How to Protect Your Emotional Piggy Bank

Image by luxstorm from Pixabay

My husband built a house 15 years ago, long before we got together. After living in it just six months, he moved for work. Instead of selling, he decided to rent it out.

About a year ago, we made the decision to move back into that home. He started working in a position that enabled us to live anywhere. As a freelance contract writer, I had that ability too. So, we packed our things and left California (where we had been living off and on the previous eight years) and headed to Texas.

During the time the home was rented out, a property management company handled all tenant issues. So, my husband hadn’t stepped foot inside since the day he moved out. Much to our surprise (and disappointment), the tenants left us with a huge mess.

Admittedly, some of the issues in the home were due to simply being lived in. This included stains in the carpet, scratches in the granite, and scuffs in the walls. Others were a result of neglect or outright damage. There were broken spindles along the open staircase, no toilets in the house had an intact seat (with one missing a huge chunk of ceramic), and all of the furnace/air filters had long-since been removed, causing the home’s heating and cooling system a number of other issues.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the tenants had also taken the liberty of doing things they were explicitly told not to do. Such as having a dog that left claw marks near the back door and tore up the back yard when the lease said no pets. Or the rooms that were painted dark blue and red, even though they were told that they could only repaint if they chose “light, neutral colors.”

In the end, we ended up having to put tens of thousands of dollars into the home to get it back into shape. The property management company said we can only charge the tenants about half of that as the remainder is considered uncollectable due to the length of time they were in the home. If we wanted to collect the rest, we’d have to sue them in court.

There have been many times I’ve envisioned sitting in front of a judge, pleading our case, and getting a judgment that tells them they have to pay us in full. But I also believe in the old adage that “you shouldn’t chase bad money with good.”

Don’t Chase Bad with Good

In other words, it’s going to cost you money to go to court and, even if you do win, you’re not likely to collect. These people already owe countless others. We’re getting overdue notices all of the time because collections agencies don’t have their current address. So, we’d just be another person in line, meaning that we spent even more money to not be able to collect what is owed.

I believe that the same is true with emotions. Many times we try to get rid of bad feelings simply by thinking positive thoughts. But chasing “bad” feelings with good depletes your emotional savings because it neglects a critical part of the process — identifying and truly understanding why we’re having those feelings to begin with.

If we don’t acknowledge the root cause of our feelings, we can’t find a way to accept and deal with them. It’s like trying to build a house without leveling the foundation first. If the ground isn’t flat, you’re wound up with a building that leans one way or another. And when you’re inside, it just feels off.

Instead of trying to think myself out of a bad mood or negative head space, I sit with my feelings for a moment and investigate them further. I ask myself why I’m feeling the way I am, which sometimes involves thinking back to what triggered the emotion.

For example, just the other day, I noticed that I was feeling increasingly anxious. So, I sat for a moment and thought about it and realized that I was having anxiety over an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Once I recognized this, I asked myself 1) whether this anxiety was based on actual or perceived health concerns and 2) whether it was doing me any good to worry prior to getting a good physical workup.

I quickly reminded myself that I have no known health issues and being worried about unknown concerns wasn’t serving any valuable purpose. It would be like going to bed every night worried that the house would burn down. Having these thoughts wouldn’t stop it. And when it comes to my health, worrying excessively could actually create the very issues I was concerned about!

Avoiding Emotional Tailspins

I’ve found that taking this approach has helped me identify the situations or people that typically send me into an emotional tailspin. It also helps me create a better response to both of these should I encounter them in the future. Sometimes knowing your triggers is enough to take away their power. Other times, having a pre-developed response can stop you from going so far down an emotional road that you can’t find your way back.

I still find value in being optimistic. It creates a much more pleasant life than always being negative or finding fault. But I also believe that there is value in acknowledging and accepting emotions that aren’t quite so pleasant. If they are due to a loss, it can help us process what is going on and gives us the ability to work through our grief. Negative emotions can also serve as an early indicator that something isn’t right in our world, prompting us to face and fix it before it spirals out of control.

Chasing bad emotions with good only depletes our emotional piggy bank, leaving us tired, frustrated, and mentally broke. Instead, recognize your feelings for what they are and seek to understand why they are there. This will give you a better idea of how to respond to make yourself feel good once again, replenishing your positive energy stores once again.

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