Dear Friends, I stand at the podium today to talk to you about Psychic Indigestion.
Psychic Indigestion is what happens when something you have said or done comes back up in you and won’t stay down. Though it has nothing to do with actual food, it can not only take a toll on your psyche but also tie a knot in your stomach. It happens when you swallow an angry response, or fail to chew carefully before you say yes to something you should have said no to. It also occurs when you don’t say “Hey, stop pushing,” when someone pushes, or say nothing when someone hands you a sly uncompliment like, “You look better today.”
“May we bring the dog to the wedding?” “Can you loan me another thousand?” “Would you watch the kids next weekend?” “Will you be at the rally and join the committee and can my cousin stay at your house?” Yes, we say, yes, yes, yes, because we don’t want to disappoint. We want to be good people. We want to be reputed to be good people.
Or, we don’t want to put anyone out. So, to “Refill your drink?” “Another coffee?” “Too cold in here for you?” we say, no no, no, while we stay thirsty and our teeth chatter.
And then comes the bitter emotional reflux. It can happen almost instantly or after several days, or sometimes it takes months to manifest, like an out of control sweet tooth or beer habit, which eventually leaves you seriously out of sorts. And sometimes it can even last a lifetime, when the last words you say or fail to say to someone cannot be either withdrawn or uttered.
But (and I’m ditching the metaphor now, before it chokes me) if the things we say yes or no to are time-stamped, our resentment will eventually end, too. And maybe we even learn from our mistakes and limit our vulnerabilities, though I don’t see that as likely, since most of us don’t make big changes in our natures, mid-life. But that’s okay, if we see and accept it with some humor. Most of us don’t say or do what we mean or want, sometimes in our lives. It’s the price we pay for being in the world. So let’s let ourselves off the hook.
Which brings me to “toxic” — that recently popular metaphor I see all over the media lately. Have you heard it? So-and-so is a “toxic” person? Such-and-such is a “toxic” situation? It is a verbal avatar for what we are living through now: harsh, accusative, and divisive. To be “toxic” is to poison. There’s no coming back from “toxic.”
Is this blog about language? Spoken, unspoken? I guess so.
The impulse to round things up, and make an ending which connects with my beginning moves me to observe that the only spoken words that fail us forever are words of hate; the only unspoken words that have to be spoken are words of love.
Take it from there and go forward.