Deciding to Not Hang Out with Mental Clutter

Mental clutter are the negative thoughts in our heads that we give extra attention to. Negative thoughts are going to show up anyway because we can't stop a thought from appearing. Suddenly, there it is, sitting in our awareness. But we don't have to hang out and get involved with the negative thoughts. It's tempting to want to jump into their midst because they have a high charge and they give us an adrenalin boost. But then we get tangled up in them for a while and our lives don't get any better.

Once I was working with a client in her living room and we came across some old furniture that she no longer cared for. I asked if she would let the old furniture go. I saw her get afraid. She tensed up and her eyes got big and her breathing got strong and fast. She said the furniture belonged to her mother who had died some years ago. She thought if she got rid of the furniture, her brother would get very angry at her. Her voice sped up as she described how her brother would yell at her and never let her forget about it. It was as if her brother was in the room and would start yelling at her any second. My client's openness was gone. She was swallowed up by the negative thoughts.

I said in an open and hopeful voice, "Let's call your brother." I sensed this interrupted the negative thought takeover of my client's mind. She felt quieter with some uncertainty mixed in. I said that it would be more helpful to skip past being devoured by the fear and see what's actually going on. My client said, "But what if he gets angry at me?" I said, "You can talk about how you're feeling."

She got on the phone and called her brother. She told him her feelings about not liking the furniture and wanting to get rid of it. He said that he didn't want his mom's old furniture and she could get rid of it. Then they spent a little time catching up. My client was smiling. I sensed that she was relieved.