Growing up I remember being told to stay away from the cookie drawer. That request only caused me to want those cookies even more. Now having studied the systemic work of family constellations, I can see one of the core principles at work – what we exclude may expand and replicate. Being told to exclude what I wanted in the cookie drawer only made me want it more.
Another variation of this effect is found in the shadow with the parts of ourselves we were told NOT to be as we were growing up. We learn strategies to suppress those parts (i.e. liar, stupid) which over time, become more and more difficult to sustain. Similar to what happens in the movie “The Shadow Effect”; there’s a scene where the things we try to hide are like the beach balls we hold under water until one day they pop up, and hit us in the face.
Both aspects of suppression highlight what happens when we try to exclude. Now, consider the effects of the various ways things may be excluded in daily life:
- A book is banned by a city or state, and within the next week it becomes a best-seller because suddenly everyone wants it.
- A child is told they should feel a certain way and then becomes self-destructive when they find they can’t help the feelings they are experiencing.
- We take offense when someone disagrees with our opinion, and find ways to get back at them -sometimes even escalating to violence.
- A person says “I am not that”, over and over, and it later it turns out they are exactly what they claimed they were not.
- We bury news and create twisted truths, only for the reality to become known in an unexpected way and when we least expect it.
As I listen to the conversations about keeping certain topics from being studied, one rationale is we don’t want people to feel uncomfortable. Consider this perspective instead:
- Most people will encounter hardship in their lives. Why would we want to stop children from having the opportunity to learn strategies to work through the discomfort at a young age to prepare them for adulthood?
- What do you think is more uncomfortable – reading a book that shares a different idea or being the target of childhood (or adult) bullying for years?
- Emotions cover a broad range and when we suppress them they can turn toxic leading to disease, among other things.
When we suppress rather than experience and express, we carry unnecessary baggage.
- What toxic emotion are you carrying that might bubble over at any time?
- How comfortable are you with ideas and people who are different than you are?
- When was the last time you tried to force your opinion on someone else?
When we omit differing viewpoints, we never learn to see the nuances. We limit our ability to see that not all people of a specific gender, religion, race, or political party are exactly the same. We speak in generalizations, can’t work through disagreements, and place our judgments on everyone else. If that sounds like you, transformational work would be a good next step. Contact me for a coaching conversation to see what approach might best support you to keep the beach balls from hitting you in the face.
© 2022, Systems of Change, LLC