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What's Your "Bah Humbug" Phrase?

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

It is the holiday season, which makes it a great time for reflection. Holiday classics, like a Christmas Carol, can be a great source of inspiration when you’re thinking about change. Change is hard. Hopefully in your life you won’t need three ghosts to help you change, but even without ghosts, change is scary. Have you ever noticed that Scrooge’s most famous phrase, bah humbug, is often uttered at times when he is faced with situations that represent opportunities for change? He says bah humbug as a way of dismissing the situation so that he doesn’t have to face change. When his own words are thrown back at him by the ghosts, he is offered a new perspective and can start to recognize that his dismissiveness is avoidance rather than his actual feelings. Once he is able to face situations without hiding behind the verbal shield of bah humbug, he is able to start making changes.

My Own Bah Humbug

Although we might not realize it, many of us have our own bah humbug phrase we say to avoid discomfort and skirt change. My bah humbug phrase is “I don’t care.” When I get stressed or overwhelmed, I often find myself muttering, “I don’t care.” I became acutely aware of this habit one day when my then four year old daughter looked at me tearfully and asked, “you don’t care?” Yep, just like Scrooge it stung to have my words tossed back. It really highlighted how inaccurate my bah humbug phrase truly is. Most of the time when I say that I don’t care, I actually am pretty invested and really care a lot. Saying “I don’t care” is counterproductive. It is my way of trying to shove my feelings away and escape from stress, but it isn’t super effective and it comes at a pretty high price. Looking at my daughter’s sad face and hearing her trembling voice when she thought that I didn’t care drove that point home: the cost of my avoidant bah humbug phrase was too high.

Kickin' Bah Humbug to the Curb

I decided to make an effort to ditch my bah humbug phrase and switch it out for something more accurate and effective. When I say, “I don’t care,” I usually am feeling overwhelmed and don’t have the capacity or resources to deal with an issue at that moment. So instead of saying “I don’t care” I now try to say what I am feeling, which is usually something like “This rally bothers me. I can’t deal with this at the moment and that is ok.”

I would love to tell you that I never use my bah humbug phrase anymore. The truth is I still catch myself saying it. Now when I catch it, I recognize it and consciously correct it. When my message more accurately reflects how I feel and my goals, I am able to be much more effective and I actually feel less stressed.

So What's Your Bah Humbug Phrase?

So this holiday season, I encourage you to take some time and notice if you have a bah humbug phrase. If you do, swap it out for something a bit more accurate and helpful. Change can be hard and scary, but it is definitely worth it. Just ask Scrooge.

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Happy Holidays from New Dawn!

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