Paying off Your Emotional DEBT

So many of us go through our lives accumulating debt. You can run a quick search to see that the average person in the US carries a little more than $90,000 in debt. The more money we earn, the more we spend, and the more debt we accumulate. We buy cars, homes, clothes, shoes, and purses. We pay for our family vacations, our children’s educations, and the list seems to expand year over year. If we can’t pay, we risk having a low credit score and limiting our ability to …get MORE credit! Crazy huh?!

But what about our emotional credit score? How much emotional debt do we use in a year, a month, a week? Who knows, but I can tell you for sure that our accumulated emotional debt shows its score in our bodies with unhealthy organs, aches, and pains and even severe medical conditions. We also see our emotional expenditures on the faces of those around us, reflecting the tears and disappointments we cause through failed promises, harsh words, lack of empathy, poor decision-making, and excuses.

Making a poor choice in a moment that negatively impacts others swipes the old emotional credit card, and BAM, a charge is made against your emotional bank account. We’ve all been out in the world in a bad mood, and in a moment of irritation, we’ve behaved rudely toward a server, store clerk, co-worker, or a friend. Although we regret our actions almost immediately, the damage was done. We kept charging the account over and over by thinking and ruminating about it over and over. We wish we had apologized or reacted differently. We can’t pay back the debt fully for days, months, or weeks. Sometimes we pay 30-year mortgages faster than our outstanding emotional debt.

For years, I played over and over in my head all of the mean and nasty things I said to my ex-husband. I mean, I said some pretty nasty things! I went for the jugular! And before you think, “what’s the big thing about that everybody does it?” The big deal is that we had been busted up for more than ten years, and I replayed my insults and his actions and for many years. At times I blamed him for it all! I justified my bad behavior by making it about everything HE did!

Hey ya’ll, news flash… it takes two to bust up a relationship!

I didn’t start paying back my emotional loan until I decided to focus on MY actions. Whether or not my ex deserved my harsh word is not the point. Oh, and BTW, does anyone really deserve harshness? I think not. I carried that emotional debt around like a rotting sack of potatoes, FOR YEARS! If I met someone new, I’d, carry that heavy sack of potatoes and hold the new guy responsible for the weight of my emotional baggage. It took time for me to learn honest self-reflection and self-forgiveness. Now I can look back at our time together in gratitude and with love and sincerely wish him happiness and all good things. That emotional debt had been paid in FULL and own valuable life lessons.

So what now? How do we repay all of his emotional debt?

BE PRESENT! Stay in the moment. Most of the time, micro choices happen when we are not living in the moment. When we are angry about something that happened earlier or nervous about some future event, we are not “in the moment.” Our reactions are swayed by our thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with the person in front of us. If you’re running late for a meeting, and stop to grab a coffee, don’t get your underpants in a twist if the barista is “too slow.” Take responsibility for being late, smile, and be in flow with your lateness. Don’t cuss the poor person out and ask for the manager! Maybe a better choice in the future is to get coffee after your meeting! Being present allows us to see each moment with clarity. Take time to breathe when you feel yourself leaving the moment. 

SELF REFLECT. It is important to reflect on our actions regularly. It is a great way to hold ourselves accountable. If you know you have to face yourself later, after a few times, you will discover that the accountability that accompanies self-reflection is worse than the momentary satisfaction of a poor decision. 

APOLOGIZE. Saying sorry when you really mean it feels good. But, apologizing means that you will make every effort not to do the same thing again. If you apologize and they call you a jerk, accept that and move on. No one is obligated to accept your apology, so don’t pay compounded emotional interest by calling them a name and yelling profanities because they choose not to forgive you. That is their own debt. Check your ego, my friend! No one owes you a damn thing!

FORGIVE YOURSELF. Forgiving others is tough! Self-forgiveness is tougher still, but you have to do it. Acknowledge the debt you created, and treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Jumping on the train of horrible self-talk creates more emotional debt. Calling yourself names or repeatedly smacking your forehead while yelling “stupid, stupid, stupid” is unkind and demoralizing. The interest rate on that is like 45%. Negative, soul-crushing self-talk is self-bullying…full stop!

DON’T REPEAT THE STORY. Find something else to talk about. When we do something mean or unthoughtful, particularly when the recipient of our actions reacts viscerally, we want to tell people. Why do we insist upon sharing? Unless it’s your therapist or someone helping you understand your actions, shut your trap! “Guess what happened?” stories withdrawal from your emotional line of credit. Every time you tell the story, you keep it alive, like an ameba all sticky rolling across the floor picking up pet hair and old cereal. Why tell everyone what happened? Find something fantastic to share with your friends cuz this story ain’t it!

LEARN. All of our experiences teach us something. What did you learn? If you are unclear, claim clarity! If you can’t find the lesson, meditate, pray, or just sit with it for a while. It’ll come to you. Thinking about what you learned sounds like, “ok, I messed up, but I’m a good person, and I forgive myself. Right there you have self-reflection, self-compassion, and self forgiveness…You’re Welcome! If we don’t learn what we need for our growth, we will see the same experience (or one that is eerily close) happen again!

So what’s the net, net?

The next time you’re out all un-present and out of sync, acknowledge how you’re feeling and treat others with extra care.

Fretting about the past and worrying about the future causes us to miss the friggin awesomeness of the present. When we’re not at our most awesome, let’s do a kindness for someone else. Unexpectedly pay for someone’s coffee, exchange a super big smile to the driver of the car next to you at a traffic signal, serve food at a food bank, help a stranger load groceries in their car, hold an elevator for someone. You make huge debt payments when you intentionally do nicey, nice things for no reason and no reward. Well, technically, the reward is good vibrations and lower emotional debt!

Paying our bills on time each month leads to good credit. Paying our emotional debt helps us keep feelings of guilt, anxiety, and resentment about our behaviors at bay. 

Let’s all focus on treating people and ourselves with kindness. We can’t afford emotional debt. The cost is just too high!

Let’s cut up those credit cards..Are you with me?

Love, light, and living emotionally debt-free!

#debtfree #kindness


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