Don’t you just love the story about Charlie Brown’s Christmas? Poor Charlie Brown. He starts out so sad and depressed by the thought of the upcoming holiday. It seems his depression was exacerbated by the enthusiasm displayed by his little friends who were eagerly anticipating Christmas. He was so disheartened he even sought help from the local psychiatrist. Why he trusted her with his fragile emotional state is a puzzle to me, since there was already some history between them. She never missed an opportunity to knock him down and call him a Blockhead. True to form, her advice appeared to be the psychological equivalent of smacking him upside the head and still charging him 5 cents for her services. Sheesh. That doesn’t seem right.
Everywhere Charlie Brown turned, he was bombarded by Christmas cheer. His depression deepened further when his own baby sister was seduced by the magnetic pull of commercialism brought on by the holiday. Even his beloved dog, Snoopy, decorated his little house in a gaudy display of lights. Poor Charlie Brown. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. A dark cloud and feeling of isolation followed him everywhere as he desperately looked for the meaning of Christmas. As a result, everyone started to berate him for ruining everyone else’s good time. And the leader of the pack appeared to be his pal and part time psychiatrist.
Just when it appeared that Charlie Brown was convinced that he was truly as hopeless as some of his playmates assured him he was, one of his friends surprised him. When he showed up with the sad little Christmas tree that he had picked out for the Christmas pageant, his friends once again ridiculed and laughed at him. Again, the pack leader and part time psychiatrist even called him pathetic, which makes me think that she really should reconsider her career choice. Finally, one of his more compassionate and wise little friends came through for him by recognizing that all the tree needed was a little bit of love, attention and a few decorations to turn that sad little tree into a beautiful work of art. And to show Charlie Brown that he really wasn’t pathetic after all.
There are a lot of life’s lessons in this story. First of all, it only takes one person to get the train of negativity rolling out of control. Consequently, it only takes one person and one simple act of kindness and support to stop that train, turn it around, and head it in the other direction. Second, any living thing can thrive if you show it a bit of attention. Finally, we can all benefit from a little love, attention and a few decorations to improve our self image. It’s just another example of how flexible we are, how fragile we are, and yet how strong. Our nervous systems are always listening, and responding to the input we receive. Be gentle; with yourself and with others.
Oh, and one last thing….choose your friends and your psychiatrist carefully. If they are smacking you upside the head, either literally or figuratively, it just may be time to let them go and move on. Most of all, be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP