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Monday, September 15, 2014

Motivational Mondays: Cleaning Out The Closets In Your Mind

Thought for the Day: For the past couple of weeks, in anticipation of the change of seasons, I have been working on a fall clean up. A few times a year, I focus on my closets. Each time I do, I come up with better ways to keep things organized and in clear view. I try coordinating color and types of clothing, use plastic boxes, label things and think that I have found the solution to disarray in my closets. I donate the impulse "bargain" purchases that often I have not worn making them expensive mistakes. I give away clothes that don't fit anymore and put other things away for the off season. When I finish, my closets look wonderful. However, over time the clutter seems to magically reappear. I take advantage of the change of seasons and the need to switch from summer to winter apparel, to set out to conquer my closets one more time.

This morning, while thinking about what I want to write, several ideas arose, not just for Motivational Monday, but for the other weekly segments of this blog. If you like this segment, you may want to come back for the Tuesday's Psychology Tips, Wednesday's Words of Wisdom and Thursday's Psychology Trivia. It may be like a mini-series of posts addressing ways to de-clutter your internal closet and reset your mind. This too is an ongoing process which can be beneficial for our mental health.

When I think about the process that led to today's post, "Cleaning Out the Closets of Your Mind," the ideas actually began following a meeting with a client on Friday. I'll call her June (not her real name). June is a very bright accomplished woman who has been struggling with depression most of her life. On Friday, she reported that the change in seasons and some anniversaries of difficult life events that occurred in the fall contributed to a very dramatic decline in her mood.

June makes every effort humanly possible to fight her depression. She practices yoga religiously. She takes walks on the beach. Even when she feels like sleeping, she forces herself to gets up and out of bed. Try as she may to stay positive depression keeps rearing it's ugly head. There is no denying that June's depression has a strong physiological component. Medications help, but simply don't do enough. My job is to help her fight the psychological components and support her through the times when the depression becomes unbearable.

Despite her depression, June reported  having attended and participated in multiple professional networking meetings since our last appointment. Although she feels great while in the meetings as soon as she leaves, her mind fills up with negative thoughts. She is hypercritical of things she has said and obsesses about having made mistakes. When I ask for specifics of things she is doubting, her professionalism and wisdom, not mistakes shine through.

Clearly the self doubt is not based in her present behavior. Her mind's closets are stuffed with negative feedback from the past. Without giving personal details, her childhood was cluttered with negative thinking and feedback, which continue to this day in her encounters with her family. Not only was she criticized, but the world was portrayed as a dangerous place where people are out to take advantage of you. June's depression and a string of bad luck in life reinforce the self doubts and negative thinking patterns. In her mind's closet, all the negative things are overflowing and blocking the view of her accomplishments in life. The mirrors in her inner closet are warped and broken so that she fails to hear or believe the accolades and positive feedback which she receives from peers, professional  and volunteer organizations she has helped.

If your internal closet is cluttered with negativity that no longer fits, like June's, it is time to clear your head. Discard things that no longer fit who you are today. Replace the warped broken mirrors with new more accurate ones. Stay tuned for more thoughts on how to do this very difficult task. I'd love to hear about your challenges with similar cluttered inner closets.

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