The End of Summer: Back to Reality?

The end of the summer holidays can be both a relief and a difficult time as we seek to re-enter old routines. For some it's easier than others. As the seasons change, so do we. You may prefer to unpack your "psychological suitcase" alone, or, for those in therapy, you might want some help.

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As the long summer holidays draw to a close many people consider contacting a therapist.  Time away alone or with family members, and prolonged contact with ourselves and others can stir up yearnings and feeling that normally lie dormant.  The hot sun and summer breeze can get the psyche simmering and cooking.  Extended periods of play and reflection can get us connected with less familiar aspects of the psyche, which demand attention and renewal.  For some people it is a relief to get back to ordinary life.  All the rich holiday food, with salt, oil and sugar, can prove just too much on the waist line and the psyche.  These people crave the familiarity of plainer foods and the soothing nature of familiarity.   They embrace the comfort of the home and the bed.  The feel and texture of sounds, visions and smells that remind them of home and there place in the world.  

There are others who return restless, craving the excitement and change that the holiday allowed them to glimpse.  They want to prolong the change.  They dream about packing it all in and staying on vacation, starting a new job, learning a new language, loosing the old skin.  For these individuals it can be particularly painful to return to ordinary life.  It feels like a punishment.  The demands of modern living feel like an imposition, or even a prison.  

For most people, and certainly those lucky enough to have been on holiday, returning to work or home life in September is a mixture.  Bittersweet. Both a relief from having to "relax" and "enjoy" themselves constantly (which is of course hard work); and a resentment at having to come back to the reality of unopened envelopes and undealt with feelings and experiences.  As we get older, most experiences in life have a mix of opposites, and we notice ourselves moving between different dimensions; becoming more ambivalent, giving ourselves over to the complexity of things.  

As therapists go back to work in September, with a little nod to the passage of time, the work begins again.  Things never stop changing and evolving.  Reports from those people who are constantly on "holiday" seem to suggest that the novelty soon wears off.  The majority of people have a desire to explore inner worlds as well as outer worlds, and this is a where the help of a therapist can come in helpful post-holiday.  Just as you need to unpack your suitcases; you may find that there is some psychological unravelling and examining to do.  For some people it's easier to do the unpacking with a helping hand, rather than solo.  Whatever your circumstances, as the light and weather subtly changes, this is a time of transition and an opportunity to notice subtle changes within and without.  

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal is an experienced psychotherapist and consultant. He welcomes contact and enquiries and is accepting new clients via zoom during the shut down.