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Why We NEED to Sweat the Small Stuff

Hand being bandagedEveryone has emotional pain.

No one is immune to the slings and arrows of life on this earth, and most of us have unhealed hurts from our time here.

We think we can let go of the pain of things that happen to us, but it’s not that easy. We didn’t choose the pain in the first place; what makes us think we can choose not to have it?

Nature’s Way of Getting Over It

When you cut your skin, your body sends resources to the site of the injury.

Over time, with your body’s attention and care, the wound closes permanently.

If your body were to ignore the cut, the way we tend to ignore emotional wounds, it would never heal.

What if your body were ambivalent about the cut — wasn’t sure whether it was a big enough deal to worry about?

Your body might sometimes send resources and sometimes not, depending on its mood. The wound would continue to seep and languish and fester and possibly become infected.

An infection would give your body an even bigger job to handle than it had to begin with. A no-big-deal cut would become a big deal because it was ignored.

So your body doesn’t mess around. There’s no ambivalence about whether to send care and attention and resources to the site of the injury.

Your body doesn’t say, “I’m not going to get my white blood cells in a twist about a little paper cut.”

Your body immediately and consistently sends healing resources to any breach in the skin, big or small.

Emotional hurts need the same attention in order to heal.

So if you’re still not over an emotional hurt, it needs more, not less, of your care and attention.

It may have started with a minor wound. Maybe something you felt didn’t deserve your attention, because is was no big deal.

But if you ignore emotional slights often enough, you might have a thousand “no big deal” wounds in your psyche.

The Chinese used to use this slow slicing, death-by-a-thousand-cuts method as a form of torture. It was considered severe, and used only for serious crimes.

Are you walking around with the pain of a thousand open wounds?

Emotional Disability

If we treated physical injuries the way we treat emotional ones, we would be a society of physically disabled and sick people.

Instead, we’re a society of people with emotional disabilities and ailments. Depression and anxiety reign. Contentment and joy are elusive. Relationships are strained by emotions festering, untreated.

I propose a simple, effective way to heal, get happy again and move forward in life. I call it constructive wallowing. It’s like sending psychic white blood cells to the site of emotional pain in the form of compassionate attention.

To get a sense of how it’s done, read the posts in the “Constructive Wallowing” category of this blog (find it in the category cloud on the right-hand side of this page).

You can also check out the Constructive Wallowing page on my website if you’re interested in updates on the book I’ve written about this topic.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado.
She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations.
The author of “Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them” and the “Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children,” Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships.
Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called “Constructive Wallowing.”

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0 Responses to "Why We NEED to Sweat the Small Stuff"

  • Miss Maura 9999 Charlotte, NC
    October 13, 2012 - 9:30 am Reply

    Yes. The little things always add up. If not heeded, for me anyway, there will come a big explosion and it’s never about that one small thing that set me off but the accumulation. Working on that!!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 13, 2012 - 9:36 am Reply

      Exactly, Miss Maura. Another great reason to wallow a little each time. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • studentcounsellor
    October 13, 2012 - 9:38 am Reply

    I love the idea of ‘constructive wallowing’ – genius! I may have to adopt this phrase, if that’s ok? What a wonderful post. 🙂

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 13, 2012 - 9:47 am Reply

      You bet, Studentcounselor! I’m glad it struck a chord with you. Thanks for taking the time to leave a note.

  • Chris Edgar
    October 17, 2012 - 1:18 pm Reply

    Yes, I think it’s unfortunate that putting our attention on the way we feel hurt, rather than pretending the hurt doesn’t exist to ourselves and others, seems to be the cultural norm. I personally think it’s more courageous to admit to myself (and others) that I’m hurt, and risk the possibility that I’ll hear that the other person doesn’t care how I feel, or ridicule me, or something along those lines.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 17, 2012 - 3:48 pm Reply

      And it is a risk, Chris. At least, it is if we share our feelings with others. Hopefully we’ll always get a warm reception if we admit our hurt to ourselves! Thanks for your thoughts.

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