This month I helped to move an older family member to a facility where she could get the specific support she needs for her mental and physical health. Over 90 years, she had travelled to many places including Antarctica, and had not only seen and experienced much in her life, but had also collected material souvenirs made more evident by the growing number of boxes that needed to be packed and moved. This event presented a number of metaphors and opportunities for reflection about the way we perceive our stuff, our history, the way the mind orders and classifies, and how we deal with change.
Not my stuff
While family, this relative and I didn’t cross paths much over the years. This is more a disclaimer than anything else, and I mention it only because I immediately noticed a difference between moving myself and moving someone else.
With this move (as opposed to my own), I didn’t have the complete story. The clothes, the curios, the dishes didn’t have a special origin or funny anecdote attached to them. I saw them as simply objects, not a part of a life lived and experiences experienced. And the difference in significance (or perceived significance) can make all the difference when sorting through or packing up these (precious) things.
This is often the same when we reflect on the distinction between our own and others mental history or emotional ‘baggage’. “What’s wrong with her – why can’t she get over that, it’s been 20 years” or “He’s way too sensitive about little and unimportant things” – often with our distance from the problem, because it’s not our own, we can see the problem and solution nicely laid out before us. Or so we think.
Sometimes our objectivity is perfectly valid and the space and ability to detach the cold, hard facts from the warm and mushy sentiments and we can review clearly the inputs, the ‘what to dos’ and discover the options that create a way out of a challenge or rut. This is one of the advantages of meeting with a hypnotherapist or therapist – they are trained to process and guide emotionally gilded struggles.
At the same time, our simplified view of other people’s worlds may be completely off the mark. We need to remember that looking at others requires us to view them through all of our experiences, biases and filters, so what we finally get may be a ‘self-morphed’ version of the other. With almost 15 years of experience in assisting others in getting to the root of their personal obstacles, I still work very hard to ‘stay stupid’ by clearing any personal assumptions I may be projecting on others, which might colour my investigation or suggested options.
Simply put, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” works on the material plane as well as the mental, spiritual and emotional ones. I could look at a teapot and see its chips, stains and that it wouldn’t be my choice of style, while the owner might know that it was the only one she could afford on her first pay stub, and that it had travelled and connected her with some very special people over the decades – that it has personal meaning rather than monetary value. And we need to keep this in mind when we are quick to ‘advise’ our nearest and dearest on their problems – it may be useful to get a bit more of the story first.
Sorting through the first (several) layers… (or closet discoveries)
When I was young, I remember sorting through a deceased great-uncle’s sock drawer and finding a box with a beaded 1920s flappers dress from his late wife – for a little girl it was an emerald discovered in the dirt. It also shows that we ‘put’ unexpected stuff in places that may not be obvious or visible. While some of these may be gems we misplace (our strengths and attributes we conceal or need to rediscover), others may be skeletons or shrunken heads we hide (which seem to turn up again at the most inconvenient times).
This is the subconscious at its best and worst. It is a filing system that is often created clustering emotionally or viscerally similar experiences/people/actions/thoughts or feelings. So our irrational clustering and layering of our internal storage structure makes sense to the deeper part of the mind – even when it doesn’t look that way from an external perspective.
With a loving and compassionate view that there may be stories we don’t know about behind the stuff or actions in the lives of others (and even ourselves), there may be times in life when we still need to reduce or release paraphernalia in our lives that is cluttering our way to our goals or emotional wellbeing.
As a bit of a tangible metaphor, sometime today (or now), take a few moments to open the drawers of your desk, or your closet or basement/attic or storeroom… I’m not talking about the first drawer, or the most often used closet, but the secondary ones, the ‘off season’ places, the ‘bottom’ drawers – you’ll find all kinds of strange combinations of bits and pieces that may not really belong there (anymore).
I’ve just done this myself and have discovered all sorts of ‘misc.’ that I stuck in a drawer because I didn’t ‘have the time’, or couldn’t make a decision on, or didn’t have a spot for – this is very similar to our subconscious mind’s bundling system. Which is sometimes why disparate thoughts may pop to mind in a given situation – because they’ve been chucked in a jumble drawer in the deepest parts of our minds.
What can you take away from this little experiment?
- Simply an understanding that there are mishmashes of ideas/perceptions/concepts that can be stored for long periods of times without you even realizing that they have be put there. A ‘move’ can force the drawer to open and the collection to tumble into your awareness.
- Some ‘gear’ from our past may not be appropriate now. It isn’t a reflection of bad choices in the past, just the opportunity to re-choose in the present, deciding on what you want to keep and what you want to let go of in your life right now.
- That maybe that bottom drawer/closer actually should be cleaned or sorted through?…
When we move or transition in our lives, the hidden but important/impactful tends to be revealed and we may need to face the job of sorting through it.
Where does it all go?
When we were moving our senior relative, she was shifting from one apartment to a slightly smaller space. So she needed to ‘refine’ a portion of her things. Some choices were very easy. She didn’t have a stove or oven anymore, so pots, pans and accoutrements that were now irrelevant could be donated to those who needed them more. Other areas were more challenging – some of the decisions we made on her behalf, but others had to be very personal choices. At the same time, we needed to remind her that ‘keeping it all’ was not an option so choices had to be made.
This is often similar to us getting advice from others when we work out habits and patterns. This is also the way with the therapeutic environment. A therapist has the advantage of having gone through the process of change many times, with ideas of best practices and ‘short cuts’ for getting there, but it must be in tandem with the client, the person who is experiencing the need for shifting and refining. Finding someone else (professionally or personally) who can help you to ‘make a move’ can be valuable for helping to give some distance, structure and new angles from which to start (and finish!)
While there were some challenging selections that were (sometimes) begrudgingly made, the move from one place to the other actually happened. Even though the layout of the second apartment was a mirror image of the first, we did our best to replicate the look and feel of ‘home’ for her, so when she wheeled into her suite, it was like coming back to a familiar and welcoming place.
This can be the best outcome of subconscious change. Even if areas of our life are turned upside-down or backwards, we can feel comfortable immediately – without all the errant ‘single socks’ or broken souvenirs hiding behind doors or drawers. Does it take work? Yes, but when everything has its place and feels clear, it is worth the effort.
And even if you’re staying in the same place, you might consider uncovering unnecessary layers and clearing them out – physically, emotionally or mentally. Today’s a great day to move…
Have fun (and if you need help with any type of ‘moving’, contact me),