The Chaplain's Notebook

It is time for spring cleaning, and that means cleaning out the garage, the backyard and the locker at work. What a wonderful feeling it is to have a fresh start. However, tossing junk is much easier than clearing out our emotional clutter, which means getting rid of what holds us back (unhealthy habits or “stinking thinking”) and freeing ourselves up to live the life we desire. Why is this so tough to do? Because it is hard to identify emotional clutter. According to the “Crafting a Simpler Life” blog, the following are four common types of emotional clutter.

Thinking about what we have done wrong or what we should have done can negatively affect the way we inform future decisions. Guilt can be heavy, hold us back and result in more negative thoughts and feelings — all of which can keep us from enjoying life. If you experience similar struggles, I hope you know that you are not alone. Let us learn from our mistakes and then forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make. If God can love and forgive you (and He does), so can you.

By toxic relationships, we mean the “friend” who makes you feel bad and drains your energy, or the cynical coworker who says nothing nice and leaves you in a sour mood. We all know people like that. Although it makes sense to give someone a second chance or a benefit of a doubt, sometimes it makes more sense to let him or her go. That does not mean you do not care for a relationship or are giving up; it means you are just not allowing yourself to be hurt. You are setting healthy boundaries in order to have meaningful relationships. Can you still be friendly? The answer is yes, but you do not have to break bread together. Maybe it is time to give that “toxic” relationship a break.

This is a big one when it comes to emotional clutter. Life is full of “what-ifs” and uncertainty for everyone. Following our dreams and having to make changes in our life can intensify our worries, as we often fear that things may not work out the way we want or that we may make mistakes and become failures. Although there are no guarantees for success, the changes we make and the obstacles we overcome may ultimately bring us a better quality of life. When reflecting on challenging experiences you confronted in the past, you may notice that things you were once afraid of are no longer an issue because of the changes you made in your life. It is also important to seek support from a friend, loved one, clergy or peer support to cope with your fear and worry. Our support keeps us grounded.

We are all our own worst critics, aren’t we? How often do we beat ourselves up over little things? The truth is that everyone does it. Although self-critique is an important part of police training, negative self-criticism or self-doubt can make us feel defeated and insecure over time. Therefore, it is helpful to encourage ourselves by taking time every day, as often as we can, to read positive things, spend time with healthy people and remember good things about ourselves, including past successes. Remember to give yourself credit. As far as for myself, my go-to is prayer — letting go and resting in God’s presence. I am thankful for living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time and accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. My core practice is gratitude.

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.