Spring brings with it the desire to declutter, simplify, and cleanse. This craving usually applies to the physical spaces we occupy liked packed closets, overstuffed junk drawers, and tucked away spaces. Cleaning out those external spaces can be very freeing (tip: take the “Pick and Purge” and/or “Clean Up” challenge from the April newsletter). However, extending that effort to your internal landscape can help identify and release unwanted emotions that have become burdensome and which clutter up your mind and heart. Shame and guilt are two very common emotions that could likely use some spring cleaning.
Guilt and shame are self-conscious emotions, often brewed up in response to a perceived transgression or shortcoming. Though similar in many ways, these emotions are different. Shame is particularly characterized by the desire to hide and escape. It’s usually about the “self” and can even take shape as dislike or regret about an aspect of who you are as a person. Guilt is the desire to make reparations. It’s usually in response to actions you take or fail to take that impact others (cue that very physical feeling of regret).
Shame and guilt generally leave you with a not-so-good feeling, but they’re also important emotions as they can assist with evaluation, reflection, and behavior change. Shame and guilt are actually crucial for the cultivation and care of interpersonal relationships.
After the good aspects of these emotions are gathered (e.g., considering the needs of others and appropriately changing behavior), shame and guilt generally hang around like unwanted houseguests. These unwanted guests like to play -on loop- the tape of how they came to visit (that behavior or shortcoming you feel bad about). They encourage continued punishment long after their welcome has passed. What’s worse, when these emotions overstay their welcome, they can negatively impact your physical health. They can trigger chemical reactions in your body that lead to inflammation, gut imbalances, fatigue, and a weakened immune systems.
Clearly, these unwanted houseguests need to go. Spring is a good time to identify the past experience that invited them in, make amends as needed, and then show them the door.
Self-compassion and self-kindness practices are designed to support caring and understanding of yourself, rather than being too harshly critical. Consider these practices as the space-making decluttering, cleansing wipes, and open windows that refresh and enliven your internal space. You’ll then be able to reorganize and restock your emotional space in a way that serves you better.
Try the Emotional Spring Cleaning Meditation and the Loving Kindness Meditation below to help invite your unwanted emotional houseguests out. Use them as often as you like this month. You can also find more resilience-boosting spring cleaning practices at the newsletter. Sign up here.
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