After years of denial, I woke up one day not too long ago and reluctantly admitted to myself that I was constipated.
Wow….hold your horses! Tear off that prescription for laxatives, my friends. My intestines are in perfect harmony, thank you very much. I am talking about emotional constipation, a rarely talked about illness in people that when left untreated can cause irreparable damage.
If you are unsure about what I am talking about, here is how you can recognize the symptoms. You are emotionally constipated if:
- Hugs and kisses come as natural to you as they did to Adolf Hitler.
- You consider breaking down and crying in front of someone to be the worst cardinal sin ever.
- Admitting an error on your part costs so much more to you than a gram of gold (which is saying a lot considering the gold price in today’s market).
- After yelling at your kids for something you know to be totally trivial and facing the aftermath of sobs, pouts and accusing glances, you still find yourself unable to give a hug and soothe away the hurt.
- When your husband comes home brimming with excitement about a new promotion at work, all you can say is ‘nice’ and pat him once on the hand in an awkward show of appreciation before turning back to the stove to continue stirring the pot of water.
- Even when your heart is filled with love for …………… (fill up this space), the phrase ‘I love you’ gets stuck somewhere to the south of your throat and refuses to be spit out.
If you recognize any of the symptoms above, do not despair. All is not lost yet. When I first diagnosed myself to being afflicted with this illness, it stole my breath away. Me? Emotionally constipated? Afraid to be emotionally expressive? How could that be? How could one who prided herself to be friendly be such a coward? After a lot of soul-searching, I figured out something very curious. The closer I feel to a person, the more constipated I become. Go figure! Anyway, the good news is 'emotional constipation' is fully curable though it takes a bit of ingenuity in shuffling around your genes that dictate your behavior and relearn certain reflexive responses.
For example, if you think you may be afflicted with the same illness, the next time your child comes up to you and declares “Guess what mom/dad! I got an ‘A’ in my Vocabulary quiz today” and looks expectantly at you, resist the urge to give a stoic pat on the head accompanied by ‘good good’ before walking away to attend to the million mundane chores that always seem to await you. Difficult as it may be, stretch your lips wide in a smile, give a squishy hug and say ‘I am proud of you’. And watch utter joy wash over the little face like you have never seen before. That is just one example of 'relearning a reflexive response'.
If you are trying to quit before you even started telling yourself 'I can't change my ways. It is too hard', know that there is another soul on the planet who is trying to do the same and slowly getting the hang of it. Bad habits are there just begging to be broken. As one who is genuinely attempting to recover from this illness, take my advice and practice these phrases at home every day.
I love you.
I miss you.
I am proud of you.
I am afraid of ............
They will come in handy and go a long way to help speed up your recovery. Hope you feel better soon.