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Disgust doesn’t always feel good – in fact it often feels revolting. Partly this is due to our attempts to restrain it. Wishing to retain control and not vomit doesn’t help us feel any better. So part of the bad feeling is not expressing our disgust. The other part of the story is that disgust alerts us to something wrong – some kind of ‘poison’ in our experience.
Disgust alerts us to the fact that something does not fit who we are.
This may be food that has gone off – this is a very valuable signal to avoid what will make us ill.
1. Our disgust can also alert us to the fact that we have ‘swallowed’ something non-physical that is bad for us.
We may have swallowed ideas about our bodies from our early care-givers. These could even be quite unconscious. Our care-givers may not have meant us to believe that our bodies are bad. But they did speak incessantly about dieting and wanting stuff we shouldn’t eat, and never expressed joy in the physical. They actually may have had a delicious and extensive sex life they positively revelled in, but this is hardly the stuff that gets shared with the kids.
We may have swallowed ideas about our abilities or, more likely, inabilities. Our care-givers may not have considered us un-intelligent. They just didn’t have much idea about how to explain something to a child (after all no one ever showed them how to do it). And they were busy with many other things (we often live highly pressured lives).
We may have ‘swallowed’ these kinds of things that people never intended to feed us.
There are of course other things that people did intend to feed us. These could be done with the best of intentions. A divorced spouse feels betrayed and so tells their child to not trust others. They hope to guard their child from betrayal – a good motivation.
However it happened we swallowed something that is bad for us and that has blighted our lives.
2. Disgust can also alert us to something ‘poisonous’ in our situation. Usually this is the behaviour of others.
At this point it is worth knowing what it is in their behaviour that does not fit for us. Disgust is visceral and can be overwhelming so it can be hard to sort through. We can end up feeling that ‘it is just everything about them’. This may be the case, but usually isn’t.
We may believe that it is a person’s deceitfulness that is disgusting. But we admire clever moves in sport, business or politics, which is a kind of deceit. So, it is not simply deceit that we dislike, it is more complicated than this.
Other Posts I have done on why particular emotions are good.
Figuring out exactly what it is that we find disgusting provides very clear information on who we are and what we value. It is a very attention getting form of information about ourselves. Knowing what we find disgusting is learning about our deeply held values.
3. Disgust also teaches us the wisdom of listening to our body. It is often the physical reaction that alerts us to what is going on. It is usually only on reflection that we realise the reason for our disgust.
4. When we find something disgusting our usual reaction is to be rid of it. With physical food this is the fairly simple act of vomiting. With other things it will usually mean deciding to have nothing to do with that way of thinking or feeling or behaviour. Usually the change motivated by disgust is quite clear and feels easy to do. We usually know what it is we don’t want to do anymore and don’t have too much trouble carrying out the new behaviour. Disgust is a strong motivator for positive change.
Disgust is good because:
- it lets us know there is something poisonous in our experience.
- it gives us a strong sense of who we are.
- it teaches us the wisdom of our bodies
- it is strong motivation usually united with clear perception.
Other posts I have written on why emotions are good are on: