Hanging on to Something that Hurts

The power of emotional attachment can make us hang on to something that hurts us.

I worked with a couple who had been sleeping on the same bed for eight years. When I asked them both if they liked the bed, the man said "Yes", the woman said, "No." She said she never liked it. But she never mentioned anything because she knew her husband liked the bed and she wanted him to be happy.

Many of my female clients have wanted to hang on to shoes that hurt their feet. Some of the shoes they still wore. For others, it was too painful to wear the shoes, but they still wanted to hang on to them. I got the idea to write today's blog after reading an article from the New York Times called A Scientific Look at the Dangers of High Heels.

Even though we can notice the toll it takes, it can be hard to let go of something that hurts us because some part of us is getting taken care of. Whether it's staying in a friendship that's harsh on us, or eating something that makes us sick, or living with family heirlooms that we don't care for but feel too guilty to let go of, a deep emotional part of us is feeling satisfaction.

It helps to notice the mechanics of our emotional wiring for what it is in the moment. If we fight with or get angry and frustrated at ourselves, the hold tightens. It helps to notice this part of our life. And then question if we want to continue with it.

I remember working with a client in her clothes closet. She was complaining about how certain of her shoes were painful to wear, at the same time she said she liked how good they looked on her. Rather than say she should just get rid of them, I asked her to try them on. She did. She put on a pair. She stood up. She grimaced. I said, "We're in a shoe store. Take a walk around and see if you'd like to buy them." I kept it neutral because I wanted her to be as open as she could be. She walked a few steps and said, "I can't wear these anymore." She did the same with the other shoes that hurt her and she let them go too.

With the couple that I mentioned earlier, after the wife said she didn't like the bed, I simply asked if they wanted to keep the bed, or let it go. I wanted them to know they could choose either one. Again, I felt the openness would be beneficial. When we feel pressured, we can get overwhelmed and want to seek solace in old emotional hiding places. The couple took a moment. They decided on letting go of the old bed.