How the Greeks Can Help You Survive Thanksgiving

NSmany weeks celebrate Thanksgiving, a day when Americans gather with friends and family to celebrate the good things in their lives. Even if the reality of the holiday is more political controversy, barely hidden father issues, a partially buried family skeleton and an upset stomach from overeating, it still holds a special place in our hearts and culture as a celebration of homeland, solidarity and family.

However, over the past two years, like so many in times of pandemic, Thanksgiving has been delayed. As families prepare to reunite after a few years apart, there is joy but also much loss and sadness. The pandemic not only forced us apart, it also affected Relationships, behavior, mental health and financial security. Now everything is different and so are we. Empty chairs at Thanksgiving tables serve as a reminder of what we’ve lost. A trip home to sleep in our childhood room feels reassuring about nostalgia, but we can’t just “get back to normal.” Navigating emotions can be tricky, but we’re not the first to find ourselves in this situation, and we have some help in the form of a new book on flaws and Odyssey.

When the Trojan War ended, Odysseus, the architect of the Greek victory and the smartest of the Greek military leaders, attempted to return to his homeland, the rocky island of Ithaca. The actual distance from Troy, in Turkey, to Ithaca, on the west coast of Greece, is only 565 nautical miles. But the intervention of an angry water god, a long stay with a charming fairy, a shipwreck, a quick trip to the underworld, and some mind-altering substance which means his lost journey 10 years. When he finally comes home disguised, he finds his wife on the cusp of a remarriage and his grieving father dejectedly living his days on the farm. Odysseus killed a bunch of people who would propose and reconcile with his family.

NS Odyssey is one of the most studied texts in history and is often interpreted as a story about family, family problems and, with the ending, revenge. In his recently published book Man of many minds: “The Odyssey”, Psychotherapy and Epic Therapy, Joel Christensen, professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, explores what he calls the “complexities” of returning home. “NS Odyssey‘, he told me, ‘is an epic of survival: it asks us to reflect on the costs of coming home to ourselves and others and getting us through the difficult times. The challenge is very difficult to reconcile who we are with who we are and we think we are with other people seeing. ”

In this context, returning home (or nostos in Greek) is our return to our home and the kind of life we ​​want to return to. Often this family life is a collection of idealized memories from our childhood, spiced with nostalgia, and baked in the cultural shell of advertising fog. In reality, however, omission has to do with facing the painful realities of everyone’s life – from the homophobic uncle at the dinner table, to the parents you’ve always been a disappointment to, or siblings who will never let you forget your teenage self. Some of us, despite our accomplishments and maturity, will always be the black sheep and the bad girl – and that hurts.

This is in fact one of the most painful aspects of omission, says Christensen. “When people don’t see you the way you see yourself, and when your concept of identity is the opposite of how people see and perceive you” it can be harmful. When Odysseus finally got home, he didn’t even recognize the place. The coastline has changed, the trees have grown taller, and everything is different. No one and nothing stands still.

Many of those who return home for the first time after two years of extreme isolation, separation and loss will experience such a disgusting feeling of alienation. In our absence, everything and everyone has changed. The spiritual journeys of others can keep us apart.

People who return home from traumatic experiences are especially susceptible to feelings of disillusionment. As a result of the Second World War 30 percent US veterans said they felt “utter hostility” towards civilians and felt that returning to their homes was a “disappointment”. War is a fitting analogy for frontline workers who witness a pandemic approaching and those who have lost loved ones, but even for those “merely” isolated from For others, things are still difficult. This puts an extra emotional charge on top of already complicated holiday reunions.

For those who find themselves in this situation, storytelling can be helpful. “If there is a positive version of coming home, it requires you to reconcile who you are with who you want to be,” says Christensen. narrative therapy, Practice retelling your own story to recent agency and causation and correcting harmful notions about yourself, which is helpful for healing and reconciling past and present. But part of the pain of coming home is the way everyone has changed.” Psychologists suggest that our identity is made up of the stories we tell and believe about ourselves and our behavioral conditioning.

This kind of storytelling is something Odysseus himself engages in when reunited with his traumatized veteran father, who has cataloged the trees they’ve raised together. The origin of the image is not random; Our bodies and ourselves are intertwined with the landscape. The telling of this story is a reminder of the shared experiences, places, life stages, and relationships that allowed Odysseus to reunite with his father and truly achieve a sense of home. That’s what the UCLA classic house Alex Purves has been called the self-conscious practice of memorization; a kind of skill that we can develop and use to form the basis of our identity.

This shows us, Christensen says, that the home is more than just a physical place filled with forgotten comic collections, outdated CD players, and other material possessions of our childhoods. ; Home is created by our memory. This is a helpful insight for those experiencing disconnection from family members in the aftermath of the pandemic or even, to a lesser extent, personal growth and change. We can use storytelling to “remind each other of who we are (as we tell stories of the past we shared) and [to] tell each other who we are now”. Purves also writes about the transformative potential of this type of mnemonic practice.

We should see this as an opportunity not only to tell the stories of who we are, but to extend our return home to incorporate the lives we desire. “Nostos“, Christensen says” is an analogy with the past to allow us to negotiate who we are in the present and to imagine a future together. “Many of us have spent most of the past two years battle with loved ones about quarantine, vaccines, politics and safety precautions. This type of storytelling is a way to move forward and overcome the hurt and pain of reuniting those we love but who no longer see us the way we see ourselves. “It’s a process not a moment and one of the things” that takes honesty and charity, says Christensen. This is where we part with Odysseus, he added: we need to listen, allow others to change and grow, and allow stories to reunite us. Just reading the Odyssey itself can be part of that process, he adds: it can be a backdrop that prompts us to think of people as mates rather than as calcified impressions. about the past.

Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from Odysseus is that going home may actually not be enough. In Book 11 of Odyssey We know that our hero will roam again in the future. For those who are in the habit of leaving family gatherings and experiencing family disappointments, the problem can be not only with one’s difficult loved ones, but with our own expectations, “If you go looking for a home for what you’re missing inside, you won’t find it”. Christensen. It is not only, as Bon Jovi can To speak, that “you can’t go home” but the process of coming home is more about the questions we ask ourselves than the expectations we place on others. In the meantime, perhaps instead of or in addition to telling our families what we are grateful for, perhaps we should also tell them stories about who we are. How the Greeks Can Help You Survive Thanksgiving


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