by Kelvin Belfon
I love music. Calypso, soca, salsa, dance hall, reggae, and country were all in my upbringing. Reggae is one of my favorites.
The influence of Bob Marley in the Caribbean is so strong that it’s felt all throughout the world. Redemption Song is one of the most popular Marley songs known internationally. In certain life situations I find myself repeating parts of it over and over: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.
You’ve heard it! Though the original context of the song is slavery, there is so much more here. First, this song is a cry for freedom from the entanglements that clutter our thoughts and weigh us down. Intentional action and personal responsibility is key to change in its message; none but ourselves can free our minds.
When I first set out to simplify my life, I knew the area between my ears had to be addressed, not just the tangible stuff I own. The brain is a beautiful organ; yet, it can absorb quite a bit of clutter. It’s the storage for everything, the good, bad, and the ugly.
Moreover, unlike physical junk, de-cluttering the mind is not a simple task. Our thoughts are not something we can collect, box and drop off at the local thrift store. Oh, how I wish we could! The good news is that it’s not impossible to get rid of emotional baggage. We can find clarity in our thoughts. The key is identifying mental clutter or junky thinking that’s going on. The following are the ones that have at least plagued my mind.
Things that Clutter the Mind
Self-Sabotaging Tendencies – It’s true, sometimes we are our worst enemy, criticizing and doubting our own abilities. We self-destruct by either coming up with reasons why we can’t do something or by predicting a negative outcome. The truth: We are enough; we are competent and capable of doing anything.
Past Hurts/Failures – Human tendency is to monumentalize our past mistakes, pains and failures. We rehearse them till they have become larger than life, till we are discouraged or depressed by the very thought of them. The truth: Our best days are still to come. The past doesn’t have to determine our tomorrow.
Other People’s Expectations – We ask, “What will they think?” The opinions of our parents, spouses, siblings, friends, teachers, or mentors can easily haunt and debilitate some of us to no end. Even as adults, those early childhood influencers are still so strong in our minds. The truth: You’ll never be able to please everyone. So live your life!
Perfectionism – Like the above tendency, perfectionism is rooted in pleasing others. It stunts our creativity, consumes our thoughts in the minutia and creates an unhealthy obsession to do everything right all the time. Truth: Give yourself the freedom to fail and make mistakes; and punch perfectionism in the face.
Unforgiveness – We can’t just “forget about it” like some of our friends would like to encourage us to do. But left unchecked, unforgiveness leads to bitterness and bondage. It too is an invisible enemy that slowly erodes us. Truth: “When we forgive, we free ourselves from the tie that binds us to the one who hurt us. We become liberated.” – Claire Franzier-Yzaguirre
Regretful Feeling – Have you ever said, “If only I had gone to that school, taken that job, married that person or done whatever…”? All of this line of questioning steals our joy and robs us from our present. There’s no point to dwelling on the past. Truth: You have more power to influence the unwritten future than your past, which is now history. Life is constantly changing. Staying flexible opens us up to new opportunities.
Fear of the Unknown – Fear is not always a bad thing. It’s helped me avoid lots of dangerous situations. But there is an unhealthy fear that creates indecisiveness, procrastination, avoidance of trying new things, and accomplishing bold dreams. The “What If” syndrome is a crippling decision making tactic. Truth: Inform yourself with the facts. Then expose yourself to others knowledgeable in the area you are considering. Finally, take action! You’ll find in most cases that your fears are not as bad as what you made them out to be.