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January 8, 2014

The Neurosis of the Holidays

By His Eminenece Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Now that the Twelve Days [of Christmas and Theophany] have passed we must remember an interesting view of the great psychotherapist Victor Frankl that is related to the different types of neuroses, which are associated with the so-called noögenic neuroses.

In the works of this great psychotherapist he makes a distinction between psychogenic neuroses, which are reduced to the psychological field, and noögenic neuroses, which is associated with the noological dimension of human existence, namely the acquisition of meaning for life. He presents the truth that people today are suffering mainly because they have no meaning in their life, which manifests itself in many ways.

Among the various neuroses he includes "Sunday neurosis", which is when a person realizes their existential vacuum, exactly when "the burden of the busy week ends on Sunday, and the emptiness inside him suddenly appears." That is, when a person all week with continuous busyness and employment tries to forget this existential vacuum, forgetting that their life is meaningless. Thus, when they stop this activity, then they are occupied by melancholy, pain and with terrible consequences in their existence.

We could extend this aspect of Frankl, arguing that we observe many times the people around us holding on to the neurosis of the holidays. What he realized in regards to Sunday, is also noticeable during the major holidays of Christendom, such as Christmas, Easter, etc.

Apart from what Frankl says as to what takes place on Sundays, on major holidays we observe the same situations. People, especially here in Greece, prepare for the great feasts of Christmas and Easter. They think they will find something to satisfy their existential hunger and thirst. But they are not looking for it from the depths of their heart and approaching the deeper and true meaning of the events of the holiday. These involve repentance, humility, mental preparation, Confession and Holy Communion. Rather they focus on the external aspects, such as the purchasing of various items, traveling, making visitations, and the festive table. It is true, of course, that these external standard procedures do not satisfy a persons spiritual state of being, and thus the existential vacuum or emptiness remains.

Therefore, while a person expects the holidays to answer their existential questions, in regards to matters of life and death, yet they do not achieve it, since they remain on the surface and do not go deep into the events. This just leads to melancholy, despair and emptiness. It has been noted by many that during the festive season bickering takes place among families, crimes increase and psychic traumas grow. All of this is explained through this perspective, since on these major days man fails to give rest to his spirit, despite the vivid nostalgia and search.

One way to avoid the pain of the neurosis of the holidays is to follow the entire teaching of the Church with the forty-day preparation for the feasts. And of course, to participate as much as we can in the worship services.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Η νεύρωση των εορτών", January 1998. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.