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Taking Out Your Emotional Trash

Heal

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Emotional trash from the past is unavoidable, but it is not all bad. In limited quantities, it can provide fertile ground for the sprouting of compassion, empathy, and understanding.

This article appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. Overeating, overdrinking, overworking, and overspending are all symptoms of overflowing emotions. Now, from The Solution Program developed at the University of California, San Francisco, here’s help. Most of us are aware that somewhere deep within us is a storehouse of leftover anger, fear, sadness, and guilt. We may notice it in echoes of the teasing we took as kids, scars from disappointments in work or love, losses of innocence, or longings for the path not taken. This emotional trash from the past is unavoidable, but it is not all bad. In limited quantities, it can provide fertile ground for the sprouting of compassion, empathy, and understanding. When someone at work talks of her sadness about her child’s learning disability, those words tap into our own sadness about our own disappointments, and enable us to feel empathy that might otherwise elude us. Retaining some leftover hurts may also encourage the deepening of our own faith. At some point in mid-adulthood, most of us recognize that some life wounds will never co …

Laurel Mellin, M.A., R.D., author of The Solution: Never Diet Again, (Regan Books) is an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.


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