An Example of Hoarding.
After repeated encouragement from friends, I finally watched a reality show about people who had been diagnosed as hoarders. They fill their house and yard with everything they’ve ever owned, and eventually life becomes unlivable. Repeatedly, in real life I have seen people in this condition, and the smell of the place really fills in the overall picture.
In one episode of the reality show, a grandfather, Lewis, had filled every room of his two-story house from floor to ceiling with his priceless treasure—from his children’s 30-year-old homework to leftovers from last month’s fast food dinner. The house was unfit in every way for human habitation—rats, roaches, and more—and the state department of children’s services had condemned the building years ago.
Living with Lewis was Lucas, his nine-year-old grandson. The only place for Lucas—or anyone else—to sit down was in a filthy, ancient recliner, which is where the boy spent most of his hours, including sleeping.
The reality show attempted to help Lewis and the boy—and, of course, the ratings of the show—by bringing in several dumpsters three weeks before the date when Lewis would be evicted, the old home would be demolished, and Lucas would be taken into the foster care system. The city couldn’t legally force Lewis to part with any particular object, they just made it clear what would happen if the house were not emptied sufficiently to create a home suitable for a young boy. Regrettably, Lewis couldn’t part with anything, so the dumpsters were carted off empty, the house was condemned, and Lucas was remanded to foster care, despite agonizing and tears from everyone involved.
As I watched the reality show I realized that I had seen it hundreds of times before. Sometimes it involved the actual hoarding of objects, but it was usually far more subtle. We hoard grudges, resentment, victimhood, power, and more, all creating the illusion of temporary satisfaction, diminished pain, and every other counterfeit for happiness—despite innumerable and unequivocal warnings about where we’re headed with our self-deceptions.
If we hoard anything that fails to give us the genuine, consistently reproducible happiness that comes from feeling loved, our hoarding grows, and the price becomes unspeakably high, as in the case of the man who lost his house and grandson.
If we don’t even know what happiness IS, then anything else will do, even if it leads to emotional and spiritual death. If garbage is all we have, it can seem even precious. In short, we hoard those things that prevent us from finding the kind of life we really desire. Most succinctly, we hoard death.
With rare exceptions, we don’t hoard consciously. We just hoard whatever our minds and hands can get hold of. Hoarding is almost always quite unconscious, which is much worse, because whatever behavior we cannot recognize we cannot modify, as much as we may need to.
Replace emotional hoarding with peace and happiness.
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