The Emotions That Prevent Change: Why We Hold Onto Things and People Longer Than We Should
It is hard work to go through change. We all have to go through it, and if we are focused on personal growth, we are going to go through change more often.
As I move toward minimalism, I have had to work through a lot of emotions that I didn’t realize were holding me back and keeping me within the confines of clutter, stress, ‘have-to’ and allowing toxicity in my life.
The first thing I had to work through was needs. It was so hard to realize so much of my life was about needs. For instance, I bought stuff because I had an emotional need to have the newest so I would be complemented.
I would overtask my time and energy with tasks and events, because I needed to feel like I was doing important things that make a difference. I even realized that I needed to stay busy, just so I felt like I was important, doing something, for our family. I needed people to give me affirmation and support, even if it was a toxic or draining relationship that was really offering me nothing. Or as this quote points out, I had thoughts, anticipations and expectations that were being filled by these things and people, and I was ‘using them’ to fill my emotional tank.
Now, don’t get me wrong – this is actually normal. However, it is the move from focusing on fulfilling of needs to gaining an understanding of the emotions behind needs that can bring us to the point of happiness and finding our dreams (This blog explains it very well).
See, using people, buying stuff and over tasking were just symptoms that were trying to show deeper emotions and deeper problems. These needs haven’t changed, however, once I realized the emotions behind these needs, I can address the emotions rather than just accepting the coping mechanism I have always used.
What emotions were keeping me in old lifestyle?
I think it was/is mostly fear. The biggest fear I had to overcome was the fear of ‘what if.’ What if… I need that platter I have never used for a random event where 600 people come to my house? Now don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are huge entertainers, we have a small group over… every 2 months, and by group I mean, another couple we are close to. But still, what if I need that platter…?
What if I need those clothes in the back of the closet that I save just in case I don’t do laundry for 2 months and need something to wear? Granted, I do laundry every week, and the ‘just in case’ clothes are terribly tacky and I hate them, but what if I do end up needing the outfit?
What if I stop being so busy and find that I don’t enjoy relaxing or going on trips? Yes, we are ran ragged, always stressed and I don’t enjoy 99% of what we committed to. I dream of having a life on the road relaxing and driving, but what if I am needing this stress and busyness, I mean way, way, WAAAAY down deep, I am needing it instead of the peace I think I want?
What if that toxic person really IS the only person who will support me, even if they are horrendous and I don’t know why I can’t stand them, what if, I can’t live without them?
The ONLY WAY I could bust out of the ‘what if’ prison was to FORCE my mind to think of the ABSOLUTELY WORST SCENARIO EVER!! And then come up with an alternative idea that didn’t involve the things I was afraid of losing. For instance – tacky clothes? Washing machine breaks, clothes get chewed by our dogs, ran over in the mud, all I have is the ‘what if…’ clothes left…. BUT I could use a laundry mat or borrow my sister’s clothes or even my husband’s. Wait! Now, I don’t have that crippling fear and I can let go of these clothes I have always hated. See how easy it is?
Once I got over my fears, I found I was incredibly overwhelmed. It was so overwhelming and stressful to want change, while at the same time I didn’t know where to start. I found that I stressed over cleaning out, and stressed over not cleaning out. There seemed so much to do, so much growth I was wanting, that I couldn’t get moving on it. Let me explain how my over-reactive, over-planning brain was seeing this new journey. Have you ever read the children’s book by Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse A Cookie (or any of it’s sidekick books)?
It is very simple, you give a mouse a cookie, and he wants a glass of milk… and that brings him to wanting something else and something else. Stay with me here. I am not talking about getting stuff, I am talking about being overwhelmed. This is how I feel making changes, if I change this then I need to fix that. If I fix that, then I need to grow in this area or get rid of that stressor.
So, instead of dwelling on everything that needs to be done, I had to simplify my to-do list.
Cleaning out, simplifying and removing stressors had to be organized into 2 lists – one was ‘do-able’ and the other was the ‘too overwhelming’ list.
I could easily clean out a closet, but removing toxic relationships or fixing a budget was more overwhelming. Those had to wait until my emotions were ready to tackle them. Do-able and too-overwhelming, divide your life into these two categories as I did and maybe it will help with working through things.
As I moved through the do-able list, I found I was feeling like I was giving up. Think of those clothes that used to fit, or that relationship that you used to enjoy, or baby clothes just in case you had another. How about a journal you kept with a story to be published or an instrument you kept just so you could eventually learn it? What does it feel like when you finally decide to step away? Do you remember that feeling?
Yes, those feelings, the sadness and grief, the memories, the dashed hopes. Each item was an effort, because I had to deal with these emotions. I had to let go. You have to let go. The items, responsibilities and friends you feel nothing for are easy to de-clutter. But if there is emotions, you have to let go of what you had hoped would become your reality. It isn’t easy, it is hard and it sucks! This is where most people will stop their journey to change.
It takes a leap of faith to let go of what was a hope or in the past to reach for something that is might be possible or might not be. In the moment of letting go, there is deep fear, the what-ifs, the overwhelmed stress, the lost hope… and there is a need to believe.
A need to believe that what you are reaching for WILL mean more to you than what you are giving up.
When the emotions get too much to handle and you wonder if you can make any more change, take a breath and step back. Step back and take time to reflect on why you are moving forward in the first place. If you pushed through your emotions of fear, of uncertainty, of trying to find a focus, what would you find on the other side? A destiny? A better hope? A peaceful environment? Fulfilled dreams? A healed past?
These dreams of change is what keeps me pushing through my emotions. That’s why I can’t give up and let the emotions dictate my next steps. Beyond the fears, the uncertainty, and the lack of focus, past all of that is where I want to go, I have to push on to find out what is possible beyond those emotions.
PS – here are other blogs that deal with my journey into minimalism –