- Thoughts for inspired living

March 4, 2009

Holding the Bag

Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 10:20 am

Did you ever play musical chairs? As you may remember, there is always one less chair than the number of people playing the game. The objective is to walk around the chairs in a circle until the music stops, and when that happens, you are to scramble to sit down in one of the open seats. There is always one person left out.

That’s called “Holding the bag.”

The feelings of isolation set in when you realize there’s not a spot for you. It happens in the game of life as well.

One of the saddest songs ever written is: “Who Can I Turn To?” (see lyrics here)

One of the saddest lines is, “But who can I turn to if you turn away?”

We have all been left holding that emotional bag, whether through death, divorce, deceit, denunciation and other words that don’t begin with “D.”

The coping strategies we use when left holding the bag usually don’t work. Here are a few of the more popular ones:

“Time heals all wounds.”

“It’s really not that bad.”

“There are other fish in the sea.”

“You need a hobby.”

One that does work is one that I would have never imagined – Feeling sorry for yourself.

I’m not referring to getting locked into a “poor me” conversation in your head, or ad nauseam story telling about your dreadful situation. That’s just putting more s**t in the bag you are holding.

The operative word is “feeling.”

Can you imagine living next door to someone for 30 years and never saying, “Hello”? That’s how many people treat their feelings. It’s as though they are not there.

Men have a tendency to talk over their feelings and women tend to talk about them, but relatively few people, men or women, explore their feelings in the only place they can sense them – in their body.

Your body is the only place you can feel a feeling.

There is a feeling that goes along with bag holding. You can pretend it’s not there, talk about it in therapy for years, endure the pain because you’ve become accustomed to it OR you can feel the feeling.

We are so accustomed to running away from our feelings that staying with them seems so foreign a strategy. May I remind you that a foreign film won the Oscar this year.

When we refuse to feel our feelings, we turn a thunderstorm into a lifetime of rain. Thunderstorms pass quickly and so do feelings when we feel them. When we ignore, deny, or run away from them, the storm cloud follows us wherever we go.

I encourage you to read this week’s Grasshopper Note for a strategy to meet your emotions.

There is a sensation in your body that corresponds to the label you carry around in your head for holding the bag. Locate that sensation and stay with it – feel it. It may take a minute or it may take an hour to fully feel that sensation. And you may have to do it several times to get the hang of it. You will notice a difference. The result? Your bag either becomes lighter, you drop it, or you find a chair to sit in before the music stops.

Real change will come when you decide to feel those feelings. That’s when you find out the real truth of your situation – your bag was holding you.

All the best,


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