It’s a wonderful life

It’s hard this time of year to avoid slipping into trying to make real the fantasy of a perfect Christmas. The fantasy may take various forms depending on age and circumstances. It also may involve a strong element of idealisation, an interesting idea and common defence.
The process of idealisation may take aim at several different objects, either self, another or an experience. But what drives the process? It could be that the worse the object, the more the need to idealise it. In this sense, the word “object” is used in its theoretical sense, to mean another person. Given the emphasis on relationships in psychological thinking, this means that the experience of having a deficient early attachment is so painful for the infant, the more likely he or she would be to defend against it either by idealising the actual person the attachment was with or escaping from her into a relationship with a perfect one in fantasy. In other words, we do this because reality is or was too difficult to bear. This goes for the experience of the perfect holiday season also.
It’s hard to resist this process and accept the realities of our relationships but idealisation can take us so far away from ourselves that we can feel quite alone. This can paradoxically re create the loneliness we were hoping to avoid! It’s hard to keep hope alive when reality disappoints. If we’re lucky, Christmas affords us a glimpse of both, hope as well as disappointment. Then just sometimes, it can be a wonderful life!