In the last column, I briefly described the major processes of the excretory and digestive systems by which the human body rids itself of waste products and toxins. What we learn from the excretory and digestive systems of our bodies is that, one, we need a way to filter what comes in so that we keep the good that can be used and, two, we need a way to dispose of, or eliminate the waste products that can make us ill. I talked about the necessity of these processes to our physical health and then highlighted how these provided us with critically important clues to our mental and emotional health as well. Using the excretory and digestive systems as a metaphor, I suggested that similar processes must take place in our minds, a kind of mental filtering system, to help keep us well and balanced.
One example from before was how we go throughout life hearing and taking in messages from the many different people in and out of our lives and how among those various messages, some are useful and some are not. Those that are useful most often serve us well and those that are not useful can become toxic to us if we are unable to allow them to fall away or float on through. Another example I gave was how when we carry around secrets, anger, and resentments and they have no place to go or no room to become something different, they build-up and makes us “sick.”
While I have used the automatic or mechanistic processes of the human body as a metaphor to illustrate the importance of filtering and waste management to our mental and emotional health, I do not mean to suggest that the secrets, anger, resentments, negative responses and/or negative emotions are tangible objects or things. In fact, this is a large part of the reason I believe it is not helpful, nor will it work when folks tell us to “let it go, or, “just stop it.” What I have come to understand is that the secrets, anger, resentments, negative responses and/or negative emotions are not objects or things that we can simply let go of, take a pill to make disappear, or see a minister, therapist, or doctor to stop. Drugs and alcohol can’t do it either. They are experiences or connections with which we have a particular relationship that may not be serving us well.
Our experience of, and responses to past disappointments, losses, mistakes, abuse, etc. has to do with our relationship to these various experiences in our lives. We cannot, with our relationship to experiences, simply touch a button to stop, fast forward, rewind, or eject parts of our experience that we dislike and want to get rid of as we can with a movie using a DVD player. Work has to be done to help create a shift in our particular relationship to our problems and I have learned that often means getting closer to them rather than fighting against them. So rather than trying to make our experiences go away with efforts that only keep them chained to us, we might find greater freedom in figuring out a new or different way to live with them. That is how our problems will be freed up to become less significant, less frequent, less intense, and eventually less noticeable.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.