I am wired to function emotionally just like a vacuum cleaner,sucking up all my children's pain. Likewise, my children are compassionate vacuum cleaners as well, who attract other people's negative emotions. They are all aware that they learned this dysfunctional behaviour not only from observing Michael and me in action but also because they have inherited this trait from both of us.
This problem, The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome, is a difficult disease to cure. As my daughter and fellow vacuum cleaner, Katie, asked during a family discussion,
" How can one vacuum cleaner help another vacuum cleaner?"
Four of us around the circle smiled and laughed at the image.
Then I blurted out, "Why, show the other vacuum how to reverse the hose and blow out the dirt, and not suck it in and collect it."
That comment released waves of uncontrollable laughter that actually did blast clean air through all of us. Compassion and empathy are vital in close relationships but my tendency is to try to fix my husband and kids by hoarding their pain within my heart.
Do my seemingly selfless reactions weigh me down? YES. Is anyone fixed or set free as I sacrifice my peace and happiness to try to help my family? NO.
Does this Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome destroy every one's peace and joy? YES.
The good news is that a silly image that pictures mum as a vacuum cleaner does reverse this self-defeating, addictive pattern because it makes it easier for everyone to understand how ludicrous I have been.
The laughter that follows releases the tension used to keep emotional pain locked up inside. God/ your higher power/ the universal eternal is the only vacuum cleaner who has the ability to literally suck up every one's emotional pain, sin etc. and then blow in joy, peace and new life back in. The only prerequisite is to give Him permission.
This is the great exchange; surrender dirt and receive the bright, clean breath of God, then laugh at how long it took you to let it happen.