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Thursday, May 29, 2014

When You're Happy, You're Healthy. Avoiding Emotional Hoarding.

I recently found myself in a situation where I was told that I "wasn't liked" by some women that I know. Obviously, my feelings were hurt.  Although I had suspected this was the case, I didn't let it bother me until it was "confirmed" by one of those women. She chose to tell my husband how she didn't care for me and found me "opinionated, abrasive, straight forward," and other, similar traits. He was a gem and defended my honor to the best of his ability. It hurt HIM to hear these things and it hurt ME to hear them from HIM.  But, you know what??  She was right!

Let me be clear. I am not ALWAYS opinionated, abrasive, or straight forward. But I CAN be. And, since this woman hasn't take the time to REALLY get to KNOW me, I figure that is all she might see because that is all she KNOWS.

I stressed about this for a couple of weeks.  I worried, prayed, cried, yelled, complained, and became very bitter toward these women UNTIL..... I found out that they were holding grudges for things said and done YEARS ago!!! What!?!? Suddenly, I felt bad for them. Holding onto negative feelings toward a person without that person knowing anything about it only hurts YOU! Can you imagine holding onto something so long that it just eats at you... creating a hole that just gets bigger over time?

My first instinct was to confront these women.  "Give them a piece of my mind" and let them know that THEY are FAR from perfect! My next instinct was to confront them and try to "work it out." Although that might still happen, something tells me that IF the grudge was released and good feelings came through, there is a high possibility that it would be quickly replaced with yet, ANOTHER grudge. I say this because I have learned a little bit from this experience. As some time has passed, I learned that I am not the only person that these women have negative feelings towards. There are more! Quite a few, actually.  Some of them have known this wrath for longer than I. Knowing that I wasn't singled out did make me feel a little better, but it made me feel worse for those that hold the grudge.  This has led me to believe one of two things: These women won't let go of this grudge, or they will let go, only to replace it with another. I quickly began to wonder if these women are, what I refer to as, EMOTIONAL HOARDERS.

Emotional Hoarders

Most people have seen those shows on TV about the people that hoard junk in their homes. To the outside eye, these people seem happy, normal, and functional.  But, taking a closer look, you realize that they have been hurt.  Something made them feel insecure and they started holding on to things.  The things that they hold on to are ALWAYS "important" to them. They feel like they can't let go of them without giving up a piece of themselves. While others realize that most of those items are trivial and unimportant, it takes A LOT of effort to convince the hoarder that they need to LET GO. In the mean time, they have shut themselves off from the world, only letting in a few close people. The house gets so full that it covers windows and sinks, making it impossible to allow light into the home or to clean house. It becomes overwhelming and takes over their life. A false sense of security is created by holding on to these items and the hoarder loses themselves in the mess.

It is SO easy for humans to become "emotional hoarders." We carry grudges, say mean things, hold onto "that one time" that "so and so" did something that hurt us. Each instance is "important!" The more that we hold on to, the easier it gets and the quicker we judge. We stop wanting to be around people that are positive... in fact, they annoy us! Sometimes, we let others in to see our "mess."  We complain, gossip, and perhaps even confront the "offender."  But emotional hoarders NEVER let go. They might tell you EXACTLY what it was that hurt them 10 years ago, but won't forgive... or forget. They CAN'T!  If they did, they are giving up something that has now become "precious" to them. A defense. An emotional wall of negative JUNK. A wall that is SO high that soon, light will no longer be able to shine through.  The only thing left is to be bitter, full of negativity and sarcasm.

Protect Your Health

Are you one of these people? I almost was... well, toward these certain people anyway. Do not mistake me, I understand that there are emotional scars that cut very deep.  Those scars take a long time to heal and a lot of effort to forgive. I wish that we could all be like the Amish People who forgave the murderer that killed their daughters. If you are unfamiliar with that story, it is a life changing read.  You can find it HERE. The fact is that not everyone can easily forgive. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't TRY.

You might be wondering "What does this have to do with health?  Isn't this The Healthy Redhead Blog?" Well, yes, and, I'll tell you.
 "Joseph Neumann, PhD, a clinical psychologist at East Tennessee State University, is researching the relationship between forgiveness and heart disease. "When I treated patients with cardiovascular disease, I was struck by how many were bitter, angry, and depressed," says Neumann. "It clearly affected their health and their ability to heal."
To test his hypothesis, Neumann is planning a study using a variety of methods to test 200 volunteers for their capacity to forgive. Neumann says that based on past experience, he would be surprised if he doesn't find that those who score high on the forgiveness scale have less anger, depression, and anxiety and are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease."
Above is a section of an article found on Web MD. The article is fascinating and can be found HERE.  
Negative Emotions LITERALLY poison your body.
What happens when you HOARD negative emotion?

Cleaning House

I was very fortunate and knew that I needed to "clean house."  I needed to stop holding on to the things that were bringing me down.  It wasn't easy!  I mean, I have to see these people on a fairly regular basis.  But, I also understand that although they may continue to have their opinions, I have the option to move past it.  I control how I act, what I say, and how I respond. Therefore, I am choosing LOVE. It sounds cheesy, I know.  But I wonder if I invite them to dinner with me and the girls, or if I invite their children over to play, or serve them in other ways, that maybe they will see the side of me that I HOPE other people see. I don't have to argue with them to defend my integrity and character.  I prove them wrong through ACTION. Actions speak louder than words, right? If that is the case, I can only hope MY actions will SHOUT POSITIVE, LOVING, words from the tops of the Wasatch Mountains! 

If you find yourself on the road to emotional hoarding, follow these steps to start releasing some of that junk.

1. Recognize the Issue. Avoid complicating the problem by recognizing the main source.  It does no good to clean up cobwebs if you don't kill the spider.  What is it that is truly causing the negative feelings? 

2. Ask yourself what it would take for you to feel better and if your desire is realistic.  Sometimes just an "I'm Sorry" really isn't enough, especially if behavior doesn't change. However, when someone truly wants to be forgiven, they have to feel like forgiveness really IS possible. Setting unrealistic expectations complicates the issue and in many cases, worsens it. 

3.  Follow through. Once you have decided to forgive, and HOW to forgive, actually DO IT!  You can't change the game rules at the last second because you suddenly decided that that person wasn't deserving of forgiveness.  EVERYONE DESERVES FORGIVENESS.  Let us also not forget that WE too will find ourselves needing to be forgiven. Who wants to be the person that expects forgiveness but won't forgive.... especially if it involves the same person that we had an issue with. Finally, I think that we can all agree that it's not our place to judge or grudge. Let's leave the judging to the "big guy upstairs."

4. Find something positive to replace the negative. Ever heard that it takes two positives to replace a negative?  It's true.  Find those positive things and embrace them. THEN, let the other person know that you "like" those things about them. That will make them feel like their efforts in obtaining forgiveness were not in vain and their smile will help to solidify the positive emotion within yourself.

5. Let it Go.  At the risk of breaking into the now ever popular song, just LET IT GO!!  Forgive, forget, and release the negative issue.  YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO HOLD ON TO IT!  Negative emotions will ruin your health, your relationships, friendships, break apart families, and darken your spirit. It's not worth it. Forgiving doesn't make them right, it lets you move forward. 

If I am able to get these ladies to meet with me, I will: 
  • Listen to their concerns
  • Apologize for hurting them
  • Explain that I didn't mean to hurt them. I mean, who wakes up in the morning thinking "I'm going to piss this person off today."  Not many people.
  • Tell them that I love them
  • Explain that I too have had bad feelings towards them.
  • Ask for forgiveness from them
  • Tell them that I forgive their negative feelings towards me

Then, I would get up, hug them, walk out the door and LET IT GO.  LIKE A BOSS! My "house" will be clean and free from hoarding, and hopefully, theirs will be too. Or at least a window will be clear and light will be allowed into their home. Yup, that is what I will do.  

If not given that opportunity, I can assure you that I won't let THIS issue turn me into a hoarder. Nope, "I ain't got no time for that!" I'm to busy being happy with the things that I DO have control over. And, that is enough for me. Let it be enough for you to. 


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