Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Emotional Hoarders

Awhile back, I wrote a piece on Emotional Vampires, those people who suck all of your positive energy with their constant negativity. However, there’s another group of emotional denizens that exist that I find just as nauseating. I call these dysfunctional misfits the Emotional Hoarders. While the Vampires drain you of energy, leaving you a shriveled husk of a person, the Hoarders bury you with the baggage that they have accumulated over the years. Their minds are a storage chest of tragedies that have been saved and instead of leaving it in the attic of memories they lug it around and decorate every new thing they attempt – new relationships, new jobs, and new experiences. They just can’t let things go.

Furthermore, like the Vampires, Hoarders are great at the Blame Game. However, whereas the vamps blame people, Emotional Hoarders blame events and circumstances as well. They were never affirmed as a child and that keeps them from accomplishing their goals in the present. They have an excellent recall of every time they were lied to, cheated on, and hurt, or they’ve done all of those things to others and it weighs them down. They don’t remember that they had great birthday parties, only that they didn’t get some present they wanted. Embedded in their mind is every bully that stole their lunch money and that stereotype gets draped over anyone that may challenge them in the future. When they fail to land a job, it’s because they never got a part in school plays or were always picked last for sports teams. If someone breaks up with them, they get compared to all the other “losers” who didn’t have what it takes to stick it out.

The sad thing is that most of the time, Hoarders are the ones who are sabotaging themselves before anything good can come about. “You’re just like Suzy. She ran away, too. You say you’re here forever, but when things get tough the end of forever finally arrives.” Truth is, the lady is nothing like Suzy, except for the fact that she’s tired of listening to the Reels of Yesteryear as well.

Emotional Hoarders have a lopsided memory system that only allows them to remember the scars received and given, never their glories. Regret is the seasoning that flavors their life.

Because of the baggage they insist on hauling with them, quite often any relationship, whether romantic or platonic, is doomed from the start. They have a faulty habit of judging people and situations, not by who those people are, but by who others were. Anyone who attempts to wade through the mounds of baggage to find the real person underneath runs the risk of an avalanche of emotional boulders burying them, rendering them unable to climb out.

To be honest, I blame psychiatrists. These doctors dig back into people’s pasts and discover that Mommy and Daddy deprived them of a spoiled childhood and suddenly their sucky life has some justification. I don’t buy it; I’m sorry.

Life is full of choices; you make them every minute of every day, whether to answer the phone or not, pay a bill, smile or frown. Likewise, people choose to lug their baggage around and allow the past to define them. People can just as easily choose to let it all go, as well. Blaming the past for asinine behavior in the present is merely a lazy excuse for a lack of self control as well as a life and the guts to live it.

The hoarding of material things is dangerous and unhealthy, not to mention it limits mobility in one’s home. It’s the same with emotional baggage and just like the person who has mounds of newspapers and toys piling up in every nook and cranny of their home runs the risk of being crushed under the piles of yesterday’s news, so does the Emotional Hoarder. A house can only hold so much and it’s the same with a life. If you do nothing but collect the wrongs of yesterday, you will only create an immobile life, weighed down with a past that squashes any future you could have. It’s time to clean out the junk.

I had to do it with the boxes of nostalgia from an active life that triggered memories, but only every ten years when I wondered what was in the boxes stacked up next to the Christmas decorations. I finally opened each cardboard treasure chest and started tossing. Suddenly, I had more room for things that meant something to me in the present and that I could use in the future.

As material things need to be removed, perhaps a physical act can help the Hoarder to symbolically remove the accumulation of junk that is suffocating them, so I offer a suggestion. Purchase a pack of index cards and spend some time writing down everything that is keeping you weighed down. Once you’ve exhausted your past and the emotional clutter you’ve held onto, build a small fire and one by one toss each card into the fire. Flames are not only destructive but purifying as well and as the record of wrongs is consumed, allow the past to be burned from your mind as well. When the cards are gone, make the commitment, the choice, that the baggage is as well. It’s nothing but ashes, ready to be scattered by the next strong wind. Feel the pressure being removed from your soul as you’re able to move easier, even breathe easier.

Emotional Hoarders, consider this an intervention. It’s time to unload the past that cages you in and set yourself free to live your life unencumbered. Torch the past and you can set fire to the future.

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