holiday gift guide 2020

Choose joy

The holiday spirit is there if you reach for it


Psychologist Kim Olver has a holiday gift for us all. It is hope, and a way to find it.

Olver (who also writes for the River Reporter in her column “From the Relationship Center”) works with Choice Theory.  Basically, it helps you understand why people do the things they do and make the choices they make.

The next step is to realize that the only behavior you can control is your own. The only choices you can make are your own.

Stop trying to force change

Take a given behavior, maybe something a family member does that’s really aggravating. Ask: “What does this person want that they try to get with this behavior?” Olver said.

Try to understand.

And then this: “Daily, attempt to try to stop trying to change things,” she said. You can’t truly affect a situation or another person’s behavior. You can only change how you respond.”

You’ve got three basic choices in how you respond: “You can keep doing what you’re doing,” she said. “You can do it worse.” (And play that out in your mind. What would that look like?) And, “you can make it better.”

How do we apply this notion of choice to our present time?

We are grieving

Our vision of how things should be has altered.

“With this pandemic, people are grieving,” Olver said. Not just for people lost, but for “the way of life that they want... Some people want to hold onto the reality that was.”

We thought everything would go a certain way. And when it changes, especially if it’s not our fault, that’s painful, difficult and overwhelming.

Olver refers me to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

“We have the whole world in this situation,” she said.

How do you break out of grief? Remember that some people have it worse. Reach out, she said. “Think about ways to help other people.”

We won’t stay this angry or in grief forever. We will work through this.

And it’s okay to need help seeing the path forward.


One key to getting through the emotional upheaval is “to realize that you have no control over this,” Olver said. “To fight against reality is what creates misery.” 

So how do we fix that in ourselves?

Choice Theory says that we have basic needs, and we’re unhappy if those needs aren’t met. We need connection, security, significance, freedom and joy, Olver said.

Well, creativity may be required to get those needs met. You may have to take each idea and look for where it is in your life and how it could become more a part of your existence. 

Holidays, for instance, “are not about being physically together but the experience of feeling together,” she said.

You can have conference calls. Zoom parties. Mail holiday gifts and open them together, connected by Zoom.

“It’s not the same, it’s not as good, but it’s about getting through this tough time,” she said.

choice theory, Kim Olver, relationship center, holiday, peace, contentment


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