The emotional hairball? Lovely image isn’t it? Not!
However, this image came to me this week as I was wrestling with some things that were stuck in my throat and wouldn’t come out. And, no, I don’t mean hair or other types of objects. I’m talking about those things that are emotionally charged that I push down or ignore for too long. Eventually they begin to creep up from my stomach, to my chest, to my throat and then get stuck. They are the things that I am not sure how to get out creatively, constructively or conversationally without just spewing all that pent-up emotion all over.
Any of you who own a cat know that cats clean their fur by licking themselves. As this hair accumulates in their guts they have to get rid of it…hence the hacking of hairballs. I know it sounds gross but you know what I mean.
One of the things I do when I allow myself to take an emotional hit or open myself to an emotional hurt is to swallow it. Then, I go off and metaphorically lick my wounds ruminating on all the wrongs done to me. And, yes, I know this isn’t something I am proud of but it happens…less and less I am glad to say, but still it happens and this is often my MO.
After a while all that stuffing builds up and I need to get it out of my gut, my chest and my throat. Hence, the emotional hairball.
Now, here is where I diverge from our feline friends. They lick themselves, creating a hairball, to make themselves clean. I do the opposite. My resentment, hurt, anger is not “licked” to make myself clean but to keep me all muddied up inside.
What to do? Well, once I decided I didn’t like what I was doing to myself and this very vivid and gross image came to mind, it was time to take some steps to break the habit.
Step #1: See those emotional hairballs for what they are. My need to wallow and justify my anger, hurt or whatever it is that has its tentacles wrapped around my feelings has to be examined and I need to hold myself accountable for this choice and its aftermath.
Step #2: Accept that no one can turn my emotions upside down without my permission.
Step #3: Accept that I choose to keep those emotions bottled up where they can grow and expand exponentially.
Step #4: Find, create or develop ways to deal with each ‘hit’ as it happens rather than letting it build inside. And this takes time apart from the busyness of the day. Flying from one thing to another contributes to my sense of hurt and wounding and cancels out any opportunity to reflect and respond appropriately. I need to take time for myself to look at what is accumulating inside of me and how I am encouraging it to grow.
Step #5: Use the energy I would have used getting that hairball out and cleaning it up for things that bring me joy, give me peace and let me open my mind to the beauty in life.
Five simple steps that are anything but easy. And like any shift in behavior it will take practice. Carrying that image of an emotional hairball with me will serve as a reminder that there are alternatives to the buildup of all that ‘junk’ inside of me. Cleaning myself up should bring a purr to my spirit rather than a hack to heart.