Emotional Constipation: Staying Regular in a Toxic World
Oh my goodness, we’ve all been here, right?
Are you laughing? Okay… you may be wondering how I came up with this analogy. I first mentioned it in my girlfriend’s bible study, and we all had a really good laugh. As an RN, God seems to give these analogies to me on a regular basis. This particular one literally came out of my mouth without any preliminary thought. I’ve never forgotten it. When it comes to our emotional health, this analogy is one that I believe applies to all of us. And I’d like to share it with you.
So, we can safely establish that we’ve all been here. We have all experienced constipation and its numerous unpleasantries. I think it’s safe to say this is where things get messy. Ugly. Gross. And yes, even painful. But what you may not realize is that it’s dangerous.
The truth is, our souls need regular cleansing. We experience things on a daily basis that build up in us through our thoughts, emotions, and even our subconscious responses that silently nag at us. Sometimes we can endure an unsettling feeling without even being able to pin it. Things can get heavy. And if they’re not dealt with promptly, they can even become toxic.
We all need a safe and soft place to fall. We need the opportunity to unload, vent, and at times even unravel. The LORD Jesus Christ is the safest place for that to happen.
When we are oppressed, hindered, or fail to take the time necessary to sort through things, we set ourselves up for what I call ’emotional constipation’.
The Reality of Constipation
Let’s talk about it for a moment. As unpleasant as this may seem, I believe there is a need to clarify some things, because what most lay people may not understand is just how dangerous constipation can truly be. There are several real dangers involved with being constipated:
2.) Bowel Obstruction
3.) Bowel Perforation
Long Term (chronic irregularity)
2.) Systemic Disease
3.) Colon cancer
When things are in gridlock the opportunity for disease increases. God created us to expel what we take in within a 24 hour cycle. When that cycle is disrupted, what you’ve eaten is no longer nourishing your body – it’s poisoning it. Things that have been sufficiently broken down (digested) need to be promptly expelled. Otherwise they begin to ferment, much like a compost pile. When that happens toxins are released into the system that can literally make you sick and set you up for disease. Therefore, bowel health is very important. Keeping a clean and healthy bowel is more than just staying regular. It involves what you eat, drink, and the frequency of your regularity. Again, every 24 hours is the cardinal rule.
It’s sad to say, but the American diet is notorious for constipation with all the chemical processes, fat, sugar and salt intake – not to mention the artificial additives. We consume ungodly amounts of caffeinated beverages that pull water from the body, creating a dry bowel. Let it be known that hydration happens only with sufficient amounts of water.
In otherwise healthy individuals, constipation happens for the following reasons:
1.) Poor Diet
2.) Lack of fiber (water-soluble & insoluble)
3.) Lack of proper hydration
4.) Lack of natural flora
5.) Poor digestion and absorption due to the lack of enzymatic activity
6.) Sedentary lifestyle
7.) Medications that slow gut motility
The symptoms of constipation are not hard to recognize. We become bloated, distended, tender, and in extreme cases impacted which can lead to obstruction and even perforation. We lose our appetite, become nauseous, and there is sometimes vomiting. We’re miserable. However, there are other symptoms of constipation that are often disguised such as: skin breakouts, sensitivities, bad breath (halitosis), chronic lethargy (unrelieved by sleep), and muscle aches from circulating toxins that are flooding the lymph system.
Now that we have a clearer understanding of what constipation is and how it happens, let’s fully examine this spiritual analogy.
My Own Experience
Please know that I do not write this from an unbiased perspective. I have experienced this myself, and I come to you as one who has both suffered and overcome. Life continually reminds me that this is an area that cannot be neglected. So, you’re in good company.
I remember a time in my life when I no longer knew myself. My life was a revolving door of work, sleep, and other obligations which brought me to a point of exhaustion on every level: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I was holding it together by a paperclip and thread. Juggling the daily duties of life became nearly impossible. My insufferable schedule had eventually pushed my time with the LORD to the very outer limit, becoming nearly non-existent. Daily stress was accumulating for which I had no outlet. I worked, ate, and hardly slept. I was living in a toxic world, and gradually, I became ‘toxic’ as well.
I was almost always irritable. I lacked the mental energy to face daily tasks and therefore dreaded them. I did not have the emotional energy required of me to truly care for others, thus I became selfish in an attempt to relieve my stress and the subsequent pain. As a result I was inadvertently hurting people, and I was just as miserable. It didn’t take much to push me over the proverbial edge. The day came when I realized that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I knew this was not the true me. I hated my life, and I hated who I had become. Things had to change – fast.
The LORD has mercy on the desperate soul that is suffering from emotional constipation.
The day came when the LORD met me. I had attended a conference and found myself immersed in an atmosphere of intimate worship. The anointing was thick. That setting was an open door of opportunity for the LORD to peg me. And He did. I quite literally had a visitation of sorts. His manifest presence came upon me so heavy that I began to weep silently. He dealt with this issue very gently yet firmly, revealing to me how much pain I had caused others. Yet He saw my pain and began to lovingly address it. And when I asked Him what was wrong with me, He said:
This is an accumulation of things that have never been surrendered to Me.”
Boom! That night He began to unravel and remove the emotional toxic buildup, and I’ve since learned that there is no substitute for time with Him if we are going to survive in this toxic world and be effective for the Kingdom of God. Our relationship with Jesus Christ must come first. Every other relationship is secondary. Every other relationship may fall by the wayside, but this one cannot.
That night the tide turned. For the duration of that three-day conference I spent most of my time weeping in His presence. He brought a deep cleansing and restoration that cannot happen through any other means or individual. It is only available in Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ… (Philippians 3:8, KJV).
I’m so thankful for that confrontation Christ so graciously offered me. It changed my life, and I learned a valuable lesson. As a result, I made necessary life changes, and I’m thankful to say I am once again emotionally healthy. I have the emotional energy and stamina I need to love and enjoy others. I’m enjoying life, and I’m no longer a stranger to myself.
If you’re suffering from emotional constipation, for whatever the reason, you can achieve thriving emotional health.
Knowing Your Personal Threshold
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, (Genesis 2:7, KJV).
God created each of us as unique individuals, especially in the area of our soul. Our personalities, temperaments, and emotional/mental structure are all beautifully different. Some of us have a higher threshold than others when it comes to dealing with stress or painful interactions. Knowing yourself, what you can handle, and establishing healthy boundaries for yourself is very important. These boundaries apply to every area of your life. With regard to work or profession (which sadly accounts for the largest percent of our lives) if you’re in a job that daily demands more from you than what you know you were created to handle, it’s very likely this will cross the line of being a constructive challenge that brings necessary growth and development. It could actually be emotionally destructive for you. Being able to discern the difference is crucial.
Surrounding yourself with healthy people, and being healthy yourself is of primary importance.
Only you can determine where you stand. Yet in light of all this, I think we would all agree that we need to be around people who are healthy, and our profession needs to be something we genuinely enjoy. Living your life around unhealthy people and doing something you loathe or dread everyday is not going to produce the fruitful life Christ has purposed for you. If this describes your life, be prepared to make the necessary changes.
If you would like more help with establishing your personal boundaries, I strongly suggest Cloud and Townsend’s book, Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No to Take Control of Your Life.
When It Gets Toxic
The goal is not just to avoid the proverbial explosion. The ultimate goal is to achieve optimal emotional health in which you are thriving. This is part of the abundant life Christ died to give us. It can be yours.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV).
The reality is that regardless of how healthy your life is, every one of us experience things, people, and circumstances every single day that build up within us. We accumulate daily emotional/mental dirt and grime just from living life. We are laden and things get heavy. We need time to process those things and sort them out, and unfortunately that can’t always happen on the fly. And if your life is moving at lightning speed, finding the time to switch gears for quiet meditation, prayer, and conversation with God can be very difficult.
But it has to happen. Because if it doesn’t you’ll eventually end up emotionally constipated and toxic.
Through living daily life we naturally accumulate emotional and mental grime and debris.
I’ve experienced this myself, and by the time opportunity actually arrives, I’m so tired I cannot even think. By the time I actually have a moment to process anything, things are so deeply buried, so tangled and discombobulated, that I don’t even know where to begin – which only adds to the stress and my sense of being overwhelmed – at which point I’m either falling asleep or crying. I’ve been there. And if you’re there, then you can be comforted in knowing that you’re not alone.
This time has to be a priority. The only way that’s going to happen is if you make it one.
In the same way we physically bathe to remove the physical grime and dirt of any given day, we also need to emotionally bathe in the presence of Jesus, allowing Him to cleanse, restore, and wash us with the water of His word in His healing presence.
I want you to imagine for a moment what you would be like physically if you neglected to bathe for a week? Perhaps a month? How about several months? What would you be like? How long has it been since you’ve spent intimate time with Christ?
The truth is, the accumulation of dirt, grime and cellular debris would be so prolific that you would be diseased and toxic. I doubt that any of you live like this despite the stress you endure on a daily basis. The truth is, if you can be disciplined enough to take a shower or bath everyday and do the other necessities for your body, then you can be disciplined enough to find time with the Lord in allowing Him to cleanse you.
Making time to emotionally and mentally bathe is of primary importance.
This is how you avoid emotional constipation and toxicity that leads to the proverbial explosion.
Let’s talk about how that can happen in a healthy way.
Your Emotional Toilet
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him, (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV).
Again, we need a safe outlet.
We can easily lose our emotional stamina or energy when things pile up. Life can get very, very heavy very, very quickly. When that happens we naturally default to seeking out a supportive person with whom we are close, such as a spouse or friend. We all do this. And there are definitely times when intimate discussions are needed, appropriate, and can be very healing and supportive. Yet I do not personally suggest making your spouse or best friend your target for unloading on a consistent basis. Not that it’s wrong to talk about things, but they should not be your emotional toilet.
Have you ever met someone who always has a problem? When they call or visit with you that’s all you ever hear? Your friendship revolves around their issues and you become their emotional outlet. If so, it doesn’t take long to discover that these relationships are toxic – at the very least unhealthy. No one should be subject to that.
The LORD is the only One truly able and equipped to handle our private issues.
When talking with your spouse or friend things need to be measured. There is great wisdom in determining who to talk with, what to mention, when you approach the subject, and how much you share. Remember, you’re talking to a person who loves you and wants the best for you, but they are not God, and they do not have all the answers. Therefore, your expectations need to be realistic. Don’t expect something from them they cannot genuinely give you. Prayerful and emotional support need to be there, but making them your sole emotional outlet is not only unpleasant and unhealthy, but it’s unnecessary. As Christian people we must learn to go to Jesus first, making Him the source of our peace, sanity, and emotional health. No one can give those things to you but Him. And when you do finally speak with your spouse or friend, you can approach the topic from the perspective of resolution instead of desperation or breakdown.
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart, (Jeremiah 24:7, KJV).
You can avoid emotional constipation. And not only can you avoid it, but you can thrive with emotional health.
You can thrive with emotional health by staying regular with God.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, KJV).
At this juncture I want to come back to the root of emotional constipation which was revealed by the LORD: An accumulation of things that were never surrendered to Him.
When we think of a surrendered life, I believe that we don’t often understand what that really means. We attach ideas of surrender to the sacrificial pains of giving up certain things we love. But that is not what a surrendered life truly looks like. A surrendered life is one that is centered in Christ. Every area is submitted to Him and He becomes LORD over all.
At times the LORD has led me to assess and inspect every area of my life in the light of His word. He would search me, my heart, and my life one area at a time and show me where things were not lining up with His word or His specific will for my life. These periodic assessments were always liberating. Once these areas were illuminated by Christ, I found the root to other symptoms in my life that were often obscure or entirely hidden. I was able to connect the dots and make necessary changes – some of them practical, and some of them spiritual. Some of those changes required repentance, and a gradually re-learning of His ways and forming new habits that facilitated His purposes. Surrender is not always easy, but it’s always liberating.
A surrendered life is a liberated one.
Every single day we need to be able to surrender to Christ the thoughts, emotions, specific circumstances of our day, and the intangible internal issues that may be plaguing us and find perfect freedom. That is how the surrendered life happens. And when we live this way consistently on a daily basis, our lives are purified, refined, and made whole. We function at our optimal level and are able to fulfill our God-given destiny. Christ will always accomplish more than what we expect. He’ll always probe deeper than what we can reach ourselves. He sees and understands things we cannot otherwise achieve on our own. For more on the surrendered life and the liberty that it brings, please see my post, Ultimate Liberty: The Covenant Blessings of a Surrendered Life.
Jesus Christ is the only One who is able to provide you the deep inner cleansing that you need on a daily basis. Through Him you are able to accurately process and digest all the varying occasions of daily life. He’ll show you truths no one else is able to reveal, because He sees what is hidden. He’s able to lead and guide you into all truth. He is able to shine His light in any area that is dark and obscure. He is able to heal any wound that is causing you pain. He is able to give wisdom where there is confusion and lack of knowledge or understanding. He is able to love you and comfort you when you’ve been mistreated and abused by hateful people and this atrocious world system. He is able to give you genuine rest in those areas where you are burdened and heavy.
Jesus Christ is your source for all healing and wholeness.
Setting aside a time everyday for your relationship with God is like any other. We make time for those who are valuable to us. Those we love are naturally given preference by default. That is the simple hardcore truth. Your relationship with Jesus Christ should always come first. He is the most beloved of any.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments, (Psalm 119:10, KJV).
All of us have very different lives, and if you’re looking for a regimen, you may very well find yourself frustrated. Give yourself some grace. Because every day is different and no one’s life is the same. Therefore, trying to make your relationship with the LORD look like that of someone else is not realistic. Trying to put Him on a schedule may not be realistic either. So I want to free you from that idea if it’s not working for you.
Time with God can happen anywhere at any time in the most unlikely places and inconvenient times. In this way Christ teaches us to follow Him.
There are spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible reading and study. Making time for those things is important. But what I’m talking about here is much more intimate. This is about your time where you pour your heart out to God and He pours back into you. There is a divine exchange. There is a cleansing, a healing, and a wholeness that comes. This is where your personal relationship with Christ is developed through an intimate exchange. You pour out your soul to Him, and in return He fills you with His Spirit.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart, (Jeremiah 29:13, KJV).
There will be times when you hear Him calling. He will nudge you to come away with Him. When He does that, you can know there is something He wants to perform in you or your life. There are issues He wants to address. There are intimate things He wants to share or reveal. Be sure to respond to Him promptly Treat the LORD with the respect and honor He deserves.
Some people find it very helpful to make appointments or dates with God. I’ve done this myself and it’s something He honors. And if this works for you, by all means do it. You can initiate that time with Him according to your schedule. We are told to seek Him with our whole heart and He promises that we will find Him. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we call to Him, He responds.
Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up, (James 4:8-10, KJV).
Our relationship with God goes both ways. He has always pursued mankind, and He is still continually pursuing us. And we are urged to seek His face as well. How and when that happens is between you and Him.
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek, (Psalm 27:8, KJV).
Your emotional health is vital. God created you as a living soul. His will is that you thrive with emotional health. For that to happen, your soul needs constant communion with Him. The One who created your soul is also the Source for its optimal health. Any area that is neglected will inevitably suffer. And any area that is surrendered to Him will experience the cleansing, nourishing, and healing presence only Christ can bring.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things, (Philippians 4:8, KJV).
For more help on seeking God and enjoying intimacy with Him please see the following posts:
Cheers & Shalom,