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Have A G-Holiday – Not Good, But Rather A Grateful Holiday

Written by: Ken Pierce, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Ken Pierce

“Holidays were hard times for her.” Wilhelmina (Willy) was a hardened woman of 55 years who lived alone in a rooming house. She had been married twice, had three children, had been a practicing alcoholic for five years and had even lived on the street at one point. She had no tolerance for fools or fantasies.

Homeless woman on the street

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.” – E. B. White, writer?

Holidays were hard times for her. She actively avoided them. She said they magnified her loneliness to ‘unbearable proportions.’ It was during one Christmas season she had started drinking and she told me she didn’t stop until sixty months later, when she got arrested for panhandling.

Willy was doing OK now. She had gradually secured full-time employment in a restaurant, found a safe, clean room with an elderly lady she met through work and started to reconnect with her children.


“…one of those stupid Christmas movies…”

Willy said she really lucked out when she learned her employee benefits included dental care, massage therapy and psych services. And, so when December appeared, she called my office.

When I asked her how I might serve her she replied,

“Ken, I need to figure out why I hate the Holidays!”

I replied,

“Where and when did you last experience this ‘hating the Holidays,’ Willy?”

“We had a bad storm two weeks back and I was storm-stayed at home with lots of time on my hands and I was watching TV,” she said.

“What were you watching, Willy?”

“It was one of those stupid Christmas movies where someone, with a broken heart, goes back home to visit her family for the Holiday and suddenly meets her or his soul mate…I’m sure you have seen, at least, one!” she replied, exasperation pouring from her.

Happy family opening gifts during Christmas day


“They all want to create a sort of Disneyland for the Holidays!”

“What was it about that movie that bothered you?”

“Everything seems overdone…from the excessive decorations, the upscale houses and fancily dressed people…it all seems so contrived, so artificial…at least, to me it does!”

“In what way, Willy?”

“Everyone seems to be trying to be merry…happy…excited…sort of awestruck! Do you know what I mean?”

“Do you mean they are trying to be positive, supportive and even ecstatic, joyful and awestruck?”

“Yes, that’s it! They all want to create a sort of Disneyland for the Holidays! I find it very annoying!”

“What annoys you about it?”


“I was both happy and sad at the same time.”

“Ken, I remember spending one Christmas Day, during my drinking years, at a Salvation Army Shelter. I was safe, warm, and fed and had people around me who seemed to care about me. I appreciated each moment of that day as it occurred.”

Then she continued,

‘“But, I also noticed that same day I was unemployed, living on the street and disconnected from my own family. I was both happy and sad at the same time. Is that possible or is my memory just faulty?”

“Willy, it is not only possible, it is normal, natural and true!”

“What do you mean?”

“It is how our mind works to ensure our well-being. Your thinking always goes to both a positive and a negative perspective, simultaneously. This is what keeps us vigilant, aware and safe!”


“…What does he want from me in return?”

“Are you saying, Ken, I can’t have a positive thought without a negative one to balance it out at the same second?”

“Let’s check it out with some examples. If a stranger walked up to you and gave you $1,000 in cash what would you think? After the momentary surprise, where would your mind go?”

“Well, if the person gave me the $1,000 without me asking for it, I would wonder why…kind of like…Why has he done this? Or perhaps, What does he want from me in return?

“Willy, I think you are wise. And, that’s this natural law in action. Let’s take another example. When you think about your past and the people who have helped you along the way, tell me the name of the most important one?”

“That would have to be my eldest daughter, Wendy, who has always let me live my life as I choose.”

A notebook with note

“This is really what must occur, for everyone, during the Holidays…”

“And, when you thought of Wendy’s support, I bet your mind also went to someone else who didn’t support you. Is that true also, Willy?”

“You’re right, my mind flashed to Wanda, my youngest, who is always telling me what I should do.

“That is how the human mind is designed to work. And, so during the Holidays, I bet you can find a memory of someone you were treasuring being with at that moment, while at the same moment, you also noticed someone else, who was absent and you were missing them as well.”

“Yes, I have done that many times…being pleased for who is there right now, like one of my children or grandchildren, and sad about who is absent, like my Mom and Dad, who have passed on.”

“This is really what must occur, for everyone, during the Holidays…because it is normal and natural and to be expected.”


“this increased awareness is what creates gratitude …an appreciation for ourselves, our life and those around us…!”

“Ken, then that means we can’t create a happy holiday without simultaneously, creating a sad one, at each moment. Is this correct? Is that how our mind works?”

Willy, you’ve got it now. And, this increased awareness keeps us grounded and safe. It is also what creates gratitude for the here and now…an appreciation for ourselves, our life and those around us who share it with us!”

“So, Ken, we’re not seeking a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year…what we are after, and can only achieve, is a Grateful Christmas or a Grateful New Year or an Appreciative Christmas or an Appreciative New Year!”

“Exactly! And, when you use this truthful perspective you approach the holidays in a way that honours you and those you love both present and absent.”


“And, that’s something I can achieve.”

“Ken, that means I can put those movies in a healthier perspective, knowing they are one-sided fantasies that come from the same place as Santa Claus, Santa’s Elves and Rudolph, eh?”

“Yep! Willy, can you see how you can approach the holidays with a more useful and manageable perspective and not get caught up in one-sided thinking which creates either elation or depression?”

“Yes, I get it! And now, I’m ready, not for a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year… instead, a Grateful Holidays! And, that’s something I can achieve and appreciate. Thank you!


“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” – Garrison Keillor, writer

Points to ponder and remember:


  1. Holidays can be challenging when you try to find more pleasure than pain at any moment.

  2. Your mind is designed to notice both sides of every moment, its benefits and its cost.

  3. Your mind is designed that way to protect you from being naive and so endangering yourself.

  4. Our society promotes one-sided perceptions of each moment, ie., good or bad, pleasurable or painful.

  5. Nature only offers two-sided events and so our mind notices the two sides to protect us.

  6. Nature doesn’t create holidays, our cultural ideologies create them to exaggerate an unnatural positive perspective and minimize the negative one.

  7. But, both perspectives are required for us to optimize our well-being.

  8. One-sided language such as: happy and sad, elated and depressed, awesome and terrible, joyful and hateful, creates fantasies and nightmares which confuse and endanger us.

  9. Two-sided language such as: grateful, appreciative, loving, wise, balanced, and harmonious create clarity and truthfulness which prepares and protects us.

  10. Accurate self-talk ensures we are truthful with ourselves and avoid creating fantasies and nightmares.

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Ken Pierce Brainz Magazine

Ken Pierce, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ken Pierce is a board-certified clinical psychologist and CEO of The Pierce Institute of Psychology Inc. He has authored many psychological works including seven books and 400 case study web-posts. Ken is considered a human behaviour expert having worked in business, education and private practice for over 40 years. He has served thousands of people of all ages from a diverse spectrum of life challenges. This group include executives, teams, organizations, individuals, couples and families. He has served on the faculty of two post-secondary institutions, Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island.

Ken was also the first psychologist globally to achieve Master Facilitator credentials with the renowned Demartini Institute and is a Senior Faculty of the Glasser Institute. He has spoken at many regional, national and international events. As head of the The Pierce Institute of Psychology Inc. (TPI), a community service facility, he is a leader in moving clinical psychology forward by transforming a labelling and medicating focus to appreciating human adaptions as tools for empowerment. This is demonstrated in the latest research in evolutionary anthropology, biology, neurology, psychiatry and psychology. This scientific approach is found in the work of Drs. William Glasser and John Demartini and the services of TPI.

Ken resides in Stratford, Prince Edward Island with Anna, his partner of 50 years. They have three daughters and three grandsons. Ken's interests vary widely from quantum theory to energy efficiency to building stone walls.



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