The cost of hiding socks and feelings
When my daughter was little, I used to do a check after she cleaned her room to make sure she had picked up all items and put them in their place. It never failed that I would find several things she had missed, and we would review once more where each was to be put away. One particular day I came in to find everything looking spotless. I was impressed and happy she had paid such attention to detail. Maybe she was finally catching on, I thought, that was until I turned around to exit through the door. I caught a glimpse of something pink under her armoire. I got on my hands and knees and saw she had stuffed some dirty socks under there. I pulled them out and said “nice try,” having her put them in the hamper. A few days later, I once again encountered a seemingly perfect room until I saw something peeking out from under her bed. I pulled her shiny pink comforter back to reveal that shoes, hairbands, toys and underwear had been pushed underneath. I was half annoyed, half amused but didn’t let her see either as I made her pull them out and put them where they belonged. Fast forward a few days, and I found an immaculate room again. Not so fast! I am not falling for it this time. I made sure to check under the armoire and bed, looked behind the door and in the closet. Hmmm. Nothing there. Ok maybe she is finally getting it. A smile came across my face as I felt pride in having taught her to do a job well. Later that evening, I entered her bathroom to start the bedtime routine. As I pulled out her toothbrush and toothpaste from the drawer placing them on her vanity, I glanced in the mirror and observed something unusual. I saw the reflection of her shower curtain behind me and noticed it was pulled all the way shut. This was out of the ordinary and made me immediately suspicious. I walked over and snatched the curtain back. Aha! Just as I had suspected, there was a mountain of clothes, stuffed animals and art supplies. I shook my head in disbelief. She was determined to win this game, and so was I. Despite my best efforts, this behavior of hiding things to keep from putting them away continued, getting more and more complex over time with her eventually placing things so high from sight that she had to use a stool to distribute them. The most baffling part to me was that the effort she put into hiding things had become greater than the effort it would take to just put them where they belonged. In the beginning, it saved her a little bit of time to slide something under a piece of furniture, but by this point it was taking her way longer to think up new clever locations.
Avoiding feelings is similar.
In the beginning, it has some benefit, but over time it requires more and more effort to continue creatively and effectively tucking them away. Busyness, adventure and achievement were my avoiders of choice. They kept me distracted and provided me with good feelings. The problem is that those feelings were only temporary. When the hoopla surrounding those moments quieted down, I was left with those not-so-pleasant feelings I was trying to ignore. So I just added more avoiders. I started watching more tv, surfing the internet and staying on social media. Before long, every waking moment had to be filled with something to occupy my mind.
Maybe your avoiders are not staying constantly moving or plastered to a device. Perhaps it’s sought in material things--a motorcycle, new decor for your home, the latest fashion--or obsessing over things like beauty or fitness. It could be the need to be surrounded by others or using a substance such as food or alcohol, even the high of sex. No matter the avoidance of choice, as long as you keep busy, as long as you keep moving, as long as you keep drinking those glasses of wine, as long as you keep winning those sales awards, as long as you have people surrounding you, as long as the television is on, as long as there is some noise to keep you distracted or checked out, you will be safe because you will never feel those feelings. But it becomes a never-ending cycle. Negative feelings are not going away.
They are always there in the background, and eventually you will become exhausted from running and putting on a 3-ring circus to avoid stopping to deal with them.
Feelings like inadequacy, failure, being overwhelmed or that no one cares suck! It’s understandable that we wouldn’t want to feel them, but if we do not allow ourselves to experience them, challenge their validity and replace them with other thoughts we will never find lasting happiness and peace.
A year and a half ago, I didn’t realize it was possible to open my eyes to the morning sunlight and lie there under the covers feeling sadness, fear, loneliness and still be ok. I was afraid I would be consumed by them. I never knew that if I welcomed them in they would only consume me for a moment and then it would pass. I didn’t know that if I accepted the process and worked on changing my thoughts, the lack of inspiration and motivation with which I was struggling would be temporary.