Emotional Health 4 minutes to read

A few years ago, during the Christmas season, I was faced with the challenge of figuring out how to keep my crawling baby away from all the ornaments on the Christmas tree. Naturally, I went on Pinterest to see what kind of ideas were out there for this problem. There were quite a few. The most visually pleasing suggestion was to get a few very large boxes, pack them full of heavy items, wrap them with Christmas paper, and put them around the tree. So, I set out to gather some big boxes and tried to figure out what I could pack in them.

Around the same time, I was dealing with another dilemma: I was in the process of sorting through an extremely large pile of odds and ends that was taking over our office. Between working, taking care of a baby, and preparing for the busy holiday season, it was difficult to find the time to sort through this pile of clutter. So, what does an over-committed, over-stressed, twentysomething wife and Mom do? You guessed it! I took that enormous pile and filled six very large boxes, wrapped them in Christmas paper and placed them ever-so-nicely around the Christmas tree. It was perfect. The pile was gone and my baby couldn’t play with the Christmas tree—problem solved!

Here it is four years later, approaching yet another busy holiday season. A lot has changed in these four years. We’ve added two more little ones to our family and moved three times. Things are changing every day as the kids get older and we are constantly adapting to their ever-growing needs. Life is busy. But, you know what hasn’t changed? Those boxes—those six large heavy boxes from Christmas 2013. That giant pile of clutter I didn’t want to deal with four years ago, that I boxed up and made pretty under the Christmas tree, is still boxed up waiting for me to go through.

What’s the hold up? Why haven’t I sat down and gone through all that junk? I could say that I’ve been busy, which is true, but not a good excuse. The truth is, this isn’t the first time I’ve done something like this. I have several more of these boxes sitting in the garage, stored over the years, waiting for me to sort through. It’s a process—an overwhelming process that will take a lot of time and energy. A process that involves taking off the wrapping paper, opening the box, pulling out each item one-by-one, and dealing with it. It takes time, energy, and the willingness to embrace this task.

I recently realized, all of that junk isn’t the only thing I’ve boxed up. Over the years, I’ve boxed up emotions and experiences that I didn’t have time to deal with: high school break up—throw it in a box; a bad grade in a class—throw it in a box; regret—throw it in a box; trauma—throw it in a box. If something caused a negative emotion that I didn’t have time to deal with, I boxed it up, sealed it with tape, covered it up with wrapping paper and the problem was solved. Well, that’s not really how things work, is it?

This past year, through my Pure Desire group, I recognized the importance of dealing with my past. I’ve taken time to work through the emotional boxes that have been piling up inside me. They were wrapped up so pretty and packed so well that I forgot about them. It’s been an ongoing process, but taking every item out of the box and really dealing with it has helped me approach life in a whole new light. I am learning not to box up negative emotions but to handle them in a healthier way. No matter how pretty all my emotional boxes looked, the experiences were still hidden within and eventually I would have to deal with the core issue. The process has been a challenge but definitely worth it.

Don’t let your pretty emotional boxes travel with you from place to place; getting beat up, stored, and remaining boxed up. Stop, take the time, and begin the long process of dealing with your past experiences so you can be free from the emotional boxes—those that take up room in your heart and mind. When we keep our emotional experiences boxed up, it isn’t long before the paper starts peeling off and holes begin to form in the boxes. Little by little the negative experiences spill out, creating new problems.

Make it a priority to de-clutter your emotional space, not packing it full of problems in pretty boxes. From my experience, those giant packages looked beautiful under the Christmas tree but they were really only a temporary solution to a much larger issue.

Anna Philipsen

Anna is the Event & Project Manager for Pure Desire. Her background is in event planning and social media. Anna has a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Health Education from George Fox University, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). She is a leader for Pure Desire women's groups and a contributing author to Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.

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