Personal growth is like cleaning up a house. For the purpose of this blog, the metaphor of a house is being used to describe your inner world. What is the condition of your house? Is it a total disaster with years and maybe generations of issues that have been buried deep in its recesses? Is every closet and drawer stuffed with things you don’t want to look at? What has been swept under the rug? Do you have elephants in your living room? If upon inspection, it seems that you have a lot of work ahead of you, it may seem overwhelming to begin the cleaning out process. Presented with such a task, how would you go about it? Demolishing it is not an option! You may choose to tackle one small space at a time. As you uncover the pieces that have been hidden and forgotten about, it may become more emotional or difficult. This is how therapy works. We begin on the surface and gradually peel back layers to get to deeper issues. With time, patience, and self-awareness the house gets put in order and a healing transformation occurs.
If you have reached the point where you are no longer willing to live in your house in its current condition, its time to initiate some spring cleaning. Here are a few questions to help you begin the process:
Take an inventory, what does your house contain?
This is where you get a sense of what needs cleaning up. Look at your relationships in all forms for clues. What is your relationship like with significant others? Your parents and/or siblings? Your friends? Money? Food? Substances? Your health? Your body? Your spirit? Your inner child? Your Self? Your physical home? Your work? Your personal goals? Your children?
This speaks to the concept of integrity. What needs cleaning up are the things in your inner “house” that are out of balance, out of sync, and out of alignment with your true inner knowing. Whether it be paying off a bill, making amends, speaking your truth, releasing chronic stress and drama, or taking that trip that you have been dreaming about for the last 10 years… the time is now.
What needs to go?
Identifying what needs to go is a complex process. You may find that you are quite attached even to things that you deem unhealthy. Addictions, drama, a toxic relationship, a way of being that is all you have ever known. These may not be easy to let go of. But they become what many therapists refer to as “that which no longer serves you.” If something is not serving you and takes up space in your “house” and drains your energy, it must go. It must go in the current form that it takes. In other words, if your marriage is something you identify that no longer serves you, it will no longer be able to exist in its current state. Something has to change. If you realize that your work is killing you, its time to open yourself to new possibilities. Maybe its old hurts, resentments, or trauma that are filling up your closets. Giving yourself permission to forgive in order to free yourself and gain some breathing room makes space for all kinds of new experiences to enter your awareness.
What needs to happen in order for you to let it go?
This is the hard part. I spend many hours in my office talking with you about what needs to go. Many of you are very clear on what needs to go in your life. We might spend two years talking about why he/she/it needs to go, and how it is destroying you, and all of the things you would do if it was no longer in your life.
But the most difficult, painful, scary, and disruptive part comes with the how of letting go. What do you actually need to do in order to release a job, a marriage, a person, an abusive or addicted unconscious parent, a no longer effective coping skill, a wall, an addiction, trauma, memories, resentments, anger, fear, or whatever is holding you back in your life?
The most simple answer to the above question is that you must make a decision to let something go. From the starting point of that decision, action is possible and movement will happen. Enlisting support for your decision so that you do not rescind it will be important. And then you must do something. You must enter the closet, lift up the rug, and at least allow yourself to see the truth. The next step may be to write a letter, make a phone call, speak up, say “no,” stop answering the phone, apply for that job, choose to forgive, and realize that you have choices and options available to you that you have the power to act upon.
Once the house is clean and in order, what will you do differently to not repeat the cycle?
Create a presentation of your “house” that is congruent inside and out, reflects a true sense of you, your purpose, and the confidence and empowerment that you have gained in the process of cleaning out and letting go. As your house comes together, breathe in the clean air, take in the beautiful home that you have created, and congratulate yourself for all of your hard work. In order to maintain your new way of being, make a commitment to yourself to routinely take inventory of your home and repeat the above process as often as necessary. And don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. The good news is that once you have completed this major overhaul, the job will never be quite as big again. You are well on your way to a much more manageable life!
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