download (1)We all have one. Each time something bad happens to us, we shove it in our bag. For example, our father may have given us an undeserved hiding or punishment out of proportion to the event. We create a belief that our father is unfair and we add the experience of this unfair hiding to our crap bag. A friend may have lied to us and we create a belief that friends can’t be trusted, and this experience is added to our crap bag. As we get older, the more memories we shove in our crap bag, making it bigger and heavier.

For example, we may have been fired from our job and, as a result, lost our home. We blame the stupid boss and may create a belief that company’s only care about the bottom line and that the people who own them are greedy and thoughtless. Every negative experience is shoved in the crap bag. Some of the stuff we carry in our crap bag is really, really painful and can leave very, very deep life-long scars. Like rape or the death of a parent when we were a child. These painful experiences change who we are and how we perceive the world around us. With every painful experience we add another protective layer around us. We begin to anticipate outcome based on past experience and/or begin to form patterns to avoid similar experiences, and so we go into the new experience with belief systems based on past experience and anticipating a negative outcome. We become, for example, more cautious when starting new relationships because we begin to believe that we will end up being hurt. This belief can became so entrenched that we refuse to even open ourselves up to the possibility of having a relationship. A friend may have betrayed us and if this happens a few times, we begin to believe that all friendships end up in betrayal, and we begin to avoid friendships and isolate ourselves from others.

And so, with each painful experience, a protective layer is formed. A friend once told me, “Be careful if you lock up your heart, that you don’t forget where you put the key.” What sage words they were.

Each time we have a painful experience, we form a protective layer around our fragile hearts, and at the same time, add more crap to our bag. Our crap bag becomes our prized possession, as we hold onto our pain for dear life. Hanging on to our crap bag, makes us feel secure since we learn from experience and if we add something to our crap bag, we ensure that we avoid future situations that may be similar, or at least put us on guard and on the lookout for more painful experiences. In this way we protect ourselves from future pain.  This behaviour will set the patterns for our life. Perhaps we will repeatedly start a new relationship and at a specific point in that relationship, our new partner may innocently behave in a way that a past partner behaved. Our past experience triggers a fear response that may make us lash out to our new partner. It may not be a very large or even important issue. But we lash out nonetheless, in anticipation of further hurt. Our past experience may have had such a big impact on our belief system, that we may ask ourselves, “What’s the point? Why bother trying to have a relationship, when they are all the same and just bring us pain?” We may end the new relationship before we experience the anticipated pain, just to protect ourselves from hurt. And so we create patterns of behaviour that we repeat over and over again. We are seldom aware of these patterns of behaviour.

Everyone has a Crap Bag

Sooner or later, we learn that if we share these painful experiences, someone shows us sympathy. We confuse this sympathy for love and acceptance. We do not understand that we have begun to celebrate our pain. Since everyone has a crap bag, we learn that if the crap in my bag is more intense than the crap in your bag, I will win the pain party prize and everyone must feel sorry for me, since I am in the most pain. In this way we need to ensure that our crap bag has the most interesting snippets and stories. The more interesting the crap bag story, the more we can commiserate with others, and have little pain parties.  These pain parties become how we socialise. Some of the crap in our crap bag does not even belong to us. We may hear an interesting story about the neighbour’s recent burglary. We add the story to our crap bag, so that at the next pain party, we can share how dangerous our suburb has become. Each person at the pain party will try to outdo the others by telling an even more horrific story about a burglary in their suburb. If we understand energy, we will know that like energy attracts like energy. As we focus more and more energy on our negative experiences, we attract more of the same into our lives. We all have heard the statement that whatever is the focus of our attention, we get more of in our life. As we add more crap to our bag, it becomes our burden and our security blanket. It becomes familiar and comforting to us.

Let’s take a look at a typical pain party. We are out with our friends having lunch at a fabulous restaurant. We settle down and order a glass of wine and it just takes one of us to pick up our crap bag, take out one item, and place it on the table. It could start with something as simple as this:

“OMG, you guys will not believe that I had to fire the house helper. She stole some tomatoes and potatoes out of the fridge.” Within seconds everyone has their crap bag open and is sharing every bit of crap about help in the home.  All the “house help crap” is placed in the middle of the lunch table.

Soon the conversation can turn to another subject, perhaps how little help our husbands are in the home. Soon all the husband crap is placed in the middle of the table. It may then move to our bosses. More crap is taken out. God forbid it moves to politics and the corruption that is so rife in the country, the petrol price, the education system, our mothers, fathers, sisters, children, gardens, etc. We set out to have a fabulous lunch with our friends, an event that is supposed to bring us joy. With all the crap now fully exposed in the middle of the table, we sit around and wonder where the stink is coming from. When we leave the lunch, we wonder why we walk away feeling depressed, anxious and full of crap.

Pain Parties and How to Avoid Them

I attended a particularly memorable pain party a few years ago where the subject of government corruption reared its head. We were regaled with tales of corruption and how terrible this country was and how someone should really do something about it. Everyone had their own version of the story to share and as a result, corruption crap was all over the table – it stank to high heaven.  The subject changed and the corruption crap stench was barely off the table when the person who was the most vociferous about corruption mentioned that the municipality was finally re-tarring the roads that lead through the park across the road from his home. He then enthusiastically shared with us how he bribed the workers to come over to his home and re-tar his driveway. He proudly told us that all it cost him was a hundred rand and a few beers. “What a bargain,” he said. I was horrified. I asked this individual if he could not recognise that it was corrupt of him to do what he had done and reminded him that his inner reality reflects in his outer world, and since “like energy attracted like energy,” was he aware that he contributed to the corruption in our country. As above, so below. As within so without. All hell broke loose. Needless to say, I was not invited to their home again.

You world is a macrocosm of your inner microcosm. In other words, what you believe to be true will show up in your life and confirm your belief: again and again. We even sometimes unknowingly contribute to our belief system by participating in the very thing that we judge to be wrong or unacceptable, like the example above. How then can we change that?

We can begin by taking every bit of crap out of our bags. As you examine each bit of crap, look at it more objectively and decide if you are innocent about the subject. If the crap relates to your husband, objectively look at the issue and honestly assess if you have done the same or similar thing to him, or to anyone else for that matter. Then decide if carrying this crap around serves you, or is it just a burden that you lug about? Is this particular crap worthy of your time and energy? Does it make you feel better about whom you are?

Unpacking and Discarding the Crap in YOUR Bag

Let’s look at the difference between an event and a story. This may help you get rid of some of the crap in your bag. An event is something about which you cannot do anything. For instance, having and accident is an event. The story is how bad it was and how irresponsible the other driver was, and how long you are going to have to go without your car, and the inconvenience of it all. We can choose in every moment whether or not we are going to add more crap to our bag, or allow the experience to teach us something, or if we are going to hang on to it for dear life. Always remember that the more crap you have in your bag the more layers you create around yourself to protect yourself from possible future pain and crap.

I fully understand that some of the stuff we carry around in our crap bag is deeply painful. I have some of that as well. Whilst unpacking your crap bag, decide with which bits you really, really need help with, and which bits you are just lugging about and hauling out at the drop of a hat. Unpack your whole bag. Get the help you need to deal with the seriously painful stuff. Decide if you want to be a victim to your stories or if you can acknowledge that you may have had some serious event in your life that you cannot change but that you can heal and let go. We choose to be a victim to the story; we cannot change the event.

Once you have unpacked your crap bag and you have decided to deal with the really painful issues, throw it away. Our crap bags do not serve us at all. The more we participate in pain parties the more we focus on our negative experiences. With our thoughts, words and deeds, we perpetuate those experiences. Bearing in mind that your world is a reflection of what you believe, and what you think, say or do will support your belief.

How is it possible that we can participate in conversations about corruption if we are corrupt – like the example above? How can we blame and point fingers if we do the same thing. If we are bribing a police officer, we are corrupt. If we take a pen from our employer, or take a day’s sick leave when we are not sick, we are dishonest. Consider that you may feel bad because a friend said something nasty behind your back and ask yourself if you have ever done the same thing?

Choosing Differently Will make your Life Easier

Become aware when you are displaying the goodies from your crap bag at a pain party. Or even better, see if you can stop the pain party altogether by saying something like, “Why don’t we try to talk about something positive and uplifting, rather than moaning about our lives?” Ask yourself often if your conversation serves you? Does what you are saying make the world a better place? Ask yourself often what love would do? Remember that on whatever you focus your attention, you will get more of in your life. Your thoughts, words and deeds contribute to the reality of your world. Are your thoughts, words and deeds in alignment with what you want? Are you a victim of your stories in your crap bag?

Be gentle with yourself. Unpacking a bag of pain is not pleasant and can bring painful childhood memories to the surface. When you are ready, perhaps you will have the courage to tackle the really big ones by seeking professional help, if that is what’s required. Heal the pain of your past, so that you do not drag it with you into your future.

How do we begin to fill our crap bags and how does what’s in the crap bag begin to shape our beliefs about who we are? How do we begin to hide ourselves and present to the world an exterior that is not our true authentic self?