Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An analogy for emotional... baggage

About 10 years ago, one of my friends was having trouble letting go of emotional baggage. Someone would say or do something that hurt her and she would carry it around, mull it over, let it pace around inside her head until it practically drove her mad.

Another friend provided this extended analogy for her situation. I though he was very wise. (this is my dad's dog Punky, btw)

A man has a dog, and he loves his dog. They go to the park and play fetch, they go for long walks in the morning and afternoon. They sit together by the fireplace at night while the man reads and the dog enjoys his bone.
As with all living things, the dog eats, sleeps and, well... poops.
The man has several choices available to him post-poop.
He can
A. Pick up the poop and throw it in the trash (or flush it).
B. Leave the poop.
C. Put it in a paper bag and leave it on his neighbor's doorstep (perhaps even light it on fire), then ring the door bell and run away to hide behind some bushes to watch the outcome with glee.

The responsible, kind person A will pick up the poop and throw it out so that no one steps in it, or has to step around it, or smell it, or look at it. This is the attitude of "poop happens, clean it up." A is the type of person who simply deals with life as it comes and doesn't sweat the small stuff. After all, he has this wonderful dog as his friend, so what if there is the occasional mess that must be taken care of? It's all part of being a pet person.

Option B is the lazy thing to do. B doesn't have to plan ahead by bringing a plastic bag when he walks the dog, and once the dog does it's business, he moves on. The poop is behind him, and he has forgotten about it. Most importantly, he don't have to carry icky-poo anywhere!
Occasionally someone will step in the poop, and if B sees it he will laugh. Or more rarely and even more ironically, he himself may step in week-old poop and become angry that no one has cleaned up this awful mess, and now look what's happened!
B is the type of person who doesn't realize that his actions affect others, or himself. He do not understand that there won't always be someone else to pick up his mess, or that poop can hurt those around him. He is carefree, and often careless. He blames others for his shortcomings, and offers half-hearted apologies when he gets caught. He isn't mean; he simply doesn't care.

Option C is the one few people take, but everyone thinks about every once in a while. C is usually a kid playing jokes, not thinking about the consequences of his actions, not translating his joy in the joke to the other person's horror at finding a flaming bag of dog poop on their doorstep. Of course, C can be any age, and doesn't necessarily need to light the bag on fire to get a giggle out of it. Usually just the look on the unsuspecting victim's face is enough for him to get his jollies. What it comes down to, is that C is just plain mean. He takes joy in the discomfort of others and doesn't give a thought to anyone but himself. He probably don't even feed the dog... he only want the fun stuff!

Now, dear readers, let's look at this from the neighbor's point of view.

The neighbor of person A will most likely come out and have nice chats with A, they may even visit for coffee in the mornings and have pool parties in the summertime. They will think of person A with respect and fondness, and occasionally marvel at A's ability to deal so gracefully with poop when it happens. They never need to worry about stepping in A's dog's poo.

The neighbor of person B knows to watch out for dog-bombs along the sidewalk. They know to 'tread carefully' when walking the same paths, and they may say hello, but never get into deep conversations for fear of being associated with B, who leaves dog poo on the sidewalk. They may occasionally forget to be cautious and end up stepping in what was left behind. Neighbor B, now has 3 options.
1. They can scrape off the poo on the grass and wash the rest off with a garden hose.
2. They can curse and throw away the poo-smeared shoes.
3. They can bemoan the fate that has befallen them and walk around life wearing shoes with dog poop on them.

The neighbor of C learns to be cautious. They build a fence with a locked gate, or put the house up for sale and move to a safer community. They always check the ground before walking out the door, and they never, EVER let their guard down. They live in a constant state of anxiety about what terrible dog-poop thing will happen next...

Now, my friend was the 'neighbor' of 'dog-owner C.' She was always on her guard against certain people, and eventually against everyone. She expected to be hurt, so even when A was being responsible, she was offended at the his interaction with the poop, and eventually mad at the dog for producing it, then mad at A for having a dog that made poop!

Now, if you are neighbor C, and someone leaves a steaming(or smoking) bag of dog poop on your front porch, what are you going to do?
Well, anyone's first reaction is going to be EEEEEEWWWWW!
Then you will likely put the fire out. (As I recall, the point of the joke is to watch the person stomp on the bag only to get dog poop on their shoes)...
You know this is an all-around bad situation and that someone is being blatantly mean. So what do you do after putting out the fire? Do you wash off your shoes, throw them out, or walk around covered in dog poo all day?

What wold you do if someone left a pretty paper bag on your porch?
You could leave it there, call the bomb squad, or pick it up and open it...
I'd open it.
Then you find there is dog poop under your nose. Ick. So now what?
You can throw it away,
Give it to another neighbor (or leave it for your spouse to find)
or carry it around with you forever... after all, it was a gift that came in a pretty paper bag!

No matter how C delivered the "gift," it's still dog poop! Blatant or sneaky, it's still a mean joke!

No one wants to carry around a steaming, then cold, then old bag of dog poop, so why, oh why do we carry around these emotional burdens of past events that are done and over, and really just a part of life that should be tossed? Why re-open that bag to look at the same poop? It's just older poop! It's not going to change. Dog poop isn't going to get nicer with time!

Just throw it away. Enjoy the dog, if you can't deal with poop, give the dog away.

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