Time for some emotional spring cleaning
April 7, 2009
As we awaken from the darkness and cold of winter to birds manically chirping at dawn, we soak in the sunshine and inhale delicious wet pine smells.
We also start noticing our windows are filthy, our cars are caked in salt and mud and there is dog poop and garbage emerging through the melting snow.
It is time for spring cleaning.
Emotionally, we need spring cleaning, too.
Emotional “spring cleaning” means facing the things we have been avoiding, shoving in the closet and keeping in the dark, by bringing them into the light of day.
These things range from small details ” such as the guilt we feel about not writing a thank you letter for a birthday present, to big stuff such as the shame we feel about an ongoing addiction, the regret we feel about the loss of a relationship or the panic we feel with the possibility of losing our house to foreclosure.
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“But why,” you might ask, “should I drag this stuff out of the closet when there isn’t anything I can or want to do about it? When it just causes me pain?”
The reality is not facing this stuff is causing pain and holding you back from living more fully.
We know, on some level, we are avoiding things and it makes us feel out of control, guilty, bad, and weighed down. These feelings eat away at us, physically and emotionally and mentally. They lurk in the shadows and sabotage our joy and energy.
Or, you might say, “I am facing this stuff ” it is in my face all the time, and it is just making me feel bad and scared and stressed.”
Sitting in our guilt and fear and panic about things in our lives is not the same as facing them by bringing them into the light of day. It is more like climbing into the closet with the stuff, and locking ourselves inside.
Emotional spring cleaning means first recognizing the self-condemnation that keeps our closet doors locked ” with us inside or outside the door. This self-condemnation makes us feel completely unacceptable for having made mistakes, for having problems, for having limitations, for having parts of our selves that are destructive or sneaky. As a result, we keep these things hidden and locked away.
Emotional spring cleaning means opening up the closet doors and exposing the things about our lives and our selves we fear and detest to the light of honesty. In this light we see that…
I am human. For every success I have, I am likely to have a failure. I am likely to feel weak and incompetent as often as I feel strong and capable. I make mistakes. I have destructive and sneaky parts of my self. I can be lazy and avoidant. Bad things happen to me. I sometimes hurt people I love. I am not always dependable.
When we practice seeing our selves as complicated human beings, with parts of our selves we hate, parts of our selves we like, parts of our selves that confuse us, parts of our selves that surprise us, we begin to change.
Our energy is not drained by feeling bad we are not facing things.
Our right to embrace joy is not denied by our guilt about things we are not facing.
We have the truth about ourselves on the table where we can look at it and work on it ” like learning to be more dependable and less destructive.
Our emotional closets are clearing out, our doors are open to the warm breeze of springtime, and we can breathe.
” Danielle B. Klotzkin, licensed marriage and family therapist, provides psychotherapy for clients who are looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. You can contact her at (530) 470-2233.