A few weeks ago, we discussed the dangers of “stuffing,” or putting off dealing with emotional events because they seem like they would be too difficult to manage. The problem is that putting off dealing with difficult emotions doesn’t make them go away. The pent-up emotions keep building until you spring an emotional leak. We’ve all had them. They often come out in the forms of anxiety, depression, anger, health problems, or some combination. Simple point – it’s not healthy to let your emotions sit and simmer. We have to deal with them to find a healthy balance.
When we talk about “dealing with issues,” we’re generally talking about unpacking them so you can explore them, name them, and lay the back down so they’re not controlling you.
If you imagine being a kid and looking over to the closet at night because you thought you saw something move…. in the closet, you see something that seems to be peeking around the door, and it’s furry…. so your brain fills in the gaps…. and in your mind, it’s a huge, furry, mean monster with big teeth capable of eating you in just a few bites…. you tell yourself you should go check it out, but then convince yourself it’s just too big and you wouldn’t survive…. but then eventually, either you work up courage, or a parent comes in the room, opens the closet door, and turns on the light.
Then, you see it’s a pair of fuzzy house slippers. and you realize you can totally handle that.
If we stuff emotions in long enough, they grow and grow into these big monsters we tell ourselves we wouldn’t be able to handle if we were to release them from the closet. In reality, what looked like it could devour us in childhood… maybe as an adult it looks a little different and we can handle it better than we’ve given ourselves credit for.
It’s time for a spring cleaning of your emotional closet.
1. Come up with a plan… what are you going to do with the items in the closet (how are you going to cope with the difficult emotions? What healthy coping skills can you use if you begin to feel overwhelmed? How can you allow yourself to enjoy the positive in what you find buried under the difficult, etc.?)? As you get started, be sure to pray for wisdom and guidance.
2. Open the closet door and turn on the light. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is IN your emotional closet.
3. Take the items out of the closet, one at a time, taking time to name each item and allow yourself to experience it. Take coping breaks as needed. Use a journal to write about what you find, or talk to a trusted friend, spouse, therapist, or mentor.
4. When you come across something that is overwhelming, stick to your coping plan and recognize that you have the ability to get through it… then celebrate the progress when you do. If you are feeling overwhelmed (or even if you’re not), be sure to find a mental health professional to help you through the process.
5. Keep moving forward, one piece at a time, until you have worked through the piles.
As you do some spring cleaning, you’ll realize you are now looking at all those things piled in that emotional closet from an adult perspective, rather than the child perspective you had when you pushed them all in there. Even emotional baggage that was shoved in the closet as an adult will be a different experience when you look at it after taking a break from it. Give yourself some grace and remember that you can’t expect your past self to have dealt with those emotional piles from your present perspective.
You have the strengths it takes to tackle those monsters in the closet. Once you flip on the light, you may be pleasantly surprised to find a pair of fuzzy house slippers.
Come on over to the Every Day Incredible Ladies facebook group and talk to us about what strengths you think can help you and the other ladies like you as you work on cleaning out your emotional closets!