I received a less-than-satisfactory grade in a class recently and was sharing my frustration with my friend (read: venting) several hours later. He bluntly noted that I have trouble compartmentalizing- he added that he thinks it’s a beneficial personality trait in the long-run, but it got me thinking about how this rings true throughout many areas of my life. I have no doubt that it’s closely tied to the gene for obsessiveness- which I may or may not have 🙂
For example, if I have any tension with friends, I have a pit in my stomach and an icky feeling until it’s resolved- even if it takes more than a week.
So in order to discover tips and skills for learning to compartmentalize, I did the first thing I could think of: turn to Google.
Note: Not all compartmentalization is good. This technique “involves consciously or subconsciously suppressing or ‘compartmentalizing’ upsetting thoughts and emotions in order to justify engaging in certain (sometimes questionable) behaviors.” Negative examples include Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, as well as the ability of serial killers to function as “normal” human beings most of the time.
But on the positive side, tressugar.com offers some helpful tips:
- Being able to compartmentalize a negative emotion does involve some letting go, and as we know, letting go is really hard! So instead of thinking of it as simply getting over something, consider it a temporary pause while you deal with other things. Knowing that you can come back to it later will make it easier to leave it behind now.
- Just because you’re putting specific worries away doesn’t mean that you can’t address them. Go ahead and open up to friends, but avoid dwelling. The whole point of compartmentalizing is that it allows you to do other things without managing the stress of your bigger problem at the same time.
- Decide when you can go back and deal with your issue. In fact, if you need to literally pick a time, then do so. If you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend, but you both have to go to a party, you’re going to have to fake nice. But recognize that you’ll be communicating again once the party is over.
- On that note, don’t over compartmentalize. If you keep stuffing emotions and stress away, it’s going to catch up with you. So use compartmentalizing as a tool, rather than a solution.