We have all heard and probably have used the idiom of “sweeping something under the rug”. Sometimes we reference it in literal cleaning terms; we may not have had time to do a full cleaning so we just moved some dirt around in such a way that it is unseen. Most of the time, I think we use it in reference to something we don’t want to deal with or face so we ignore it and put it “under the rug” and move on. This pattern of relating to people is highly problematic though. Issues are rarely addressed and resentments can build and build until someone stomps on the bulge in the carpet and out comes all the suppressed issues that were never dealt with previously. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when people let gripes built up until it’s an onslaught of complaints that could have been dealt with one at a time and much early in the relationship.
Why do people sweep things under the rug rather than deal with them at the time? I think fear is the root of this behavior. Fear of rejection, fear of conflict, fear of becoming angry and not being able to manage it, fear of not pleasing someone, fear of being manipulated by the other person and so on. If both people in the relationship had better communication skills, more issues could be immediately dealt with and not suppressed until they all come tumbling out in one emotionally messy pile.
I am a fan of self-help author Dr. Susan Forward. She has written several books that I think are excellent and her book “Emotional Blackmail” is wonderful as well. It is my opinion that EVERYONE should read this book because it clearly defines the difference between speaking up in a healthy manner vs being an emotional manipulator. Believe me when I say that sometimes it’s a fine line between the two. Dr. Forward gives scenario examples in the book of what emotional manipulation looks like and what it doesn’t look like. She also gives concrete tools of how to deal with a manipulator in your life. I think it’s an important read because we want to recognize emotional manipulation in others and especially in ourselves.
If we and those we are in relationship with have a clear understanding of the difference between talking openly about concerns and feelings and falling into emotional blackmail, the rug wouldn’t be needed to cover the topics we are afraid to deal with in an authentic upfront manner.
Has the pile under the rug in your life grown too big and now there is a bulge that everyone quietly walks around and tries to pretend isn’t there? It may be time to start pulling out the issues and dealing with them, rather than adapt to having a lumpy rug.