This is the second post in the Cleaning Out Your Stuff Series. To start the exercise at the beginning go here.
I want to deep dive quickly on why cleaning out your stuff is important. I have written a lot about the parts of us and how to honor the polarization of one part of you wanting to do something and another part wanting something else. The simplest example I can give is when you are thinking about attending an event or a party and part of you wants to go and part of you wants to stay home. A dialogue happens there and eventually you come to a decision, but probably not without listening to both sides of the argument, right?
The value of cleaning out your metaphorical stuff is that you have less arguments and more clarity. And here is why; your experiences have shaped you and they have created a system for making decisions, for reacting, for evaluating. Your brain and your nervous system have been trained to behave a certain way—and if you have had any emotional trauma, loss or disruption then you have triggers and your nervous system and your mind react without you even knowing what is going on. A scientific model for this is the Vagus nerve and its role in our nervous system. If you want to deep dive into the science behind what I am teaching you begin here. I will continue to provide links as I find relative information to help you navigate this concept.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not trying to let my nervous system and brain rule my life without me even knowing what is going on. I know what it feels like to be triggered, to have your emotions come rushing to the surface and feel like you are no longer safe. I want to be clear here, if there is any deep trauma that you have not evaluated with a mental health professional it is imperative that you do that work or simultaneously do that work before/while engaging in a coaching relationship. Trauma is a real thing that when not addressed properly can have serious consequences on you and your well being. My first rule here as a coach is to keep you safe!
The stuff I am referring to is all of the moments that have occurred prior to this time—and sometimes very early on in our lives. The first five years of our lives are a huge time for our development—so sometimes when we start working with stuff we will find memories tucked in there from very early days that have informed how we show up in the world. Other times we will realize that some memory from high school, or your marriage, or the first job you had or your divorce are informing your decisions. And of course they are. How could we not be reacting based on our experiences? That is how we build our right and wrong system, that is how we know what we like and what we don’t like.
But I am here to argue that a lot of that is actually false. I am here to tell you that behind all of that experience, and let down, and heartache is a strong and powerful person with a lot of clarity. Like I wrote in the first lesson in this series, you often hear from her/him but you do not listen. You may no longer even hear from them at all because you are so busy letting all of your experiences and memories hold the mic. But if you do hear from that strong and powerful part of you it is most likely right before a threat or something that goes against what you truly want. That voice most likely shows up right before you are about to do something you really don’t want to do or right before you are about to do something you really really want. It either whispers, “This isn’t right for us”. Or it whispers, “Please Please finally, this is the thing!”. And if you haven’t cleaned out the stuff and you aren’t clear enough to hear that voice, you will continue to feel scattered and confused because you won’t be sure which voice is the right voice.
So what can we do about this? Some of you might be asking yourselves, How do I know the difference between the authentic self and fear? Or shame? That is where the work comes in. That is where evaluating the stuff and spending time with it and understanding it gives us that clarity. You have these aha moments and suddenly you have such clarity of how that stuff has been shaping your decisions that you never have to address that particular thing again. It’s not magic, it’s work that leads to magic. Over time your feelings will start to align with your decisions, you will begin to feel the way you want to feel and that is how you will know you are on the right path. Suffering will diminish and more and more you will feel like you are living in your power.
So if you are with me and you want to begin evaluating your stuff so you can get your power back, let’s get started.
I want you to go to a place without distractions. Put your phone in the other room or turn it off. Make sure you have a piece of paper or a notebook and something to write with. Get settled in a comfortable position—grab your favorite blanket or cup of tea and settle in. Are you comfortable? Good, here is what I want you to do.
Take three deep breaths. Let the breath come in and out slowly, imagine that it is cleansing your body of any emotions you do not want around. If you need more than three breaths continue this until you feel calm.
Close your eyes. I want you to think about a memory that had a big impact on your life. I want you to imagine that memory like you are watching it like a movie. You are the observer, not the participant. I want you stay there for awhile, watch the memory thoroughly and hold the observer space. If your brain tries to tell you that the memory is real and starts to bring up emotions or thoughts around the memory I want you to calmly ask those feelings to take a break and then return to your seat in the theatre where you can watch the memory like a movie. Do this as many times as you need to in order to maintain the feeling of an observer.
Now I want you to evaluate this memory from your observer position. What is different for you as an observer than as a participant? What rings true and what rings false? Without emotion, what does this memory mean to you? Stay in this as long as you need to.
Now I want you to thank the memory. I want you, in your own way, to express gratitude for this moment. Thank it for its lesson, its purpose, its impact. And then I want you to ask it to go away. Make sure the memory understands that it had value, that it played a role in your life that was necessary for your growth and then ask it to move on. Remind the memory that time has passed, that you are no longer that person, or in that place. Tell that memory that you are strong and powerful and completely capable of navigating the world without it.
Take a few more deep breaths and then open your eyes. Now I want you to write down what came up for you. What did you see? How did it feel to be there again? What is different now than when the memory was happening? And then I want you to write down what is true. Not what you assumed, not what you thought happened, not what you projected but what is actually true about the memory.
Now I want you to write down what is true today. Who are you? What are your best attributes? What have you learned since this memory? And finally, what is possible now that this memory doesn’t have as much power?
I suggest you do this one memory at a time, and perhaps no more than one memory a week. You need time to let the process simmer and do its work. These memories are valid and powerful and they have served you for a long time—and it is important that we don’t abruptly try to change our construct.
The goal here is to take way the power of the memories that are getting in our way. They are stories and they are currently controlling the narrative. In order to get the narrative back we have to do the work to change these old narratives. The only way to do this is to reevaluate their meaning in our lives and decide that we are more than these experiences.
Let me know what comes up for you during this exercise. And keep your journal close because throughout the days and weeks following this exercise you may have more stuff come up for you that you want to process!