Hoarder Confession: Grief, Shame, and Guilt Have Buried Me Alive

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.


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