Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

What’s wrong with cockroaches?

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I really don’t know. I’ve seen a dead one in our house, and I didn’t notice any negative impact on me, my husband, my health, my sense of well-being.

Image courtesy Fiep Westendorp: Zaza in “Pluk van de Petteflet” by Annie M.G. Schmidt

Yet, I do want to exterminate them immediately. I want to call pest control, and make sure they never, ever walk around in our house again.

How’s that?

I have an enemy image of cockroaches. I have a fixed set of negative ideas about them. I believe there is something inherently wrong with them. I fail to distinguish between their behavior and the beautiful living being, worthy of having their needs for safety, autonomy, appreciation met.

I know so little about the species in general, and this unique individual in specific, that my disgust easily leads me to think I have the right, maybe even the obligation, to exterminate them.

Disgust easily leads to enemy images. Disgust leads to disconnection, to withdrawal, to turning away. No one likes the feeling of disgust. Rather than turning toward the object that triggers this feeling, we try to make sure the object itself gets annihilated.

Who feels delighted when you smell the stench of puke? Who feels excited to clean up a floor flooded with poop and pee with their bare hands?

I guess no one. I certainly don’t.

That’s why I practice Phadhampa Sangye’s invitation to “approach what you find repulsive”. So that I can open up to all that life has to offer, and accept every little piece within myself, even the ones I find disgusting.

How so?

To prevent I cause harm out of my enemy image. I never forget that Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama write about disgust as the main feeling that fueled the nazis to destroy the Jews. Had the feeling been fear or anger, some Jews might have survived. Because you can make amends for fear and anger. Iran can dismantle their nuclear installations and allow inspections of their sites. The policeman who shot an innocent victim can acknowledge the harm he contributed to and apologize.

There are hardly amendments for disgust.

At best, we can try to approach and embrace it, so we can transform any enemy image that arises from our disgust.


Do you want help to approach what you find repulsive? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

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