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Monday, February 6, 2017

Burying things: people and problems.

As we go through life, it seems like we hit change points from time to time--residences, professions, relationships-family and friends, losses, etc.

I felt a weird disconnect last year (2014) when late one Sunday night my mom passed away with almost no notice.  About a week later I was back at work trying to pretend as if nothing had changed and going about doing my job.  It's like I had to bury the hurt, bury the pain, bury the shock.

I was at a concert last night (August 2015) and Collective Soul was the opening band.  As music often does, it transported me back in time.  I remembered a little bit about the last time I saw them.   It seemed like a long time ago, yet I remember distinctly enjoying my birthday that year seeing them at the Pageant.  Anyway, that memory was buried deep in the past.  It got me to thinking about burying things.

So, exactly what is burying. What are the pros and cons of it and how does it differ from setting aside and denying?  We can't always deal directly in the present with people/relationships and problems.  Sometimes, we have to take another approach to dealing with problems for our mental well-being.

First, I wish to cover burying.

  • It can be a very healthy process.  If we have properly mourned or come to terms with something, it makes no sense to ever let it see the light of day. In other words, laying it to rest.
    • A grudge or hard feelings with a family member or friend, if reasonably resolved can and should be forgotten.  Aka burying the hatchet.
    • If we have truly fully processed a hurt, it sometimes is time to let it drift off into nothingness.  Not to be forgotten, but not to be thought about so much.  Except of course, if it can be used instructionally with others.
  •  It can be a very necessary process.
    • Clearly in the case of a literal physical burial, it is a necessary, but sad process in dealing with the passing of a loved one.
    • Sometimes a relationship is so hopelessly broken that you just have to sweep up its remains and just bury them rather than trying to hold on.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing
    • Sometimes, we haven't dealt with demons, skeletons or hurts and they are just too painful to deal with.  The easy answer is to 'soldier on', 'get over it', and just attempt to bury what hurts. 
      • As we know, if we don't learn from the past, we tend to repeat it.  If we don't learn from our mistakes or misjudgments, we can easily fail to recognize a similar scenario when it arises.
      • Just like in a horror movie with a person who is wrongly killed, our demons or skeletons can come back to haunt us.
        • It can take the literal form of someone or some circumstance coming back into our life which disrupts our current situation.
        • It can take the form of a secondary issue.  If not properly resolved that can metastasize into a larger problem.  We may think we are burying a hurt, but instead we are planting the seed for another larger problem such as drinking.  A problem which can completely absorb us and destroy us.

Next, I will cover setting aside

Setting aside

  • It can be a healthy way to deal with an issue.
    • Sometimes we aren't finished processing issues or problems.  Sometimes we don't have the strength to deal with the heavy lifting involved.  So, we process as much as we can and then set aside the issue to pick up at a later point.
    • When we come back to the issue at a later point, we may be able to come back at it with a calmer mind and a fresher perspective.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing with something that needs to be dealt with now.
    • For example, if we are having relationship issues that are getting worse or leading to more resentment, delaying dealing with them will only make dealing with them worse later.
    • Another example: if we know someone needs an intervention, putting it off until later may make the intervention more painful for everyone and won't really keep us at ease in the meantime.  We may be able to avoid the problem for a time, but it won't get any better and risks worsening.
  • We don't always have the luxury of setting aside a problem.
    • For example, when a loved one dies & we are the responsible party, we can't just ignore dealing with their passing while we collect our grief.  We have to soldier on through it until we have a chance to exhale.
    • If a problem is severe, we risk it blowing up in our face if we ignore it.
      • For example, if we ignore necessary engine work on our car long enough, we might wake up one day and wonder why our engine has permanently failed.
      • Another example: if we push off cutting expenses too long, we might end up having to declare bankruptcy and ruining our credit in the process.

Finally, I'll considering denying.

  • Denying a problem, at least in the short term, might be the only way we can mentally deal with it.  That is it effectively is a shock based response.
    • If we had someone close to us die, the pain that they we feel might be too intense to deal with at the present time.  We may need to tell ourselves that we are fine to get by in the short term.
    • Denial can buy us time to come to terms with the issue or loss.
  • Longer term, denial is a horrible way of coping or dealing with a problem.
    • It can frustrate those around us.
    • We risk the problem getting out of control if we deny it long enough.
  • It can also be a response based on not wanting to deal with a problem.
    • If we deny a problem exists why then there will be no need to deal with it.
      • For example, if we have a family history of heart problems and we show symptoms of heart problems, we can fool ourselves into believing we definitely don't have a problem, especially if we don't get it looked at.
      • If we don't have a doctor diagnose a health issue, then we can blissfully pretend that it doesn't exist as it hasn't been 'officially' diagnosed.
    • That is at least until the problem becomes so huge or so in our face we can't avoid it anymore.
      • A family members who has given indications of suicidal thinking may one day force us to pull away the denial after they make an attempt on their own life.
      • Kind of hard to avoid facing a problem when it has just blown up in our face.

I guess the takeaway from this blog for me is this.  There is a time to deal with problems, but there is also a time bury a problem: when it is necessary and/or after it has been dealt with effectively.  However, there is a time to set aside problems or even to deny them.  It's important not to set aside or deny a problem for too long, but it is just as important not to keep on 'dealing' with a problem indefinitely.  That is long after it has come time to bury that problem.  Part of maturing is knowing when to deal, not to deal and when it is finally time to bury a problem.  Getting the timing down of how and when to effectively deal with problems is a key to living in the moment and living in serenity.

I think the bible effectively talks about this in Ecclesiastics.

A Time for Everything
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

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