DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holidays as Markers in Life Stories

Before there were calendars and clocks, people depended on nature (night and day, the seasons) and their internal biological rhythms to keep track of passing time. In those eras, the experience of living was based largely on the routines of daily life marked by significant events and activities that were extraordinary. It is safe to say that in simpler times, extraordinary events were less frequent. Now, of course, it seems that extraordinary events occur frequently around us, but the extent to which they have personal meaning, or shape our lives, depends on our circumstances.

Although we now have clocks and calendars, it is true that people typically understand their lives in terms of an unfolding story. Social scientists call these stories "narratives", observing that people need a "storyline" that that makes sense to them and through which they can assign meaning to the events that happen to them. Dan McAdams, a psychologist at Northwestern University in Chicago, has dedicated his professional work toward studying life stories. His research reveals there are common "story plots" and that successful or unsuccessful experiences and key events that alter customary routines serve as ways to differentiate chapters. Indeed, the very meaning assigned to events may be influenced by the storyline one has chosen to use to make sense of his or her life.

Aside from significant events that provide chapter markers in lives, holidays in different cultures also create "place markers' to enable people to create meaning. It is not accidental that these occasions invite special memories because of their association with spiritual observances. Because people celebrate holidays with others, the meanings are especially rich with emotion. Emotional experiences are more likely to be memorable.

Most people anticipate holidays because of the pleasant memories they have of past experiences. Others may have difficulty participating in holidays precisely because their life stories have changed and the memories of the way things were are now painful because they are seen as losses. The term "holiday blues" has been coined for such conditions. It is of interest that the professional advice given for such conditions involves "what to do and not do."

What do you do over the holidays? and what events are especially meaningful for you? I invite you to share your stories of events that "changed your life" or why the holiday season is significant to you because of traditions you've grown to love.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.