Friday, June 10, 2016

Back Burner Thinking Gets Me Nowhere

There's a little saying that has been my mantra whenever I get overwhelmed with emotions, decisions, or life, in general. 

              "Just put it on the back burner." 

When a troubling thought sneaks in, and I don't want to deal with it, I just put it on the back burner. When I sense incoming thoughts will make me sad, I move them to the back of the stove to simmer there, while I attend to the more important pots at the front of the stove. 
What have I determined is more important? Tasks that need immediate attention. Things that make me feel happy. Reaching out to the people I love.
Chuck complimented me once on being so cheerful, even though the situation I was dealing with was stressful. I explained my back burner thinking method. He nodded, but I sensed he was puzzled that I was able to just not think about it.

Well, of course, in reality, I do think about it. The worrisome thoughts are still there, nibbling at my subconscious mind whether I want to admit it or not. 

Is there anything wrong with this approach to life? Well, I'm beginning to think there is. This little survival tool of mine has other names; less attractive names. 

Stuffing down uncomfortable emotions. 

Disconnected thoughts and feelings. 


By relegating uncomfortable feelings to the back of my brain, I am not being honest with myself. I am pretending problems do not exist. I am trying to be an optimist without any regard for reality.

What did I think all of those pots would do on those back burners? Well, they certainly don't magically disappear. They simmer. First there's one pot, then another, and still another, until there are too many pots, and eventually there's a boil over. 

When I finally decide to pull the pots to the front of the stove, a lot of heat has been building up, and some of the pots are burning, and there isn't much good left to be salvaged from others. It takes a lot of work to take care of all of those pots that have been simmering far too long.

I am finally realizing that what I've been calling a survival mechanism is actually a very poor method of dealing with discomfort. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it become less of a problem, and it doesn't make it go away. It needs to be dealt with in healthier ways so the problem doesn't eat away at my well-being. 

Avoiding problems, conflicts, and emotions has led to problems of another sort. When I ignore my emotional needs, I am hungry for comfort that will never be satisfied by food, no matter what I eat, or how much I eat of it. This has been my sad realization that has taken a couple of years to admit. What is it I am hungry for? 

What I need is meaningful conversation, comforting self-care, rest, and yes, conflict resolution. 

Turning to ice cream, cookies, and chocolate will never soothe emotions or solve conflicts. Seeking comfort in food leads to guilt and later, shame. And who wants any of that?

My current quest is to find other ways to deal with discomfort and conflict. It will take time to unlearn my old habits. I will have to linger long enough in the discomfort to find my triggers, and to discover what it is I'm really hungry for. I'll continue to read, reflect, and write about my journey of self-discovery.

For now, I'm going to have to move those pots from the back burners up to the front. Some are full of ridiculous worries that will probably evaporate once I see them for what they are: nonsense. Other pots will need some stirring and tasting, and then I'm going to have to serve them up, or pour them out.  I can do some of this alone, but I may need to ask for help with parts. I'm thankful for a great support system.

No more putting things on the back burner to simmer. This cook is going to learn how to cope in this big old kitchen of life without relying on the way things used to be done. Let's see where keeping things up front gets me because back burner thinking has been getting me nowhere.

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