You Can’t Cover the Agitator: A Lesson I Learned From my Washing Machine

Yesterday, our dog hopped onto my daughter’s bed and peed all over her blanket.

Naturally, I was incredibly frustrated. I tore the comforter and sheets off the bed, tossed them in the washing machine, and went to work making sure nothing had gotten through to the mattress. When I was all finished, I walked into the laundry room to find my husband digging around in the washing machine.

He turned to me with a good-natured smile and said, “baby, you can’t cover the machine’s agitator if you want to get the job done.”

Ah, good to know. Not something to think much more about, right?

Wrong.

My brain naturally finds metaphors in almost everything I do. So, I found that I was soon thinking about how the lesson I learned about the agitator had applications for my mental health, too.

You can’t cover the agitator if you want to get the job done.

The word agitate means to disturb, to stir, or to raise concern. All of us have felt agitated before. Whether it’s because of being mistreated in our relationships, getting unfair treatment at work, or dealing with difficult family members, we all know what it feels like to be emotionally agitated.

Agitation isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a natural human emotion, same as all the others. But all of us (and women in particular) have been trained that agitation, and other negative emotions like it, are bad. They are shameful. They are wrong. We could allow ourselves to experience and express those emotions, and doing so would probably lead to healing and growth. But instead, we choose to suppress them. And, somehow, we think that’ll get the job done.

In the same way that we can’t get our laundry clean by covering up the agitator in the washing machine, we will never find healing by covering up our internal agitators.

Getting my daughter’s blanket clean meant exposing the agitator. Giving it room to do its job. What if we applied the same concept to our internal agitators? What if we gave ourselves permission to stop covering up our anger, our resentment, our self-doubt and disappointment? What if we let those feelings breathe? What if we let them do their job?

Those negative emotions are a signal our spirit is not at peace, that we have some work to do. They let us know that some healing needs to be done, or some feelings need to be processed or reprocessed. They tell us that we have some self-love to take care of.

Let’s all stop covering up our agitators and let them do their job instead.


Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

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