We all have closets. It’s where we keep things that we want to store but not have in plain sight. Sometimes our closets are well organized and only contain what we use. Sometimes they are a catch all for things we don’t use but don’t want to discard. Sometimes they are a jumbled mess of long forgotten, unnecessary items that we just don’t want to ever have to look at or decide about or handle.
So what do you think you are keeping in your mental/emotional closet? Happy memories of family holidays? A peak experience of personal success? Feeling overwhelmed by homework when you were 7? That thing your father said that hurt you so deeply that you blanked it out? A wonderful vacation ruined by an argument? A review from your boss that hit you the wrong way? Being yelled at for a bathroom accident when you were 5? What’s in there?
Some parts of life seem inconsequential, but are actually having an effect on how you live. When you find yourself overreacting to a minor present time occurrence, it’s possible that some past association has been triggered and kicked in a response that is inappropriate. The problem is that you don’t see the connection and can end up blaming yourself for behaving badly. Once the event is reviewed and the stress response related to it is switched off, with past associations recognized, it is no longer a problem, just a memory.
And, there are beliefs. Many of our core beliefs about life are adopted before our brains have developed enough to be able to make our own analysis. A crying baby who is ignored and not comforted can start to believe that he is unwanted or unsupported, and that’s what life is like always. A toddler admired and praised for looking “cute” , and punished for getting dirty, may believe that people care for her only when she is attractive. A harsh, critical sports coach can cause a person to think they are failures, uncoordinated, stupid, etc. A serious trauma can contain all sorts of thoughts, feelings, decisions, denials that can influence how you live your life.
We are often unaware of beliefs that are running our lives, until we try to make some changes. That’s when we bump up against old ingrained patterns, which often lead to beliefs that need to be examined. Beliefs can be instilled in us by parents or social peers and we just accept them without question. Many years later, when we realize that a particular belief may not be true always, things shift. We are no longer stuck in any old paradigm but can choose what to believe now.
These beliefs are buried deep in the back of that closet. They’ve gathered dust. Yet, they can be excavated, examined and accepted or rejected from the present. It’s worth the effort.