View A: Welcome or not, here it is: "the season." And here we are, in whatever poses we are inhabiting.
So, prepare. Prepare for a drama.
Now here's an opposing take on the holidays.
View B: Cripes! Not again with the shill and the junk and the forced march -- I can't wait for it to be OVER.
No question here which to choose -- the former, having just read "The Drama of Everyday Life" by Karl E. Scheibe.
For what chance could the lumpen Scrooge position have against the elegance of Scheibe, who is a professor of psychology at Wesleyan University?
View B has to do with turning in toward one's rickety little self.
View A, though, is bracing, as informed by Scheibe's images of people operating in "circles of meaning" while passing through different "dramatic boxes."
For example, he writes: "I have visited boxes of slam poets, square dancers, skeet shooters, schizophrenics, alcoholics, drug addicts, deconstructionists, missionaries, fishermen and farmers, football players, sports car buffs, bagpipe players, and country clubbers -- boxes of Carnaval-jumping Brazilians, fraternity pledges, and church deacons as well as psychologists and professors of various sorts. If you are blessed with a reasonably long life, you will compile your own interesting list of boxes -- little theaters wherein the play is earnest and the players all convinced of their grasp on reality.
"To some of these boxes I come as a visitor only, as a tourist or observer, more or less awkwardly placed, depending on the hospitality. In other boxes I am a full participant, losing myself in the action."
Scheibe's book is an argument with his discipline, "that psychology must view life as a drama and must not try to explain away drama." The book, though, goes far beyond academics, into real life. (It is published by Harvard University Press, $24.95)
The essence of drama is transformation, Scheibe writes, "the key to magic, to miracles, to the fascination with watching things grow or be destroyed." (Doesn't that speak to you of love and to life at home?)
People clearly need drama. "Like sharks who must swim in order to breathe, human beings must be in play, or in the play, if you like, in order to retain psychological vitality," Scheibe writes. Lacking drama, people tend to create it. Scheibe points to gambling and notes that visitors to Foxwoods Resort Casino "leave each day several million dollars in net earnings for the casino -- a tribute to the collective need for action."
This particular month, though, does provide plenty of family drama.
In this country, Scheibe said in an interview, "a lot of people feel privileged in some ways to have the family they do. A surprisingly large number, though, feel rather cursed."
Many of us who are at odds with family members will nonetheless be spending holidays with them. This desire to connect with family members in a ritual way is primordial, "the dynamics are extremely powerful," said Scheibe, who in addition to his Wesleyan post has a psychotherapy practice.
The holidays provide an opportunity at year's end for reflection and re-examination.
"And in the end, it's much more interesting to have the holidays than not to have them," said this most stalwart of theatergoers. When family gatherings can be tough, the best approach is for the players "to open their mouths and talk about what they're feeling, and to invite talk," Scheibe says. "We matter a lot to each other."
The conflict, the invitation, the possibilities -- there's plenty of material there, if only we can see it.
E-mail the writer: kochakian(at)courant.com
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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