Spring Cleaning of the Psyche
Don’t insist on going where you think you want to go.
Ask the way to the Spring.
Your living pieces will form a harmony. ~ Rumi
With all the chaos in our world, information overload on our computers, and daily tests of our emotional equilibrium, how do we stay the course? How do we keep mind, heart, and spirit clear for what matters most?
While plowing through the to-do lists and honing our focus for specific tasks in front of us, we can also maintain mindful background awareness of the purpose for this life journey. It’s called dual attention (or double awareness). It’s a matter of keeping a wide-angle lens open for the bigger picture, with an inner GPS indicating the way forward.
In the spirit of spring cleaning, let’s start traveling light. As we declutter our inboxes, work spaces, and homes this season, we can also take stock of what can be released from, and invited into, our lives. We all tend to have past psychological baggage weighing us down. Let’s decide it’s not worth the cost, like the airline charges for overweight suitcases. Instead, let’s keep only what is essential to the trajectory of growth along the path in front of us.
Our commitment is to the best direction ahead, not the outcome, which we can’t control. Sometimes it helps to have a therapist, yet one who sees their role as a guide at the crossroads at a critical juncture of our journey. Is your therapist there to equip you for traveling psychologically light or endlessly weighing the baggage? When helpers are beneficial to us, it’s because they have a wide-angle lens to survey the emotional landscape for universal directions of the therapeutic journey. It’s the same for everyone who is motivated to be on the journey from:
- our present predicament to our preferred state
- where we are in life to where we want to be
- problems to possibilities
- repeating patterns to making empowered choices
- circumstantial suffering to purpose-driven hope
- what doesn’t really matter to what matters most
- what we need to stop doing to what we want to start doing
- what doesn’t belong to us to what does
- bondage to the past to embracing new beginnings
- what needs to be released to what can be invited into our lives
We are also called on a journey from the finite to the infinite, but that’s another story.
It’s helpful to conceive of these ‘before and after’ states as two endpoints on a line. (Forgive the often-painful awareness of the gap between them.) In the middle is the place of transition, the threshold-crossing into new territory, which is fraught with resistance to change. The present can be excruciating, yet growth is change. Change contains all the trepidation associated with uncertainty. It may be a relief to leave the old and embrace the new. Yet I am reminded of the two caterpillars looking up at a butterfly. One said to the other: “You’ll never get me up in one of those!”
We can simultaneously practice releasing something of our ‘old selves’ with the things cleared and consciously removed from our living space. At that level of dispossession, we’re looking at what is still alive for us and resonates with the energy of what matters. If it’s not facilitating an intentional path, it’s probably outmoded, heavy baggage, weighing us down. The last barrier to moving forward is inordinate attachment to the identity associated with the stuff and the stories no longer serving present needs. Renewal begins with an inspiring vision of the ideal transformed state. This preferred state is on the flip side of the pain of present circumstances.
To discern your preferred state, ponder these questions:
- When you are on the other side of the present predicament and free from it, what will you be free for? What will be different? What will you be doing then? When you hold this vision, then you can look at what you can start doing to keep it central for you.
- What are you emphasizing and cultivating in your life? Without demanding any results from yourself or others, what small steps can you take toward what’s good and right?
- You can pick and choose which parts of your psyche to nurture. What shall those be?
Fare forward, travelers! ~ T.S. Eliot
Speyer, C. (2018). Spring Cleaning of the Psyche. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/spring-cleaning-of-the-psyche/