We might think because our house is not filled to the ceiling with items or garbage that we are not hoarders! But at the heart of hoarding what people with fewer items share with obvious hoarders is the desire to not face the stress of reality! I recently came across a cartoon of a couple in a room completely filled with beagles and she asks her husband, “This isn’t really about the beagles, is it?” Exactly! The excessive beagles are a way of focusing on something other than their relationship! And the sheer quantity of beagles tells us the relationship has serious issues which need to be discussed, the avoidance of which results in ever more beagles! Hoarding is not really about the items! The hoarder gathers items around themselves as a fortress and a distraction from the stress of Reality’s demands upon them which is often rooted in relationships.
Few people set out to be dysfunctional! So how do they arrive at the day when the evidence of their lives makes clear they are in fact dysfunctional? My guess is that the dysfunctional mind incrementally grows and has to do with “settling” for things! By this I mean the impulse to not push oneself and to settle for what is less rather than exert oneself to reach out for what is better. Bit by bit we settle for not being energetic, for not cleaning up the room, for not attending that dinner which would require we dress up, travel and talk with others.
There is an old Desert Fathers tale of a pilgrim who ventures into the desert to be edified by visiting with the monks out there. He comes upon a group of them and is shocked they are running around playing some kind of game! With great moral umbrage the pilgrim marches up to the Abbot of the group and lets him know of his dis-edified displeasure! At that the Abbot hands the pilgrim a bow and tells him to notch an arrow in it and pull the string back. The pilgrim does this but the Abbot tells him he has not drawn it back enough and should pull it further. The Abbot does this once more at which point the pilgrim protests if he draws it back any further the bow will break! The Abbot then imparts the lesson, “It is the same with the Brothers. There is a time to exert ourselves and a time for a release from stress.” The real mystery for some of us seems to be figuring out whether avoidance of stress is warranted or simply a way of avoiding reality! What does your own life say about knowing the difference?