With Spring upon us, many folks are doing Spring cleaning – that time of year when we wash windows, pull out the refrigerator to clean behind it – do all that cleaning that is under and behind. It gives us a fresh start. How many of us give our brains the same sort of Spring cleaning? Just like the dust bunnies that collect underneath the bed, our brains hold on to things. Those brain dust bunnies rent space in our heads – yielding more distractions and less space for the good stuff.
Our brain’s dust bunnies are all of those things that are unresolved from our past. They could be things we did, or didn’t do – things we said, or didn’t say. Regardless of the category, unresolved items stick around. It is typical to pretend that they are gone or to try to bury them – but that usually is only a temporary solution. It is like having something just beyond your peripheral vision – you know it is there even if you can’t really see it. It keeps us on edge as we never know when it may jump out.
There are costs to having these brain dust bunnies – they can influence what you think about yourself and others, and how you behave. When my daughter was born, she was very sick and spent her first 2 weeks in the hospital receiving IV antibiotics. She was perfectly OK after 3 days and was, as the doctor said, ‘just like any other newborn baby’. But it didn’t feel that way to me – I was still reeling with the emotions of fear and sadness at the thought that I had almost lost my daughter. I wanted to wrap her in bubble wrap and never let her do anything ‘risky’. It was an unresolved situation – a brain dust bunny that took time and support to resolve. Unresolved, it would have influenced how I parented my daughter through her entire life.
Another cost is that your flexibility, adaptability, and capability to deal with what life throws at you is robbed. Because the brain dust bunnies are renting space, there is less space for life. Have you ever had a situation where your response was completely dis-proportional to the situation? A colleague found herself screaming at the city traffic – declaring that she would move her family to the country because the traffic was unbearable. While the traffic wasn’t great – it wasn’t the traffic that was the problem. Her brain was full – she had no headspace available to deal with anything that caused her an issue or inconvenienced her. Two weeks earlier, she had ended a difficult employment relationship with a terrible boss. Her brain dust bunny was renting so much space that she felt her only option was to plan out her family’s move because it took 10 extra minutes to drive to work.
Project teams can experience quite a bit of the dust bunny situation. Their entire job may be to implement a change. Change causes stress and conflict. Anyone who has been through a poor and/or ineffective project implementation is going to have a brain dust bunny about that project delivery. If they don’t get cleared out, they will haunt your project implementation today – even if the old issues may have nothing to do with today’s project.
The good news is that these can be cleared out and resolved. Real resolution means expressing all of the feelings that go with the unresolved situation. It is only by expressing the feelings that the rental contract for brain dust bunny gets revoked. So, when my colleague was screaming about the traffic, we talked about her old job. Did she get an exit interview? What did she still need to say about the situation? As she talked about everything she really wanted to say to her old boss, she also expressed how she really felt about the way she had been treated. She did this with the intention of clearing out the dust bunny – so that once she was finished speaking, she could leave it in her past. Inviting project team members, during onboarding, to discuss their past projects – what worked well and what didn’t work well, isn’t inviting complaints. Done well – it creates a place to clear out what is unresolved so that the team can freshly approach this new project – without having extra renters.
Brain Spring Cleaning takes effort and courage. It can be difficult with old dust bunnies to express the lingering feelings. Reach out for support and kick out the renters! The effort and work are worth it. It will give you a fresh start and open up headspace so that something new can be created.
Let us know how we can support you in your Spring Cleaning!