Recently I was at a gathering where people were discussing Christmas, and the difficult feelings that are often associated with it. It seems like that time of year has the ability to highlight so many hurts in our lives, and it takes a lot of strength not to spiral out of control emotionally.

What struck me as I listened was how many of us struggle to get our needs met by people who aren’t willing or able to meet them.

Sometimes this can mean our relationship with our spouse. Sometimes with our families of origin. Sometimes with friends, or people we are in love with.

We keep hoping, even against hope, that those things we so desperately need – love, attention, caring, whatever – will at last be forthcoming from the person, or people, in question. And we keep doing it even though there is nothing to indicate that anything has changed.

Some of us remain stuck in the same pattern for years and years. It becomes like a magnet that draws us back again and again. We feel like we are stuck. Trapped by something beyond our control. Unable to stop going back for more, even when it means more hurt or disappointment.

Even when other people tell us to stop, to find something else, to move on, it seems like we can’t. The lure of possibly, maybe being able to change things THIS TIME becomes irresistible.

I believe there are a couple of major obstacles to changing and moving on when we find ourselves in this situation. One is shame. The other is resistance to grief.

Shame, because every time we go crawling back for more and are knocked down, our self-esteem sinks a little further, and it becomes harder and harder to get back on our feet.

Grief, because at the core of our behavior is the inability to grieve for the loss of the dream we had – the dream we are still trying so hard to realize. Very often it is something that stems from our childhoods, and that at the time we were unable to grieve for and subsequently let go because the feelings were too overwhelming.

And so, we invest a massive amount of energy trying to recreate a situation we so desperately wanted back then. It may be our childhood dream of a happy family, or the love of a parent who neglected us. That dream may have become transposed onto our present as a dream of a perfect home, family or mate – which often stems  from a childhood disappointment, and the refusal to accept what is – or was.

We are trying to change the past. And that is always doomed to failure.

If we are lucky we eventually hit bottom and realize that the things we have been trying so frantically to manage, are unmanageable. It can take a long time to get to that point, and by that time it may have cost us an enormous amount, in every possible way. We see that we are trapped, and we accept defeat. We surrender.

It may feel like a weakness to accept defeat, but if we keep an open mind we soon come to see that it is a great strength. Surrendering and accepting what is opens up the possibility for a new way of living. In accepting the doors that are closed, we suddenly see new ones that are open. We move forward into a new and healthy way of being.

The essential thing to remember is that support is always available. Even if it feels like we are alone, we are not. Help is out there. And reaching out for help is a strength – not a weakness.