So You’re Frightened Of Your Can Of Worms

by Annie Kaszina on November 15, 2006

The proverbial can of worms – otherwise known as the hideous residue
of our ghastly experiences – is, according to one definition, a ‘source
of unforeseen and troublesome complexity’.

It’s something we all
expect to have. Standard issue for all human beings are a birthright
and a can of worms. The birthright we sometimes have to fight for; the
can of worms we’d rather not look at. After all, unless you enjoy
fishing, it’s not a very attractive image.

But it is a powerful
one. Two clients this week spoke to me fearfully about their cans of
worms. Despite having correctly identified the contents – worms – they
remain seriously frightened of what they’ll find if they only look
(worms). They also don’t know what to do with it.

Now, I’m
writing this because I believe that everyone, pretty well, has or has
had, their very own can of worms. And most people have no idea how to
deal with it.

It’s one of those occasions when the power of an image stymies us.  Because we don’t realise that we can play with that image any way we like.  In fact, if an image can block us, we can also move ourselves forward by the ways that we rework that image.

So,
if you’ve ever given headspace to that ‘can of worms’ image, I’d like
to ask you to visualize can and contents for a moment. How big is the
can? Does it have a label on it? Is the can upright? How far open is
the lid? How full is it? What colour are the worms? Are they big or
small? Any colours? Distinguishing features? Name tags?

No, I
don’t seriously expect them to have name tags. It was just to show that
you always have the right to be playful, whatever you’re thinking about.

You see, the way you think about things can seriously affect the power they have over you.

It
takes real courage to acknowledge your own can of worms and it’s always
a first step towards healing. The problem lies with the second step.
And this is where it gets interesting.

Because you acknowledge
your can of worms, it doesn’t mean you have to own it. Or even if you
have owned it for a while, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it
for all your natural life. After all, you’ve owned cars and all sorts
of possessions, until the day you parted company.

Inasmuch as it’s your can of worms, it’s yours to do with what you will.  You own it.  It doesn’t own you.

A
few weeks ago, I had a Bad Garbage Day. I was putting out the garbage
and I had one of those rare moment when I truly missed the ex-husband.
Albeit for all of two seconds. But he was exceptionally good at the
nasty things in life.

Clearly, my garbage management had been
below par that week as I’d opened the bin to discover a community of
maggots. I responded in true girlie fashion with a shriek fit to
shatter the neighbour’s conservatory windows, ran for the latex gloves,
the insecticide, boiling water… When I’d applied all the measures I
could think of, I dragged the bin to the front of the house. Instead of
lifting the black bin bag out as I normally do, I turned the bin on its
side and eased it out. Then I turned the bin upside down (not without a
few shrieks and shudders, I’ll admit). The maggots that I hadn’t
destroyed slithered out, shrivelled slightly in the light of day for a
few moments and then disappeared. Not to be seen again.

What’s
to stop you doing the same with your can of worms? What’s to stop you
turning it on its side and letting the worms slide out and into the
light of day and oblivion? Once ejected from their cozy, packed
environment they won’t be long for this world.

You’ve lived the
experience, you’ve suffered the pain, but you don’t need to keep on
owning past fears and humiliations. You’ve been there, done that and
got the T shirt. You are deserving of respect and consideration for the
person that you are. Period. You don’t need to keep wearing the T
shirt. It is only a T shirt and there are a load of other garments in
which you will look and feel better.

Sometimes, when things are
bad enough, it gets so that you think that you have become that can of
worms, that that can of worms is your identity and if it’s taken away
from you, there’ll be nothing left. Not so.

That can of worms
merely exercises a horrible fascination for you. Why not replace it
with a vision of something that sustains you – like a small, or not so
small, beautiful, growing plant that represents your spirit.

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