Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grief and Healing: Using the Nice Dishes

Family China from the early 20th Century, trimmed in red and gold and decorated with Magnolia flowers.
Using the Special Dishes for Everyday Occasions

Last night I drank my tea from one of my great grandmother's tea cups. I even used a saucer, and I thought, "This is special.  Why don't I do this more often?"  I've had her set of dishes for over a year, now, and it's only the second time I've used one of those beautiful little cups.  

The Positive Effect of Special Things

There is evidence to show that things can have a positive effect on affect, especially special things. Family heirlooms, for example, offer owners a "sense of continuity" or belonging, and "provide meaning and self-expression" or a sense of identity (Abelson & Prentice, 1989, pg. 365). These things, though perhaps unimportant or redundant on a functional level, can connect owners to their pasts, their fond memories, and thus to positive emotions.

Using Special Things for Special Days

Yet, if these special things make us feel good, why don't we use the nice dishes every day?  Why do we only pull them our for the holidays?  We should stop asking, "Why use the nice cups when I have everyday cups," and start thinking of every day as a special occasion.

Fear of Loss, Identity, and Memory

Generally, people do not use the nice dishes every day because of fear, mostly fear of loss, like accidentally breaking something irreplaceable.  If we break something irreplaceable, we fear we may therefore lose some piece of our identity or a connection with the past, relatives, or memories. However, it is unhealthy to allow the fear of the loss of an item to prevent that item's potential positive effect on our emotions.  It's important to remember that memories and identity are not products of things, but rather extensions of the memories and identity.  Even without things, we remain who we.  Even without things, we retain our memories.

So, as this holiday season comes and goes, think about leaving a few of the nice cups in the everyday cabinet and a few pieces of silver in the everyday drawer.  Start thinking of every day as a special occasion and allowing special things to have a positive effect on your affect.


Abelson, R. P. & Prentice, D. A. (1989). Beliefs as Possessions: A Functional Perspective. In Pratkanis, A. R., Breckler, S. J., & Greenwald, A. G. (Eds). Attitude, Structure, and Function. (pp. 361-381). Florence, KY: Psychology Press.

Want to read more?  Try

It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
Learn to Crochet for Stress Relief
Instead of Watching Television

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

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