There is something about the spring season that feels fresh and new. Perhaps it’s the pruned trees with new buds of flowers beginning to blossom. Maybe it is the feeling of warmth as the sun shines on my skin and the cold days of winter become a memory. One thing I think about at this time of year is memories of my mom and me getting ready to do some spring cleaning. I recall turning the mattresses on all the beds and taking the curtains down to wash and hang them on the clothesline in the backyard. They smelled so fresh. But the biggest job involved tackling the cluttered closets.
My mom would set up three boxes. One would be labeled “Donate”, “Storage” and the last one would be for “Trash”. Then the process of going through the closets and deciding which items were worthy of donation or storage and what should be destined to be thrown in the garbage. Oddly enough, this yearly task required courage and determination because it was difficult to part with a particular book, or pair of cherished jeans. The emotional tie was hard to break.
One of the reasons I enjoy the counseling process is that it represents a form of spring cleaning that takes place all year long. Just as our closets pile up with clutter that need our time and attention, our souls contain negative emotions that can clutter our hearts and need cleansing as well. Most people make counseling appointments because they are struggling with issues that keep them from moving forward. There is too much clutter in their hearts and heads that attempt to hold them back. First, we address the emotions that impede personal growth.
A major complaint involves feeling anger. Many clients state: “That person made me mad.” We discuss that anger is a secondary emotion. To identify the true feeling involves examining the emotion(s) they were feeling before they felt mad. Was it rejection, betrayal, disappointment, vulnerability or embarrassment? I give them a list called Feelings of Underlying Anger that consists of about forty emotive words. As they identify the true feeling(s); they are presented with an opportunity to do some spring cleaning. Does it stay or go into the discard box? For those who choose to let it go, I lead them through a guided imagery of forgiving the offender and releasing him/her and relinquishing the wrongdoer from any control of their emotions. A true cleansing involves forgiveness and letting go.
For many clients dispensing grace and mercy is difficult. Many indicate they feel justified in holding onto negative emotions because the hurt runs deep. But at some point, the process of living is marred by the emotions that hold a ransom on their hearts. And as we discuss the brokenness, feel the pain, forgive and release the offender, healing floods in like a welcome spring breeze. The moment is refreshing as the tears flow amidst a sense of relief.
I love recalling those memories of my childhood. In fact, this week I set up my own set of boxes to clear out the closet clutter. I encourage you to take time this season to tackle some cleaning of your own. And if it entails clearing out unwanted emotions call a friend or a counselor to help you on your journey. There is freedom in cleaning out the old to make room for something new.