Did you get what you expected for Yule?
Every year for many of us, there is a familiar atmosphere of objection, anxiety and regrets. This year it was objection to the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside. The song was written in 1944, and has been re-recorded and released over sixty times by artists as broad-ranging as Dean Martin, Idina Menzel, Lady Gaga and Darius Rucker. Not many people may know that the composer Frank Loesser actually wrote it as a clever song for he and his wife to perform at parties in the 1940’s. Yet here we are, over 70 years later, with radio stations banning the song due to outcries of date-rape lyrics.
The song is a duet performed two characters which have been referred to as “wolf” and “mouse.” The song is traditionally sung with a man portraying the “wolf” part. There have been same sex releases, as well as recordings where a woman sings the “wolf” part, but these are only a few.
Over the last few years, there was a big controversy was over Starbucks’ holiday cups. And next year? We can only wait and see. Did they really hide a gay message in their holiday design? I remember looking for mine but I never found it. Someone else had to point it out for me. Then we also have people exclaiming the slogan “put Christ back in Christmas.” It seems there is always some group which is upset over something at the holidays. But are these feelings of others valid?
What Has Changed?
Let’s look at what hasn’t changed first. Every year, more and more people struggle to make ends meet, and that means fewer and fewer presents under the Yule trees. Politics and changing laws divide the country more and more each year. Over the last few years, we have seen our environment assaulted by reduced protections, women’s rights have been threatened, and transgender and intersex people’s rights were threatened with erasure. This list could go on. There are many things changing, and society has never been very good at accepting a lot of changes over a short period of time.
This is a very sensitive time for many people, whether they are pagan or not. Many of us have deep memories attached to the holiday season. There is nostalgia for the ways things were in the past, and often there is a longing for the warmth and joy we might have shared at one time in our lives. Many people deal with loneliness and anxiety during this time, and because people are more highly sensitized, they are more easily triggered by things that others among us might not be affected by. For some it’s a seasonal anxiety disorder, but for others, the season is never-ending.
The song Baby, It’s Cold Outside hasn’t changed since its inception. Even the Starbucks cups haven’t changed that much, but people’s anxiety levels have changed for the worse. As a result of increased anxiety, people are naturally more affected by what is commonly called “triggers” in PTSD therapy treatment. It’s my opinion, triggers exist for depression as well. When people are triggered, they see something and it reminds them of an event, person or thing that has a lot of negative energy and pain attached to it. Triggers can also be stimulated by sounds or voices, scents and occasionally by touch. The people who decry the Baby, It’s Cold song aren’t wrong in their perception, and we should do our best to support them regarding these emotional triggers, however, they do have a responsibility too.
If we encounter someone who is responding to triggers, it may appear that they are having an anxiety attack. Some of the more obvious physical symptoms can include: hot or cold flashes, nervousness or trembling, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, numbness, shortness of breath and feelings of choking. Less visible signs of an anxiety attack may include feelings of detachment or dying, and feelings of losing control emotionally.
A significant part of the mental training which is used for ritual and magic work is grounding and centering. When we encounter someone having an anxiety attack, helping them to be aware of their breathing and slow it down can help them ground and center and reduce the effects of their anxiety. We can encourage muscle relaxation. A technique such as progressive muscle relaxation involves the clenching and unclenching of your fist about ten times. By focusing on a single muscle group such as your fist, you begin to relieve tension in other parts of your body. You can also encourage the person to repeat a mantra, such as “I just need to breathe” or “I will be okay.” In PTSD therapy, patients are often taught to focus on one sensation, such as feeling the floor beneath your feet, or listening to one noise in their environment and focus on it. The patient then slowly adds in additional sensations. This is referred to as focusing on the here and now.
If you are the person having an anxiety attack, you should have a plan in place that reminds you of the things you will do to calm yourself down and ground and center. Many anxiety attacks happen when there is no one available to help and people must be able to help themselves.
When we encounter a person who claims to have been sexually assaulted, we have a responsibility to assume their experience is valid and show them support and respect. If we are leaders, there may be additional obligations as part of mandatory reporting. We have a responsibility to our fellow communities to support each other the best that we can. It will be impossible to stave off all triggers, nor can we heal everyone. It may be impossible to believe we will never have to hear a triggering song again, but when we begin to respect other people and see them as valid in their experience of life, we are awakening and becoming mindful of how interconnected we all can be. There may come a time when something triggers you and it is that same person you showed compassion for, which is now there for you.
Not everyone is going to get something they want for Yule this year. Some people are going to be too busy dealing with anxiety and difficult memories to really get into the spirit. Many of us suffer in silence with no support at all. Remember to be gentle with each other as we wrap up another Yule and Christmas season. It doesn’t have to be the holidays for these anxiety attacks to prevalent. Check in with others who might be struggling, and if they don’t feel like being social, accept them and be kind. The song might be saying it’s cold outside, but we don’t have to be cold to one another. Yuletide blessings to all of you.