Are you hurting when it comes to relationships? Do you find yourself running back to salvage a friendship gone bad?
Then, my friend, you might be considered a Relational Dumpster Diver… but no worries, I know someone who can help you recover by, “Taking Out Your Emotional Trash” my friend, Georgia Shaffer.
Georgia Shaffer is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, certified life coach, speaker, and an award-winning author of several books, here is a question and answer with Georgia about her book “Taking Out Your Emotional Trash”
Q&A with Georgia
(Linda) Georgia, we can all relate to the job of “taking out our trash,” but what led you to write Taking Out Your Emotional Trash?
(Georgia) Like many listeners, I grew up in a home where I never learned the skills I needed to handle my disappointments, insecurities, or anger in a healthy way. As a result, those hurts and feelings piled up and created more pain in my life. It took me years to learn how to deal properly with my negative emotions.
As a life coach and licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, I’ve seen how other people struggle with their negative feelings. Too often they wait until a crisis before saying, “I need help.” Unfortunately, it’s usually our closest relationships that bring our junk to the surface and it’s those relationships that suffer the most. I wrote Taking Out Your Emotional Trash to help people dump this junk before they trash their relationships. I want people to experience less stress and more of the energy, peace and joy that comes when we get rid of these potentially toxic feelings.
(Linda) Could you share with us your definition of “emotional trash”?
(Georgia) I define “emotional trash” as the negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes that accumulate in our hearts and minds and when ignored or denied can lead to strong emotional reactions where we say or do something we later regret.
It’s not that our emotions are unhealthy or dangerous – it’s what we do or don’t do with them that creates problems.
For example, I have a friend whose garbage was not collected one week and so her husband stored it behind a shed in their back yard. A week later, the night before trash day, he carried it back out to the curb. But it wasn’t until he walked into their garage, back into the light, that he noticed maggots crawling all over his sleeves and hands.
If their garbage had been picked up sooner, it would not have become infested—and he would have been spared a creepy experience.
The same thing happens to us when our grudges and unresolved anger are not dealt with properly. They create the emotional equivalent of maggots crawling all over us.
(Linda) At the beginning of the book you talk about spending a day on a beach filled with trash, and how most of the people walked or played around it as if they did not see it. Then you say we often have emotions that we ourselves don’t see or have grown used to. Can you give me an example?
(Georgia) Resentment is a great example of an unhealthy or destructive feeling that we don’t recognize; it’s like living near a fast food restaurant and getting use to the smell, after awhile we aren’t even aware of its existence.
Several years ago I had to care for my mother after she fell. It was during this time I realized her smallest request like: “Will you buy me some hand cream?” felt like a huge assignment. I usually responded with a snappish response from me. Since this is not the way I wanted to treat my mother I began praying about this. While talking with an old friend from high school, I realized my poor attitude came from some deep resentment I still held from my childhood. I had lived with that resentment some forty years without realizing it. I came to see that my rotten attitude had more to do with what was in my heart than with what my mother expected or needed.
I hear stories like this all the time. For example, one woman told me she realized she still was bitter about her husband’s encouragement to get an abortion thirty years earlier. Like me, she had grown used to her bitterness and was no longer even aware of its existence.
(Linda) You write about how easily our wants can get distorted into needs. You say wrong thinking and a lack of self awareness can plunge us into a downward cycle. How do we reverse this tendency?
(Georgia) It’s important to understand how our legitimate desires can become warped by wrong thinking. Unless we are paying attention, our unfulfilled desires can plunge us into a downward cycle that looks like this: “I desire fill in the blank” becomes “I need you to ….” or “I demand that you…” And it goes on to become: “And if you fail to fulfill my desire, I will punish you in some way –either by withholding my time and attention or by attacking you verbally.”
To reverse this downward cycle, we must 1) recognize which desires have become something we believe we need, 2) grieve the loss of what can’t and might never be, and then 3) embrace what is. It is only at that point we can learn to live with the tension that comes with having desires and dreams without demanding that God or others fulfill them.
-Questions and answers will continue next time-
WOW… Georgia has incredible insight when it comes to relationships and her book, Taking Out Your Emotional Trash, really tells it like it is… do you have any questions you’d like her to answer?
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