Confession Week (Bar None, the Best Time to be a Shrink)

The week following New Year’s Day is what I affectionately refer to as Confession Week. Because the festive holiday season often involves alcohol consumption (to excess in many cases), some people engage in behaviors that they might not normally do. It is the following week in my office that clients will come in to purge themselves of embarrassing moments that have ended their calendar year, often capped off with a resolve to “be sure to never do that again.”

Make no mistake: for many, the holiday season is an extremely difficult time. Society tells us that from Thanksgiving Day until the new year begins that we are to be happier than any other time. However, this mandate doesn’t change the fact that many people suffer from psychological/psychiatric problems, and the pressure to “feel great” can sometimes amplify their distress. This post isn’t about them. This is about those who are, in fact, feeling more upbeat and simply have let their holiday cheer lead the down a horrifically embarrassing path. These clients often reveal their behaviors with a shy smile or an outright laugh in session, now that they’ve had some time to distance themselves from the event (or if the client is particularly festive, multiple events).

It seems that the greatest potential for mischief comes from a subculture that I have never experienced: the Holiday Office Party (HOP). The HOP evidently allows for social connections that never occur throughout the business year: CEO’s chatting it up with mailroom employees, office managers doing shots with their bosses, the executive VP dirty dancing with the cleaning staff. It is no holds barred at these events.

It seems, however, that the combination of alcohol, a culmination of a year’s worth of business interaction and a drastic shift in social dynamics can lead to both a manifestation of previously unspoken physical attractions and an airing of grievances and resentments. For most of my clients, Confession Week is one or the other:

Erin, age 44, junior partner in corporate law firm
Dr. Rob, I can’t believe I did that. I did Irish Car Bombs with one of the guy’s in Human Resources, and the next thing I knew we were in bed together. I woke up with a pounding headache and a note saying “Next year let’s do it at my place.” The guy can’t be more than 24!

Kara, age 27, receptionist
My God, I got so, so drunk. I told my boss that he’s a cheap bastard and that I’m sick of picking up his dry cleaning. It’s not part of my job description! I also told his wife that I have no idea what she was thinking when she decided to procreate with that fat oaf. I can’t believe I didn’t get fired.

Ron, age 58, CFO
I told the president of the company that his kids are hideous trolls. Considering that his wife is hot, he knows where I think those disgusting urchins got their looks from.

As a therapist, my job is to help clients to understand why they did what they did, manage and ultimately overcome the embarrassment of the event(s), problem-solve how they might rectify any social/business problems when they return to the workplace and, ideally, not recreate the problem next year. However, not all clients are like Erin, Kara and Ron. Some clients are fortunate enough to be flat-out giddy with pleasure at how the events played out. Brian, in a unique HOP occurrence, was able to capitalize on both an unspoken attraction and a significant disdain for his superior:

“Dr. Rob, it was great! I had a few drinks in me, like nine, and I told my boss that my year-end bonus was completely bogus and below my value. He responded by telling me that I was lucky to even have a job given the recent lay-offs, and I told him to go fuck himself. Everyone around us heard, and he was really embarrassed, so he chuckled and said that he’ll talk to me in his office next week. Figuring that I would probably get fired anyway, I went over to his insanely hot wife and told her how good-looking she was and that it was a shame they were married. Amazingly, she said that they are starting divorce proceedings! I asked her if she was upset about it, and she said that while he is devastated, she couldn’t be happier and was only here so that his partners wouldn’t find out until he was ready to tell them. We talked for a while and I told her how much of a prick her husband is and eventually she said ‘so you want to get out here? If you’re going to get fired, you might as well make it truly worth it.’ My boss even saw me leave with her as I mentally flipped him off on the way out!”

“Well, that is…very interesting. You’re not upset about losing your job though?” I asked.

“That’s the best part about it! The next day, over breakfast, which she paid for, she told me that she’ll make sure I can keep my job. Apparently she knows about an affair of his from years back and can use that in the divorce proceedings if he gives her trouble about me. Man, what a night. I hope your holiday was as great as mine, Dr. Rob!”

While that is an amazing way to end the year, I think I’m glad that I’m self-employed. To all of you not as fortunate as Brian, I hope you are still gainfully employed and aren’t hiding under your desk to start the new year.

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10 Responses to “Confession Week (Bar None, the Best Time to be a Shrink)”

  1. Charles says:

    Wow, what an awesome turn of events. This is like something straight out of a movie.

  2. kate says:

    last year i got drunk and came on heavily to my mom’s best friend, who also happens to be the dad of one of my high school girlfriends.
    this year i got hammered and joined a swingers dating community. i don’t remember doing it but i know it happened because now my inbox is littered with e-come-ons from the likes of ‘NYCBlackPassion’ and ‘hotnlong4u’..
    *bad holiday decisions* are not limited to HOPs..

  3. Wayland says:

    Geez…I don’t think I want to know what any of that ever feels like.

  4. Robin says:

    I wish you had posted this before the holiday parties so we readers could be on the lookout for any HOP shennanigans or tomfoolery. I would have paid closer attention when the guido mail room clerk and lesbian vice president were freak dancing!

  5. Amber says:

    This would be why I’ll never understand corporate parties anyway. Everyone knows it’s inevitable. Someone will have too much to drink and tell off the boss, two people who’d never under normal circumstances will fall into bed and be horribly embarassed about it in the morning. I think booze and corporate do NOT go together. No matter HOW laid back the work atmosphere.

  6. :yb detsoP says:

    Apparently,all the solutions to life are hot boss wives.

  7. Rorshak says:

    Brian is my hero.

  8. Adam says:

    Brian hit the trifecta, that lucky bastard. It’s almost just too perfect.

  9. Thankfully I skipped my work party this year, it was a bit scandalous, and I actually would like to stick around for a bit. 😀

  10. An_Irish_Brit says:

    I’m no different AT ALL when I’m drunk, my personality doesn’t change, nor do I make bad decisions, nor do I feel comfortable around people who do. Especially when this is work colleagues. I can’t understand it. I find unpredictable people scary.

    Years and years ago a two of my colleagues slept together following a Christmas party. We were all in a mini-bus and he got off, in front of EVERYONE in the team to go into one girls home. People tried to talk him out of it but he wouldn’t be dissuaded. Next morning his wife turned up at the office looking for him. Asking if we knew where he was. Dreadful.

    Also, a few years ago I had a colleague phone me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY to tell me he thought there was “something between us.” Christ! A married colleague no less. He said that he “felt comfortable” around me, that he could ‘be himself’ and… wait for it… that he’d “never felt this way before.” Classically corny.

    Oh God…

    About a month earlier I’d finished jointly working a complex case with him and would go for pub lunches with him (mainly because IT WAS LUNCHTIME and BECAUSE I WAS HUNGRY and WE WERE 40 MILES FROM OUR BASE AND SHARING A CAR). During our lunches I gradually came to the conclusion he was extra weird as he’s tell me tales of falling out with his neighbours over nothing and handling these situations badly and sex parties he’d attend ALONE in …yes… America. All very entertaining, but very, very weird (I’ll not bog you down with the gory detail).

    Oh God…

    Anyway, as this telephone conversation progressed I was sitting in the office looking around to catch the eye of one of my team mates, but they were all busy getting on with their work. I told him he’s misread me. It was AWFUL with a capital AWFUL. He said “I know I’m not wrong about this.” I replied “But you are. I don’t feel that way about you at all.” Gradually, this drew a litte crowd.

    Oh God…

    Not only that but his opening line was that he was on top of a local landmark WITH HIS 7 YEAR OLD SON and going to kill himself if I didn’t feel the same way. He honestly had me going for quite a few minutes before he said he was joking. I normally woulda’ laughed, but he wasn’t funny. I was also aware that he had a breakdown at work several months earlier, that I knew about, but he didn’t know I knew this.

    Oh God…

    My colleagues told my boss and I relayed the full story to her. I was ashen afterwards and can vividly recall the colour draining from my face during the conversation with him. My boss then had a word with his boss so we don’t have to work on any more cases together. I still see him from time to time (the odd training course etc…) his office is about 3 miles from mine, and am courteous with him, but it’s awkward.

    If I ever saw him at a Christmas party I’d leg it out of there so fast I’d probably make it onto the 2012 Olympics’ team. Remember: this was him SOBER. Urgh.

    Even now, I still feel sick to the pit of my stomach thinking about it …