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5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

5 Reasons to Clear Mental Clutter Periodically

Of course you will clear your desk, room and garage regularly of clutter. The space you free up is sometimes astonishing and you wonder how on Earth you actually put up with it. The mental clutter and chaos in our minds is not dissimilar. Once we manage to do a mental clear out, we are amazed at the liberating effect and it really can help us to live happier and more fulfilled lives. Here are 5 reasons to clear all the mental clutter at regular intervals and some tips on how to actually do it.

1. You need to detox.

There are too many things to look after and being super connected with a smartphone just aggravates the situation. We will look at methods of actually clearing it out but first you should consider how physical exercise will help you because the mind and body are inextricably linked. If you read Daniel Amen’s book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, you will realize that exercise, proper diet, and restful sleep will help you detox. Once you feel better physically, the mental clutter will begin to clear away. This is so liberating.

2. You need to let go of negative experiences.

Most experts call this closure. It means clearing out the grief, the resentment and the regrets about wrong decisions. These are occupying too much space and they are preventing you from concentrating on new projects and achieving objectives. You will need time for healing after a bereavement. Learn to let it go and walk through the pain. Simple meditation techniques are a great way to help the transition to positivity and hope.

3. You need to get your attention back.

Daylight robbery! This is what the Internet and the smartphones do with our attention. They steal it all the time. We are so districted that it becomes impossible to give projects and relationships our undivided attention. Distractions are useless clutter and compete shamelessly for our focus. These distractions are destructive in that they murder creativity and problem solving. They have been called continuous partial attention by one psychologist. You really have to make a conscious effort not to let them take over.

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4. You need to let go of fears and worries.

These are great busybodies. The ‘what ifs’ are always present. The fears mount up. Yesterday, the train stopped on a high bridge over the motorway and the lightning was scary. I could not clear my mind of what might happen. Nothing did and I regretted that I was not disciplined or mindful enough to dismiss those stupid fears. Fear and anxiety are toxic and they cannot affect the outcome in any way. One expert believes that we can thrash up to 30% of our worries.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day…You free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.”

—Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

5. You are in fight-or-flight mode.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”

—Mark Twain

All those troubles, problems and regrets are taking up an enormous amount of space. You are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. When you are in this mode you are always ready for emergencies so blood pressure and stress levels rise. Once you manage to get this into perspective, you will be able to “rest and digest” mentally which can help limit the damage and steer you towards mindfulness.

Tips to help you de-clutter your mind.

1. Try deep breathing.

Did you know that Navy Seals have to use this technique to help them cope with a stressful situation? They are told to use the STOP technique. ‘S’ is to stop what they are doing. ‘T’ stands for taking a deep breath, ‘O’ is for observing what is going on around them and ‘P’ stands for proceed.

“We win in our mind before we enter the battlefield.”

—Navy Seals motto

2. Become aware of the present.

As we said above, worries are pretty useless pieces of baggage and will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome. The best way to get a clear, calm and alert mind is to practise mindfulness or present moment awareness. One effective method is to give your mind the job as gatekeeper and tell it that certain thoughts are not to be let in. You can repeat the mantra “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment. I let go of the past and the future.” Then focus on sounds, bodily sensations and thoughts so that your mind is becoming more disciplined and tidier. As you do this you will become aware of your deeper breathing which is essential. Many people find great benefit in doing yoga and meditation in various forms to achieve this mental de-cluttering.

3. Get rid of regret.

But how do you do this? The US Army has one of the answers in that it teaches its soldiers to do the After Action Review. It is a simple technique to help them learn from the past mistakes and resolve to do it better the next time. Regret is useless so it is booted out pretty fast. The soldiers ask themselves about what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and then they ask how they would do it differently the next time.

4. Make a list.

This is a very important task. You have to make a list of all the situations and relationships which are occupying your mind with negative and useless thoughts. They no longer bring you happiness or contentment. As you look at the list, think of how you can make stronger boundaries in relationships. You may have to have a conversation with someone or you may actually have to de-clutter a physical space to help you gain mental clarity. It is also wise to prioritize certain items as they will need more systematic sweeping. Many of the items on your list can be crossed off as unimportant and they can be dealt with quickly. Promise yourself to come back in a month’s time and see what progress you have made.

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5. Find time for unconscious thought.

Do you have an important decision to make or are you tempted to call in a colleague for a showdown? The best way to clear the decks is to give yourself time. Take time out and also make sure you do something completely different before jumping in head first. When you are in the gym, you start the process of what is known as unconscious thought. Your best ideas come from these moments. It also brings to the surface new approaches, techniques and ideas.

Now, how about some mental tidying up every now and again? Time you got back on track so your priorities are at the top of the list again and that you can think clearly without all that clutter.

Featured photo credit: 301/366: Headache by Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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