Shrink Rap: A time to reflect and let goBy: Merrill Powers, LCSW
Gazing out my home office windows I see tender shades of green, pink and white dogwoods and azaleas, the yellows and purples of irises and daffodils. Since today is Easter Sunday and tomorrow is the end of Passover, I’ve been thinking about holidays, spring, and the relationship to our mental health.
Easter symbols of eggs, baby chicks and bunnies, and the faith that Jesus arose from his suffering, fill Christian people with hope and renewal. Jews prepare for Passover by ridding the home of hametz, that which is dirty or garbage – specifically, any crumbs that might be left from leavened baked goods. Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned. The meaning of Passover is not about cleaning, but about what it represents. It is about the change about to come. It is about the freedom of letting go of the old and making room for the new.
The seder is a meal with a ritualized order that allows the participants to remember their history while they re-experience the slavery and redemption that occurs each day of their lives.
The Seder plate contains all the symbols of the Seder: karpas, or parsley, symbolizes spring and rebirth; haroset, a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine or grape juice, and spices, symbolizes the mortar that the slaves made for bricks in Egypt; maror, bitter herbs, symbolizes the bitterness of slavery; a roasted egg and lamb shank bone symbolize the festival sacrifice. Bowls of salt water symbolize the tears of slavery.
When we stop a moment to look at the meaning beyond the symbols, we can forge a deeper connection with our ancestors and our families today. One important criterion for mental stability and a sense of well-being is the awareness of who we are in the larger context of where we fit into our culture and the history of the world.
When I learn about the customs of other cultures, I am struck by how much we have in common. Since the Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover Seder, I’ve always wondered why Christians don’t include the Seder as part of the Easter celebration. Whether your egg appears on the Seder plate or is dyed and hidden in the grass, it still represents a new beginning. It’s the recognition of ourselves in others that leads to compassion, empathy, connection, and serenity.
Looking at the season of renewal from a developmental perspective, when we reach a certain age, it becomes our task to review our lives and reflect on where we’ve been. At this stage there is more time behind us than in front of us. It is easy to get mired in regret. Unless we empty our pockets of the heavy stones we’ve accumulated on our life’s journey, we won’t have room to pick up new gems.
The Easter/Passover season is the perfect time to spring clean our psyches by letting go of what we regret. In his book “Born A Crime,” Trevor Noah says that many people focus on avoiding failure. Because of that, later they regret opportunities and risks not taken. He says that failure is never final. Instead, it provides knowledge, an answer.
Henry Ford said that failure is only the opportunity to try again, but with more knowledge. On the other hand, regret forever remains an unanswered question.
In my past articles, I’ve written about how our experiences matter. How those experiences change your brain and can profoundly affect your happiness.
Neuroscience, mindfulness, and psychology provide us with the tools to identify the obstacles to contentment and joy, and how to overcome them. The good news is that you can literally rewire your brain. Perhaps the season of renewal will inspire you to explore a mindfulness practice.
The Calendar of Events section of the Auburn Journal lists mindfulness-type classes almost daily. If you feel you need more help letting go of your past, a licensed psychotherapist can help, especially someone who specializes on mindfulness coaching and EMDR therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
A simple symbolic and powerful exercise you can try on your own would be to write down each thing you regret on a separate piece of paper, put it in a fireproof container, and light it on fire. Or you can place the papers in a compostable box and bury it.
Once you’ve let go of the personal and psychological enslavements that have kept you from becoming your truest self, perhaps you can open yourself to gratitude and renewal.
If you were to name one thing for which you are grateful, as soon as you awaken each day, you would likely find a shift in your outlook.
Once you’ve let go of what you’ve had to suffer, you can celebrate giving birth to yourself.
Whether you are Christian, Jewish, of another faith, or secular, deconstructing the symbols of the season can provide inspiration for personal growth and the achievement of serenity and joy.
Happy Easter, happy Pesach, happy spring!
Merrill Powers, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in downtown Auburn. She specializes in EMDR therapy and mindfulness coaching. You can reach her at 530-852-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.