Clean Out Your “Personal” Closet
BY DR. BOB WRIGHT AND DR. JUDITH WRIGHT
We all have unfinished business: something we were never able to move beyond a divorce, a fractured relationship, or a dream unrealized. Fortunately, in our later years, we’re granted a time of rebirth to discover wisdom, self-revelations, relationship resolutions, and a renewed zest for learning.
In Greek mythology, the centaur Chiron suffers a searing wound and endures constant agony. Despite this, he grows to become a wise and respected healer, often referred to as the “wounded healer.”
The takeaway here is agony can be transformational. Chiron’s suffering allowed him to better connect with the pain of his patients, because empathy is drawn from shared or similar experiences. Facing our painful unfinished business can lead us to deeper insight, connection, and opportunity for growth.
Carl Jung wrote on Chiron, “Freud himself accepted my suggestion that every doctor should submit to a training analysis before interesting himself in the unconscious of his patients for therapeutic purposes. We could say, without too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.” –Practice of Psychotherapy, Collected Works Vol. 16, pg. 115-116.
Our kids and grandkids offer us the opportunity to learn with them—but only if we’re honest with ourselves about our own unfinished business. Did we miss out on having fun, so we want that for them? If so, maybe they’re here to teach us how to play. Were we too harsh on our kids? Maybe we can help soften things for them as they parent their own children.
“The Chiron Return,” is said to be a period of personal growth occurring from the ages of 48 to 55. For women, this coincides with menopause, but men also go through physiological changes during this period. We can take this time to face our unfinished business and handle some of the issues. We can open up the possibilities of a grand “third-third” of life. Or we can stagnate and succumb to the temptation to live through our kids and grandkids, having given up on our own personal development.
It’s a time in life for our personal “spring cleaning,” to heal our wounds and recommit to living life more fully.
Revealing! Get naked!
When you clean out your closet, you examine each item. Does it fit? Is it still stylish?
When we clean out our emotional closet, we do the same thing but with aspects of our lives. What areas need work? Which relationships help us to meet our full potential? What baggage do we need to give up?
In our book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the “bliss skills” you need to realize your full potential. Revealing is one such skill.
Just like cleaning out your closet in real life, we’re trying things on, getting naked, and looking at life more closely, which can be very painful. However, this analysis helps us to truly know ourselves.
Revealing leads to vibrancy
When we don’t reflect on the things holding us back, we become stuck. Our senses become lackluster. We might find ourselves less sharp.
Neuroscience teaches us our brains are constantly forming new neuropathways as we have experienced and “rethink” our way of doing things. These new pathways help our brain “fire on all cylinders.”
When we fail to reveal and resolve our baggage, the every day becomes mundane. We may just exist, not really live.
Bob’s father had a stroke at this pivotal age. He had forgone finishing college to serve in WWII and help his brothers. Lacking a degree, he watched other less intelligent men move up through the ranks of the telephone company where he worked.
Even though his father retired to work and live in a fishing resort, his unfulfilled desires held him back. He was never able to fully enjoy the richness of his life.
Life is full of deeper meaning and experience when we work through our unfinished business.
So, at age 50 Bob recognized a piece of his own unfinished business: not getting his doctorate. He vowed to finish his doctorate by 60—and two days before his 60th birthday, he did!
When we’re children, we’re constantly learning and growing. Time feels endless because we’re in a world full of awe and wonder. This sense of joy and excitement doesn’t have to end with childhood; we can feel that way our whole lives.
Judith’s mother struggled with her weight her entire life. When she reached her 60s, rather than telling herself she had missed her window for change, she embraced it and learned about nutrition and exercise, pushing herself to reach her goal weight.
She revealed previously held beliefs that were holding her back—that she didn’t deserve to care for herself and that she needed to suppress her own wants. She moved forward, embracing the challenge with enthusiasm, lost the weight, and lived a healthy, vibrant life!
It’s never too late to work toward living our GRANDest life. Take those classes you always wanted to take. Try something new. Travel.
Life is full of deeper meaning and experience when we work through our unfinished business. Do your own spring cleaning and engage in life fully. You won’t regret it!
About the Authors
Dr. Judith Wright and Dr. Bob Wright, are a husband/wife duo and Chicago-based relationship counselors. They are award-winning authors and trainers and have appeared on numerous TV and radio programs including ABC’s 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, the Today Show, the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, and Vanity Fair. They are the co-authors of “The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.