Corona-Cleaning: Getting your Internal House in Order

Corona-Cleaning: Getting your Internal House in Order
by Angela J. Huebner, PhD., LMFT, PC;
Eight garbage bags. That’s how many bags were stuffed into the back of the car. Eight bags bound for the donation bin. Seems we are all doing whatever we can to stay occupied during this pandemic. These home improvement projects keep us busy and feeling productive. But do they make us feel better? Not really. At least not for long.
Let me share with you what did.
I had just finished color coding the clothes left in my closet when I stumbled across a crate of old journals.They were buried way in the back. I poured another cup of coffee, blew off the dust bunnies and settled into reading. I was curious to explore the thoughts of my younger self. My musing went back decades. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had been writing the same thing for more than 25 years. Slight variations on the theme, but the pattern was clear. The same complaints. The same sadnesses. The same belief that somehow I just wasn’t doing it right. That I just needed to work harder.
After about an hour of this, it hit me.
I needed to declutter my mind! It was time to organize my internal junk drawers and closets. It was time to sort through the hodgepodge of the beliefs, patterns, and fears I had spent a lifetime accumulating.
A wave of excitement hit me. For once, I wasn’t adding yet another self-improvement project to my list. I was subtracting. Maybe even making room for something new to come in.
How to begin?
First, know that this is harder than it sounds. Most of us have spent years perfecting ways of avoiding the messiness of our internal world. Rather than going in for the deep clean, we continue to look outward for distractions. We have lists of shows to stream and piles of books to read. When we tire of that, we can eat and drink our way into a fog of “corona-cation.” Liquor stores, are after all, essential services.
Still up for the challenge? Okay. Start with a drawer. One thought. One pattern. Don’t trying to overhaul the whole house in one sitting.
Pay attention on purpose to your thoughts from the watcher’s seat. Observe them. Like the words in my journals, notice the patten of thoughts you fall into automatically. Notice the assumptions you make so readily it doesn’t even occur to you to question them. Find the beliefs that are parading as facts.
As each one arises, hold it lightly. Turn it over. Name what it is. See if you can remember how it came into being. Remember how it served you. When I sat with my “I can’t get it right” belief, I realized it was handed to me early in childhood. As I sat with it (instead of running from it), I was flooded with memories of times this message was repeated to me by those I trusted most. Those whose approval I craved. This belief kept me striving for improvement. It had me play by all the rules. It motivated me to gain approval stamps of competence. It kept me vigilant.
It made me exhausted.
When I realized this, I felt my heart opened up a bit. There was more space in my chest. I felt a deep compassion and knowing for my own experience. I realized that belief was no longer necessary in my life. It wasn’t helping me anymore. I decided to let that one go. My letting go meant burning all the journals in the backyard chiminea. A smile came to my face as the smoke bellowed up and the pages crackled in the fire. I felt free. That drawer was finally clean.
I know there are other drawers in need of cleaning in my internal house. I have a feeling it’s an ongoing process. But I’m up for the challenge. How about you? What drawers are you ready to tackle?