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I’ve turned into a New Year grinch

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare Credit:


As you might know if you’re a regular reader of Work Therapy, I often ask an expert for their advice on questions we receive. Often, I add my own thoughts, provide a little bit of context, maybe add some research finding or paraphrase here and there (usually just to make sure we stick to our format).

In this case, though, the response I received from clinical psychologist Associate Professor Amanda Gordon was so compelling all on its own, I think it’s best if I get out of the way and pass it on verbatim:

“It does sound very much as though 2020 was a very tough year for you, as it was for so many of us! The things that would have been mildly annoying last year are really getting to you this year. I seem to recall hearing of complaints like this last year and the one before – but here’s the problem: we’ve just lived through lockdowns and horrific news daily from around the world, and working from home and home schooling and difficulties connecting with friends and families and limited holidays.

“During all this time, we have been encouraged to grow through the trauma, or learn a new skill, or find the silver lining. All year. Suddenly, it’s 2021 (nearly February, as you point out) and we are exhorted to reveal how we are bigger and better, or have grown in some way.

“The truth is, most of us have found the last twelve months incredibly difficult and our success has been in surviving it. Of course, some of us have learned a new skill, or benefited from lockdown, or become better parents. Many of us have adjusted. That’s it.

“The new year call is strangely triggering for many of us. We feel diminished if we haven’t managed post-traumatic growth. We feel less rather than more. We miss our holidays and partying and hate having to still be vigilant about disease.

“You are right. This arbitrary ticking over of the calendar should not be an excuse to demand individual growth. Perhaps we should all “lighten up” just enough to congratulate each other for having survived 2020 and allow ourselves to smile into 2021.

“Happy new year.”

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