Positively Speaking: The value of disgust

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Toby Moore

We’ve all been disgusted by something in our lives.

Disgust is a feeling of aversion a person has towards something offensive. It can take the form of a mild dislike or intense loathing. Disgust has the effect of causing a person to physically turn away from what is disgusting to them.

If you saw hundreds of maggots worming through your food, you’d feel revolted enough to throw it away and maybe lose your appetite for a while! If you saw someone do something evil, you’d be upset enough to tell someone about it and call the police. If you hear someone say something that offends you, you may feel unpleasant enough never to see them again.

What happens when you’ve had too much alcohol and have a terrible hangover that ruins your day? Are you disgusted enough to quit and maybe go to rehab?

What happens when you’ve been eating so much that you’re far from achieving your weight loss goals? Does it disgust you enough to get in the gym and watch what you eat?

Do you feel disgusted when you lash out at someone and overreact to something they did or said?

Sometimes change requires you to be disgusted. Self-disgust with your life, situation, relationship, addiction and finances can catalyze change.

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn tells the story of a married woman whose husband controlled all the money. She’d have to ask him first whenever she wanted to buy something. Every time she did, he acted annoyed and said, “What for?” She felt so low, so disgusted; she said to herself, “Never again!”

She picked up a few books and began to study. She had the plan to start a successful business. After much hard work and probably a little luck, she became vice president of a very successful company. She never asked her husband for money ever again. The tables had turned, and I’m sure her husband had to ask her for money from time to time!

My father struggled with weight gain his whole life. One day as he visited with the doctor for a checkup, the doctor very seriously said, “Do you want to end up like your father and die of a heart attack at 57?” My father replied, “No!” And the doctor said, “Then you need to make a change.” 

He came home absolutely sick with himself. He didn’t want to be overweight any longer but knew all too well that he could not stay disciplined enough to remain on any one diet forever. Determined to make a change, he scheduled a visit with another doctor to get bariatric surgery.

In the face of all the difficulties involved with bariatric surgery, he optimistically decided to change the course of his life. The revulsion he felt awakened a determination that helped him make a lifelong change. Not only did he lose the weight and keep it off, but he may also have extended his life by many years. 

A Philadelphia woman had struggled with alcoholism her whole life. She was able to quit periodically, but she always fell off the wagon eventually. When the pandemic hit, she slipped up and started stealing her daughter’s alcohol. Her daughter confronted her about it; she was so upset with herself that she entered rehab, where she learned to live without substances. A great change!

One woman was dumped and cheated on by her boyfriend. Her depression and heartbreak were almost too much to bear. She saw the signs and knew better but chose to ignore them. She was so sick with herself for not speaking up that she made a significant change! Initially, she sought therapy, and as she began unraveling her life, she could identify other things that bothered her and made changes accordingly.

Sometimes you have to hit a new low to feel strong enough to make a change. Although we all wish we had changed our lives before we felt disgusted, self-disgust doesn’t have to be the end. It can often be a new beginning that leads to a life you’ve always wanted.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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