes.” Or one that warned me, “Entering this store places you at risk of sensory overload.” Or even better, “Holiday season approaching, reduce expectations you place on yourself and keep your romantic ideals in check.” Yeah. That would be swell.