Five Cents, Please


I’m no reality TV show junkie, trust me, but I have gravitated towards a show on A&E called Hoarders. Have you seen it? The people on the program all basically have the same issue:  they hold on to things that they perceive as valuable or that adds meaning to their lives. You immediately notice that their addiction is clearly dysfunctional and out of control. This is beyond clutter; the “stuff” they’ve accumulated has completely taken over their lives. They live to hoard.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to pass judgment. As voyeurs, we expect whatever underlying issue in a television show to be resolved in about 30 or 60 minutes. In reality, we know that a situation like this requires  far more behavioral modifications and compassion. There is physical work involved, obviously, with all the wares they hoard, and emotional disentanglement because they try to detach from their stuff throughout the course of the TV show.  Some do. Some don’t.

I wonder if the same can be said about emotional hoarders? Do you know an emotional hoarder? It’s someone that holds on to an emotion for so long, that overtime that emotion takes over their lives. What’s interesting is that now the hoarder perceives the emotion as valuable or that it adds meaning to their lives. They just can’t seem to let go and move on. An emotional hoarder believes that holding on to excessive guilt, shame, hurt, confusion, grief and fear is normal. But what they don’t know or don’t want to deal with is that the guilt, shame, hurt, confusion, grief and fear are burying them alive.

I know this because I am one. I’m an emotional hoarder.

This isn’t easy to share but I think it’ll help someone. I just had a breakthrough. I think it’s no secret that I had to work a little harder than most when I was a kid. What I realized recently, was that from a child, I was being conditioned and learned dysfunction and considered it normal. Not healthy dysfunction – because I do believe that some disorder is actually good for you. But a type of dysfunction where there was a tremendous amount of pressure and guilt placed on me just because of what I believed. And I thought I made peace with it but realized that I didn’t. I appeased the emotion (sorry if this seems cryptic).

It became a part of who I was. I needed to feel guilt. I needed to feel shame. I needed to feel confusion because that’s all I ever knew. For thirty-some-odd years, I’ve hoarded these emotions, unnecessarily. They’ve held me down. They’ve held me back. And as I grow through this discovery, it scares me because I can’t imagine my life without these feelings. But I’m willing (a little) to try.

I’m shrinking myself here but aside from acknowledging that there is a problem. I decided to try and introduce a new emotion: hope. I dare to imagine what my life would look like without guilt, shame, and confusion.

What about you? What would your life look like without the grief that you’re holding on to? If you could push fear aside, what would you accomplish? What if guilt wasn’t a factor, what would you do for yourself? I’m listening.

14 thoughts on “Five Cents, Please

  1. Bridgette

    Hello are you talking to me? I guess I realized part of me is a hoarder, I have a tight grip on fear, where is that 5 cent psychiatrist when u need it???? dang…Love this one KnowlegdeMaven!

  2. Hoarder of emotions? Yes, I’d say there must be a good many of us out there. It stands to reason that what we grow up watching becomes part of us. I learned that life is tough and money is difficult to make. Those two thoughts set me back for a lot of years. I’ve finally made a breakthrough, but there is still more hoarder thoughts to go. I’ve also spent a lot of time around people who live for drama. I am absolutely done with that! Thank you for a great post. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to find you and your wonderful writiing.

    • People who live for drama…it is amazing isn’t it?! I think I read in Oprah magazine some time ago (maybe earlier this year) an article by Lisa Kogan about emotional whores, people that just live for drama. Aside from it being hysterical, I realized she was absolutely right. Some people live for mess….

      Thanks for stopping by…come again 😉

  3. Emotional hoarding – that’s a fantastic way of thinking of the feelings that we hang on to as if they will bring us a mint someday. And maybe as writers it is what fuels us. Who knows. Loved your analogy and the self-shrinking.

    • I was thinking character building dysfunction…it doesn’t seem like it when we go through it but we’re better off for it in the long run. I’m sure there’s some level of conscious dysfunction that you experienced and in the end you thought, “I’m so glad I went through that.” I’ve learned over and over again how NOT to do things. Relationships….friendships….professional associations….you name it. I knew they were dysfunctional but I somehow stuck with it. They’ve since ended but I’m glad I went through it. It’s made me wiser.

  4. Don’t feel bad that you’ve gotten hooked on a reality show. I used to be ashamed that I like Basketball Wives but I’m out of the closet with it now. I love that show!

    Anyway, all of us are raised with some dysfunctions because there are no perfect parents. Some are a lot less perfect that what may be considered normal and it a road to recovery when one finds they should be making a left turn when all the while, they thought going right was the way to go. Just one of those many lessons in life, you know.

  5. I have breakfast with my 3 best friends in the world every Friday (it’s awesome). Anyway, they helped me realize that we all have emotional baggage – it’s a matter of degree. Some of ours is worse than others.

    {BTW, I’m a professional self-shrinker! I can go on for days :). }

    I’m immensely grateful for these few people (incl the hubs) that know my baggage and hang out with me anyway. That’s my therapy. They keep me level and sane. And, when I’m going off the edge, they pull me back. Not eveyone is as lucky as me to have this kind of support.

    I’m constantly wondering what dysfunction my kids will think I imposed on them, but I have comfort knowing that their childhoods were MUCH better than mine. One day when they are old enough, they will understand that.

    Great post!

    • Hey Jenni – great to hear from you. How lucky are you to have such supportive friends?! I love to hear folks shrink themselves, the look on their faces alone is beyond priceless. It’s more than an “Aha!” — it’s excitement, nervousness and uncertainty whelmed up inside and shown on your face at the same time.

  6. SCB

    The introduction of hope, although generally a positive emotion, can sometimes come back to bite you. From personal experience; putting hope out there when the actual chances of the outcome you’re hoping for are slim to none can only make matters worse. Not to say you shouldn’t hope, everyone should. But if you’re trying to overcome years and years of guilt, shame, anger, resentment…etc… when your hope is falsely placed it sets you back. One needs to be careful with putting hope out there.

    I’ve been reading on this subject for a while (As a side note, very good job accurately describing this dysfunction and keeping it fairly balanced in view), and mostly I’ve seen calls to a higher power or meditation. I have been holding onto shame and guilt and anger from moments in grade school for years. It’s always something that other people witnessed that I felt was such a horrid and unforgettable memory, but when discussing these events the witnesses don’t ever recall them. Why was I feeling so worked up about something that no one else considered noteworthy enough to remember? The worst part is that no matter how much logic I get thrown, or people I talk to for insight, I feel every emotion just as strong as the day the event happened. And I hate it. Ironic that the very idea of illogical emotional makes me even more illogically emotional. The only real treatment I have is to treat it asymptomatically; take steps to calm myself, talk it through, push it to the back of mind, because no amount of talking about my memories that hurt has ever improved my emotions towards them.

    I will write back should I come up with a better treatment(and yes I know this post is years old at this point).

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