During life, we accumulate a lot of stuff, which is why self-help books like Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” are so enormously popular. Once our nooks and crannies are full, we search for an easy solution to cut the clutter.
Kondo’s book prompts readers to pile all their stuff in the middle of a room before examining each object individually.
While holding the object, readers are told to ask themselves, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is no, the object is tossed – or, more likely, donated.
Millions of Americans have successfully implemented Kondo’s system, which is known as the KonMari method.
Personally, I’m not brave enough – and it’d take a few football fields for me to spread my stuff out for examination.
After reading Kondo’s books, which (don’t judge me, OK?) was lost in the clutter of my house a couple of times, I wondered if the KonMari method could be applied to other “stuff,” like the things we accumulate in our brains throughout life.
I don’t mean necessary life skills, fond memories or great trivia knowledge, but the things that cause pain, such as negative thoughts, bad memories or emotional baggage.
The brain is an incredible organ that indexes our life experiences, the good and the bad, through various processes, such as sleep.
It takes our experiences, filters them through our complex set of emotions, and then decides if they need to be archived for future knowledge or if they need to be discarded. It’s a tough piece of equipment, capable of healing from the most traumatic of events.
However, emotional trauma, such as bullying, a bad breakup or anything that triggers our brain’s built-in fight-or-flight system, can leave “scars” on the brain.
Theoretically, these scars serve a purpose: they help us remember the past and avoid future danger. Realistically, they bog us down with anxious thinking, depression and even rage.
It’s the classic example of the child who unknowingly touched the hot stovetop.
The child’s brain, unaware of the danger, only detected it upon touch and immediately shot pain reflexes, its defense mechanism against further injury, throughout the body. It’s a tough lesson, but the brain will never forget it, and the child will most likely not touch the stovetop in the future.
Like the hot stovetop, emotional trauma can build knowledge and leave lasting memories.
Unfortunately, the amygdala, the structure in the brain that controls the fight-or-flight system, can overreact, and, often, it can be flat out wrong when detecting threats.
It’s a bright red panic button in the brain, and it’s one that can refer to those past brain scars for advice.
Many of us live with so much brain scarring that our panic button is always engaged, leaving us fearful, frustrated or angry most of the time.
Our hyperactive amygdala keeps us from touching the hot stovetop, but it also keeps us from enjoying life to the fullest because of past trauma.
And that’s where the KonMari method comes back into play. Kondo advises readers to declutter their brains along with their closets. She says to write down every emotion and then write down action items for each one of them.
The point is to find actionable ways to deal with your feelings.
Is it time for you to declutter your brain and start its natural healing process?
No brain scar is too deep, and help can be found in a professional counselor, through mindfulness or even by talking through your challenges with a friend.
As Kondo says, once you declutter your mind, “you’ll have much more clarity and will be in a calmer place.”
Joshua Wilson is the owner-operator of Jowil Media, LLC, a marketing and public relations consulting firm located in Hattiesburg. Email him at email@example.com.