Where do you throw your crap, or are you good at taking it?
The bin is a useful metaphor to discuss where unwanted debris goes. It’s a receptacle, a container for that which is unwanted, that which is discarded. A bin receives. Once used it’s full of waste which in turn must also be discarded, emptied out. The cycle repeats. Over and over, filling, emptying, re-filling.
People use others as bins into which they evacuate material they wish to get rid of, avoid or deny. Things they don’t want to look at or sort through. Bins to receive rage, shame, discrimination and historical traumas. In fact a myriad of psycho-emotional and experiential garbage they don’t want to look at or process for themselves.
Unfortunately this occurs a lot in our most intimate of relationships – our securely-insecure bases – whereby for many couples it has become a well-carved groove in the relationship and has taken on a dysfunctional normality.
“Take this!” says spouse abusing Tom who chastises his wife Sue for putting on weight when he returns home from yet another self-worth reducing, shaming day at work. “You know Tom, we have spoken about this before. I need you to speed up on processing those invoices” says the father-identified Team Lead.
For Tom to attend to and work through this real-time shame inducing experience at the office he has to go somewhat deeper than the exchange about processing the invoices. He has to go to his experiences with his alcoholic father. How dad would tell him as a seven year old boy to “Man up”, to “Stop being a cry-baby little wimp” as Tom swept up the broken china for his mum. Tom had no container for his hurt and anger in his childhood. An acting-out father and an avoidant mother combination can never provide the appropriate holding environment for a young child.
Disavowing the bigger issue and evacuating his ‘smallness’ into his wife is a well-played record in Tom and Sue’s marital relationship.
Over time, Sue becomes a bin. Hopes squashed. Takes the crap. Acknowledges this familiar territory, “If I just let him get that out then we will have a quiet night”. The paradox of safety. Tells herself he doesn’t really mean it. Sue implicitly knows this terrain. Sitting for hours at the small kitchen table as a child whilst her depressive mother evacuated her emotional woes into the young vessel, unable to hold it all and spilling over with nowhere to put it. Now a flooded and anxious adult all Sue wants is a quiet life. It’s all too much for her, always has been.
That which is unprocessed will always seek to be responded to…
The world is full of Toms’ and Sues’. We set ourselves up. We reproduce where we have been. Re-enact our historical broken family systems in our relationships and our work-related choices. We use our bodies to keep the memories alive despite how disturbing or terrifying they are. Tom slumped in at the chest as he’s told as an adult that he’s not good enough, keeping in the unexpressed rage towards his father, projecting this out towards his wife.
Sue living in overwhelm, hyperalert, hypervigilant. Twisting her hair between her fingers, aware that at any time she will be recruited in to be a vessel for those that can’t or won’t take responsibility for their own emotions, where they’ve been, or even where they are going. But ain’t she doing that too? Wheres the line where we seek or expect autonomous decisions?
Where we have been is where we will keep going…
Where we have been is where we will all keep going if we don’t do something about it. Being told that we are using someone as a bin for that which we can’t deal with ourselves will never bring necessary change. Yes, awareness of what we are doing now is critical. But alongside this we need to understand the who, why, where, when and what of our past traumas. Not only at a cognitive level but also at an emotional and embodied level.
Client James, presented with a series of failed relationships. He “Has it all”, drove an expensive car, asked rhetorically “I look well for my age don’t I?” He sat directly opposite me with legs so wide astride it was almost athletic. He would physically ‘check me out’ then tell me as he visually addressed my dark hair “No. I’ve always gone for blondes”. Did he even know he said that out loud? After a number of initial self-aggrandising sessions he accessed his first emotion. “I don’t know what I want and it hurts”.
Right now, during the session, yet another discarded partner was being sent to the bin. Was at the airport about to fly thousands of miles away after James told her to leave. He told me he “Had his eye on someone else” so that will help him get over the breakup.
Over time we discovered that his collection and elimination of beautiful young women was associated with his mother. A crucial point of recall and processing was when he accessed a deeply painful memory of standing up in his baby’s cot, aged around 15 months, crying as he watched his mother leaving the family home through the bedroom window. He had no idea where she was going or why nobody was attending to his beseeching tears.
What he also ‘remembered’ was the pain in his gut as he cried himself to sleep. The one he experiences every time he goes to bed alone after throwing away yet another ‘love object’.
Life is alive with the past…
Our lives, our minds, emotions, bodies and relational patterns are alive with the past. To put a complex situation very simply, James dumped the women in his life before they dumped him. Poured his pain into his partners. As a consequence he was always yearning for the next one. Set himself up to pine, to need, to want, to hurt in a repetition compulsion which re-enacted the deep pain of the child in the cot. Discovered that the vertical bars around his baby bed symbolised the imprisoning nature of feeling completely disempowered and unable to act to save himself from the pain of abandonment.
One day James never showed up for his session. He emailed me to say he was busy with work right now “Sorry” but he will get back in touch. He took a barrel load of awareness with him but a whole heap of undigested tummy ache.
We’ve all got ‘stuff’ to get rid of…
Don’t throw yourself away into a life that repeats itself. When you don’t reflect on your angry outbursts, your punishing statements, your projection of your own low self-worth onto others you are remaining in bondage to your past. Your thoughts, emotions, behaviors and even your body is not only reacting to now, what happened today and what you did with it, but is continuing to be associated with the past.
What do I need to get rid of? What’s made me a better person through the life lessons I’ve experienced? Can I take on responsibility to ‘change the record’ of my life as lived? Why am I implicitly continuing to carry the “sorry asses” of my dysfunctional parents and imprinting the dynamic with them onto and into my relationships and my work choices? If you want to be ‘You’, consider doing the inner work to dump ‘Them’. At least at a psychical level.
Excavate. Don’t dump yourself. Find yourself…
Sure, who wants to get their hands dirty rifling through soiled waste? But when you look through those active and activating remnants, those wounded parts and hurtful embedded memories it’s like panning for gold. Holding each fragment up to the light assessing its worth, its inherent wisdom, how it birthed you, made you, you generate an understanding of who, why, where, when and what? You locate yourself and from that point of awareness can set about re-cycling, re-framing and re-building.