By Julie Taylor
Your friend with the “perfect” life gets dumped, and you’re a teeny, tiny bit happy about it. Your coworker got passed over for a big promotion, and you find yourself cheering a little on the inside. Yes, you know it’s horrible... but you just can’t seem to help it. The Germans dubbed this "schadenfreude" (literally, "harm joy"), and most of us have been guilty of feeling it at one point or another.
That said, it’s just not healthy to take "malicious pleasure" in someone else's...
That might have been the case for Dodie, a finance officer who moved to across country about 10 years ago. Though single and with no relatives nearby, she had no desire to fly home for Thanksgiving. Her father's illness had made holiday gatherings difficult at best. "We had to stop pretending a long time ago that we were having a Hallmark occasion," she says.
Instead, Dodie made her way to a monastery in California, where she created a new tradition for herself: sharing Thanksgiving with monks of the Order of the Holy Cross.
"There's a reception first that includes friends from town and people staying at the monastery guesthouse," she says. "Then dinner is usually cooked by the monks and served at round tables in the refectory with views of the mountains and the coast. It was a gift, a great relief, to choose how to celebrate the holidays."
Holiday Blues Basics
"This is the time of year when I see a lot of people who feel guilty or blame themselves if they're alone," says Jason Kornrich, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y. "They think there must be something wrong with them if they don't have a partner, or that they're being punished for things they've done in the past."
Such dark thoughts can be avoided with a little planning. "People don't want to prepare for depression," Kornrich says. "But early November is the time to analyze how you felt last year and come up with some proactive measures."
These can include letting friends and colleagues know you'll be alone for the holidays and would like to be included in some of their activities. But Alexander Obolsky, a Northwestern University psychiatrist, warns that if no invitations seem likely, "don't wait until the last moment. Plan to cook dinner yourself and invite somebody over. The important thing is to be with people."
That somebody could be a friend you haven't seen for a while, a new colleague at work, or an elderly neighbor who would otherwise be alone.
"It's a time of year when you may have obligations to family or elderly parents. But try to carve out time for something you want to do -- something that's meaningful to you," says Obolsky.