Are you emotionally constipated?
Being the parents to two young children, my wife, Sherry, and I are always on the lookout for great books to read to them. As a holistic pediatric dentist and orthodontist, Sherry makes a special effort to fill her office waiting area with the most interesting, educational and inspirational books she can find. A few years ago, I remember stumbling upon the children’s book, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. The title instantly made me laugh. What I was most impressed with was how Gomi took what might be considered a necessary although unseemly bodily function and, through good humor and simple facts, showed that when you get right down to it; we’re all human with the same basic needs and functions. While the book was originally written to lessen the fears of potty training for children, I found a different but equally important message in the child-like text. I would guess I’m not the only adult who has read the book with a slightly different interpretation. I’ve also found it to be a good anti-stress tool. The next time you’re around a demanding person who’s acting like self-proclaimed royalty, just say to yourself, Everyone Poops. Almost instantly, their façade will evaporate and you’ll see nothing but their basic humanity, making it much easier to deal with them.
Aside from its good humor, the book also reminded me that in addition to physical elimination, good health also requires that we maintain a pathway to process and purge emotional waste. I’m speaking literally here. Without the ability to remove and neutralize our negative emotional energy, we end up first contaminating all our personal relationships and ultimately, our bodies with disease. While Gomi didn’t make an adult sequel to his book, believe it or not, we can learn a lot about physical and spiritual well-being by studying one of the greatest inventions of civil engineering…the septic tank.
How It Works
In major cities and the surrounding suburbs, a municipal sewer system handles the transport and processing of all waste from residential and commercial toilets, showers, sinks, garbage disposals, washing machines and so on. In the outer-lying regions and rural areas, homes and businesses use their own septic systems to accomplish the same thing.
Simply put, all drainage pipes inside a rural home or business flow into a single pipe and empty into a 2,000 gallon septic tank with dual chambers encased in concrete underground about 30 to 50 feet away from the structure. All contents empty into the first chamber as solids settle on the bottom and the liquid rises to the top. The anaerobic environment of the tank allows bacteria to proliferate and quickly dissolve the solids. Once the liquid reaches the height of perforations about halfway up the dividing wall, it pours into the second chamber where any remaining solids settle on the bottom again. Nearly clear, the liquid then flows through an outlet pipe that branches off into two, four or more perforated pipes resting in gravel-lined trenches underground about 100 or more feet away from the structure. This is known as the leaching field. Here, the gravel-soil mix filters out any remaining impurities while the last remnants of water are taken up by the root systems of plants for eventual transpiration.
If we are ever to be psycho-spiritually independent and cultivate healthy soil for our own souls, we must stop processing our emotional waste through other people. We must stop filtering our blame, anger, resentment, jealousy and depression through our parents, ex-spouses, siblings, bosses, children and anyone else we choose to project our shortcomings onto.
It’s interesting that septic tanks are used in the rural areas of society. These folks are renowned for their hardiness as they carve out a living for themselves from the land. In addition to a septic system, many drill their own wells for water, supply their own oil or propane gas heating systems and in some cases, generate their own electricity. This is living “off the grid” and true independence in the best sense of the word.
If I may be blunt, being an emotional and spiritual adult means taking care of your own shit. If we are ever to be psycho-spiritually independent and cultivate healthy soil for our own souls, we must stop processing our emotional waste through other people. We must stop filtering our blame, anger, resentment, jealousy and depression through our parents, ex-spouses, siblings, bosses, children and anyone else we choose to project our shortcomings onto. Of course, this requires taking 100% responsibility for our current life condition, a completely independent approach that leaves us with no other option than to set up an internal emotional waste management system.
All food, even the healthy kind, leaves us with byproducts that need to be eliminated. Likewise, even good relationships in our lives leave residual negativity from time to time. Maybe you were irritated with a friend for being late or angry with a spouse for spending a lot of money on something you saw as frivolous. Without a proper way to process and purge these emotions, they build up over time, become toxic, end up contaminating the relationships around us and eventually make us physically ill because we’re emotionally constipated.
Filtering Through the Ego
Just as rural folks don’t depend on a city to handle their waste treatment, we can no longer depend on an external source to take care of our spiritual dirty work either. Full responsibility means putting the emotional waste treatment plant on our own property and asking the hard questions. How did I contribute to this problem? What is it inside of me that is attracting this kind of person or situation? What signals am I giving off to allow myself to be treated this way? This approach lets all the misidentifications and misunderstandings fall to the bottom of our thought processes, all the dense and irrelevant he-said-she-said details, so we can process and neutralize the real toxic energies and/or beliefs from a higher vibration.
An important factor in the construction of a septic system is the rule that the size of the leaching field is directly proportionate to the volume of waste water, but inversely proportional to the porosity. Basically, this means that a big family will produce a large amount of waste water. Therefore, the leaching field needs to be equally large to handle the filtering of so many gallons. However, the gravel-soil mix of the leaching field needs to be dense and less porous, forcing the water to take longer to pass through more levels of filters before exiting the system.
Emotionally speaking, the porosity of the leaching field is our super ego and requires just the right ratio of gravel to soil for emotional processing. If it’s too loose and porous, our emotions pass right through without much processing and remain toxic. A good example is when we rush into forgiveness because we feel anger isn’t “spiritual”. Anger can be very healthy and a filter of fire through which certain experiences can be cleansed. Things we forgive too quickly often don’t stay forgiven. As a result, toxic resentment will fester because we didn’t fully process the emotional waste product of the experience that created it.
On the other hand, if our parents were emotionally dense, stoic and unforgiving, then the gavel-soil mix of our emotional filtration system will also be too dense with too few porous openings through which emotional waste can be neutralized. Of course the lack of porousness causes the waste to build up, back up and eventually pollute our own property, which is the body, making us sick with disease.
The best guarantee we can provide ourselves for robust health and emotional well-being is an internal emotional waste management system for which we take 100% responsibility and utilizes the filters of self-love, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
As the saying goes, shit happens. Most of the time, we interpret this phrase as referring to big problems, but small negative situations bombard us every day too and are in fact, more dangerous to us because they occur more often. These create toxic emotional waste products that need to be neutralized and eliminated on a daily basis as well, lest they build up and become another big problem that “just happens”.
The worlds of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, self-improvement and even religion perpetuate the misperception that we are incapable of processing our own negative emotional experiences and need them to find peace of mind and a sense of safety in the world. While I’m not against any of these professions completely, they greatly lend themselves to bypassing personal responsibility in favor of dogma (the devil made me do it) or drugs. Anti-depressants don’t stop depression, just the ability to feel it. Meanwhile, the emotional waste products of depression continue to back up in our system only now there is no way to tell when we’re reaching critical mass because we can’t feel it anymore.
These services can also create opportunities to wallow in the toxic emotions instead of neutralizing them or expecting the therapist, guru or clergyman to “fix” us. Of course, that’s putting someone else in charge of our emotional waste treatment facility again. As a physician, I can also say this attitude is akin to patients coming in and expecting their health problems to be solved with a magic pill rather than taking a proactive healing approach on their own in addition to what the doctor prescribes be it a drug, herbal supplement or lifestyle changes. The patients who heal the quickest and fastest are always the ones who take responsibility for their own health and don’t leave it in the doctor’s office. Emotional recovery works the same way. In fact because of the mind-body connection, much physical recovery relies on taking full responsibility for one’s emotional well-being and setting up an internal emotional waste management system.
Any real estate agent will tell you that a house with a faulty septic system is virtually unsellable. Left abandoned and at the mercy of the elements, it will simply break down into a pile of rubble. Without the ability to fully process and eliminate dangerous emotions, the same thing happens to us mentally and physically. The best guarantee we can provide ourselves for robust health and emotional well-being is an internal emotional waste management system for which we take 100% responsibility and utilizes the filters of self-love, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Yes, everyone poops. How’s your emotional regularity these days?
Dr. Habib Sadeghi is the co-founder of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative health center based in Los Angeles. He provides revolutionary healing protocols in integrative, osteopathic, anthroposophical, environmental, and family medicine, as well as clinical pharmacology. He served as an attending Physician and Clinical Facilitator at UCLA-SM Medical Center and is currently a Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. Dr. Sadeghi is a regular contributor to Goop, CNN, BBC News and TEDx. He is the author of Within: A Spiritual Awakening to Love & Weight Loss, as well as the foreword to Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, and is the publisher of the health and well-being journal, MegaZEN.