I just got back from a trip, with a stomach issue that has lingered. In my fatigue, I watched the house slowly fill up with messiness. An open box here, a glass of water there, unprocessed laundry and unpacked bags there and there. The kitchen also filled up with recycling, compost and dishes; squashing any desire to go there and cook.
When I got a bit of energy, I slowly started cleaning. The first thing I addressed during cleanup was the trash that was piling up. I took it out of the house and deposited it in the bins sitting outside so it could be hauled away and processed. I feel responsible for the trash I create and yet I create it daily. I reduce my use, reuse what I can and recycle what’s possible but I still create mountains of it week after week.
I also create mental and emotional trash daily. What creates this trash, and where does it go?
My interactions—with myself or another—create new physical sensations, thoughts and emotions or embellish pre-existing ones. I may process these with joy or with pain, with ease or with difficulty; by myself, with another or both. Regardless, every interaction creates an experiential residue that lingers and forms a psychological imprint that primes me for future experiences. How I processed this one interaction often sets my template for how I process future interactions. This internalized imprint is what can potentially become my psychological trash if I’m not watchful.
How do I know if a psychological imprint is trash? I try holding on to it long enough and see if it creates a low-grade feeling of dis-ease inside. Does it make me contract emotionally, leak on me in the form of shame or on others in the form of blame? If yes, then it’s psychological trash that needs to be processed further.
Just like physical trash, the first step is to notice it with unattached and blameless awareness. The second step is to process it into compartments: is it outright trash that has served its purpose, a recyclable that can be used anew, or shapeshifting compost with potential to make something else thrive? The final step is to pick it up and let it go, often repeatedly. So life can flow without the burden of yesterday’s trash.
She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, “Am I too late for the garbage?” “No, jump in!”— Henny Youngman, Comedian and musician