Everyone has a guilty pleasure or two. Without them I don’t think we’d be the people we are. Oh, there may be one or two people out there who claim to watch only Public Television (always said with capital letters) and to never eat at McDonald’s, but do we really believe them? And don’t we think them a little odd? No, guilty pleasures are everywhere. My husband, for example, is debating whether to go see the Monkees on tour this summer. And I have another good friend who seems to know far too much about Snookie….
So I’ll admit it: I like “Hoarders.”
For those of you pretending not to know what I’m talking about, “Hoarders” is a show on the A&E Network, now in its 3rd season. It has racked up over 40 episodes, all with essentially the same theme: an otherwise very nice person has a terrible obsession: hoarding things. Buying, boxing, hanging, crating, piling, cataloging and saving… things. Things and more things. For many it has led to divorce, loss of a business, even criminal charges.
Despite the “watching a train wreck” fascination of the show itself (I did say it was a guilty pleasure), each episode is about a real person, trapped. And not just by the things around them, but by their own obsessions and habits and (in some cases) real illnesses.
But how much hoarding is more subtle, more amorphous? How often do we collect and save, not physical things, but emotional ones? A grudge here, a slight there. Impatience. Failure to listen. Disrespect. Now and then these things happen to everyone (and, by the way, now and then we do them ourselves). When we’re healthy we deal with them through caring conversation, or, sometimes, by recognizing them for the accident they are and then just letting them go. But not always.
Now with every client I meet, I look for this type of hoarding. I ask questions designed to help people unpack such behaviors and, when they find them, to uncover what might be packed behind those behaviors. And I, as their coach, need to recognize those behaviors in myself, too, in order to be in the best service for my clients. We should all be looking for those small piles of mental and emotional artifacts that get in the way of our being our best selves. They’re always there, and we must always be working to find them, sift through them, and throw away what no longer works for us, what no longer matters, what only holds us back.