We all know about the TV shows featuring hoarders. We’ve seen homes where you can scarcely walk through a skinny path, bags and boxes forming the walls on either side. And, as I have two friends who are hoarders, I must first express genuine sympathy for this. 19 million Americans suffer from Hoarding Disorder, and the numbers are rising.
Causes include having OCD, thinking “stuff” brings us comfort, feeling we have to buy more and more to prove our success, being afraid to throw anything away lest we can never replace it, and more. Obviously, it can pose physical and health dangers. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can often help.
But many of us hoard something else—not physical items, but hurts we’ve accumulated over our lifetime. Our brains and hearts are crammed so full of injustices and cruelties that we can scarcely find room for the uplifting, positive things of life. We fail to see blessings and we can miss out on spiritual growth.
When someone hurts us, it’s natural to pull up the drawbridge. Self-preservation kicks in and we want to put distance between us and the abuser. Often healthy boundaries must be set. Other, less healthy reactions include striking out to get revenge, pretending we weren’t hurt, withdrawing from all social encounters, being ultra-defensive, and seeing the world through a paranoid lens, sure that everyone is an enemy.
Sometimes we hold onto hurts to justify our grudges. We might share these with others to gain sympathy. We might use them to rationalize our lack of effort to do and be all that we could. It’s more than painting ourselves as damaged (aren’t we all?)—it’s embracing the label “hopeless.” By being permanently scarred we can then hope the perpetrator hears of our sorrow and then feels responsible. That’ll show ‘em.
Except it doesn’t show ‘em. They go happily on their way, usually unaware that we are still licking our wounds. And if they do become aware that we are a crumbling disaster, they will not accept that blame. They may even feel this proves they were right all along.
When we decide to collect and review every unkind slight, every offense—intended or not—we have bought a seat on the Self-Pity boat, where Satan is at the helm, happy to cart us off to Depression Waterfall..
So how can we stop hoarding hurt? First, we can admit that it’s really, really hard to do. I have found myself ruminating about past grievances until I cannot sleep, cannot get on with what I need to do, cannot be myself. But there are steps we can take to pull ourselves out of the mire.
First, get a Priesthood Blessing. Allow God to tell you how wonderful you are, how much joy there is to have in this life, and how much He wants you to forgive and move on.
Next, make a real study of forgiveness. Look it up in the topical guide in your scriptures and study others who found the release from chains, the freedom and lightness of letting go of past hurts. We don’t do it because the other party is sorry; we do it for ourselves—it cleanses us from their poison. And, if you really want victory over your detractors, living joyfully is winning that battle.
Consider counseling. If your hoard is nearly suffocating you, admit that you need a professional to guide you back to self-respect and enjoyment of living. It’s okay to need help with this huge task. Just as with de-cluttering, we can get rid of one hurt at a time. It’s empowering to stop being the victim.
Look at your upbringing and consciously refuse to follow unhealthy patterns you may have grown up thinking were normal. If your family was always whining and bemoaning their awful fate, resolve to write a new script. Catch yourself before you spiral downward.
Pray for your enemies. When you realize how much worse it is to be the cruel one, you’ll feel sorry for that person. There’s great satisfaction in realizing that you would never do something like they did. You’ll clearly see your worth and value.
Consider forming new, healthy relationships with people who bring out your best. Sometimes we gather friends who validate our unhealthy position, and when we get well we need to avoid those who would drag us down again.
Keep a gratitude journal. Not only is this great to review from time to time, but it will alter the attitude you have as you go through your day. You will be consciously looking for blessings, a much better pursuit than looking for reasons to mope.
Dive into service. This formula gives such immediate results that it’s puzzling why so many of us resist it. But by serving others we automatically feel closer to our Savior, and better about ourselves. Sometimes we even feel a bliss that catches us by surprise.
Notice those moments when Satan is working on you. Ask yourself, “If I were the adversary trying to trip up (your name here), what would I do?” Often you’ll spot the exact technique in your life. You know your weaknesses, and so does he. So shake off his negative messages and refuse to get sucked in.
Last, consider these words from President Thomas S. Monson: “Self-pity, personal withdrawal, or deep despair do not bring the peace, the assurance, or help which are needed. Rather, we must go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward.”
Let’s do it. Let’s get whatever help we need to stop opening that box of hurts—maybe even throw it overboard once and for all. Let’s jump off the Self-Pity boat, and swim to shore. Maybe we’ll need a life-jacket, or someone to tug us along, and that’s okay. Together we can stop hoarding hurts and get on with the joy of living.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is not just for Christmas. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.