Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are you constipated?

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.


Anonymous said...

As said in my earlier comment I checked earlier too for an update to be honest. Hey I need my laughter dose. "Emotionally constipated". I didnt think such a word existed b4. I swear as I saw the word "constipation" my mind began giving suggestions "water, loads and loads of it, banana, prunes so on and so forth". As soon as my eyes fell on "emotinally constipated", imagine my shock followed by a huge laughter. For god sake, I work and I am scared what my colleagues would think. I feel this not for my kid but for my husband for sure. Hmm good post let me think about it.

Srilatha said...

Woah Meena, this is one of your more serious posts..We all suffer from this condition, we try to manage it if not cure it. Meena, you're like a flashlight - you bring to light these always overlooked human traits, teach us to recognize it, to laugh, and do better. I keep this children's book at easy reach: Robert Munsch's "I Love You Forever". Reading this book periodically helps me manage my emotional constipation.

jeyashrisuresh said...

Oh it happens to all? i thought iam only the kind of person in the earth like this. Thoughtful post meena.

Sriram V Iyer said...

Meena, Excellent topic! And exceptionally described.

It happens to everyone after a maddening layer of thoughts and abstractions cloud our soul. There is now wonder left in life at all.

The solution is to remove the layers of abstractions and keep the heart 'child like' - I was looking at my friend's kid, about a year old - She was thoroughly excited and filled with wonder with something as simple as a key chain! That's because, her heart was not clouded with abstractions.

Eckhart Tolle says that once we label a stuff, we lose touch with it. (even if we don't know what it is)

I've found going to places that are filled with natural beauty or grandness (like beach) helps in removing this constipation :-)

And, knowing that we have such issues, by itself is a solution to this problem! I am sure your article will resolve the problem of 'Emotional Constipation' from many!

சதங்கா (Sathanga) said...

Nicely written.

Will (try to) follow your advice, atleast the last one :))

Anonymous said...

It could be genetic, or due to upbringing or simply an acquired trait. But those of us who are averse to"display of affection" should try and get out of this genetic/acquired trait as "showing" love brings so much joy to people around, it is worth taking that most difficult step ahead.
excellent post, Meena.

கவிநயா said...

Seriously, serious and excellent post Meena. Many will surely identify with your post and hopefully get rid of that dreary thing.

Meenakshi Sankaran said...

Thank you everyone for your positive feedback. When I first sat down to write about 'emotional constipation', I didn't mean for the article to be so serious. But when the concept began to take shape, I found myself unable to muster up enough wit to make it into a humor column.

As one who has always been averse to 'open displays of affection', I can now tell you with conviction that there are no better laxatives for 'emotional constipation' than a hug and a kiss.

Thanks, again, for all your support.