Cleaning for Control

Has someone ever told you that you were a clean freak? Today’s message is for those who have worn this label; those who have felt the shame or guilt. It is my hope that when we are through, you will not only be able to release yourself from the pain of that label and love that part of yourself again.

A little background …

If you have followed my weekly messages you know that another death occurred. My daughter lost her dad back in January. To work through her grief, Danielle and I fell into a habit of what I call, “the morning grief call.” Each morning Danielle calls me to talk and work through whatever feelings she has so that can get on with the day. This morning our call netted an additional gift—a healing of an old conflict between us and that involved cleaning.

Danielle and I have many things in common, but on that we don’t have is our standards of cleanliness. Yet, since her father’s death, Danielle has found herself cleaning when the pain becomes too great to bear. We began discussing this change when Danielle asked, “Mom, why is it that I now clean when I used to hate it so much?”

Cleaning for Control

I answered her question with a 2-part question. “How does it feel when you are cleaning and when you are done?”

“Released and relieved, like I have control of my life again.” She replied. “And when I’m done, I have a sense of satisfaction. So cleaning gives me a positive feeling; it’s a feel-good bonus at the end.

“Well, I responded, that is why you clean.” Then taking it to the next level I said, “And that is why I clean.”

“Ohhh … yeah, now I get it.” Danielle responded as the light bulb went off in her head.

We sat in silence for a moment as the impact of her epiphany sunk in … then the next question came; one that took us to a whole new level.

“Okay,” Danielle continued, “I get that you clean to release the pain of grief, but you have been doing since I can remember. Why did you do it back then when you hadn’t lost anyone? ”

I gave her my normal answer, “Because my parents were that way, especially my mom.” But even as I said the words, another question formed in my head. Why were my parents both clean freaks? The answer was immediate. My parents were clean freaks because that is how the released their pain of their anxiety that was brought on by feeling totally out of control of their lives. Due to circumstances beyond their control that occurred in their respective childhoods, both my parents struggled with anxiety.

In less than a second this answer enabled me to release years of resentment towards my parents. I used to believe that they cared more about a clean and orderly house than about me. Now, for the first time I saw their behavior through their eyes. Cleaning was how they learned to release the fear that threatened to consume them, and regain some sense of control.

Going further, when they would become obsessive with their cleaning, I now realized they did so when they felt most out of control. Now instead of being angry and resentful, I felt tremendous compassion. I also felt great appreciation that they both channeled that fear in a constructive way instead of a destructive one. In other words, instead of turning to drugs, gambling or alcohol they simply cleaned.

Now here’s the really cool part. As I was having my epiphany and releasing all my built up resentment towards my parents, Danielle was doing the same thing with me. At the same time, we both reached that moment where we understood the fear that prompted such behavior because we now felt that same type of fear. In a split second we both let go, creating a generational healing. I hung up the phone feeling that we had both been given a tremendous blessing.

In closing, if you are one who carries the clean freak label, I hope this message gives you what you need to release yourself from shame. Cleaning is a positive way to channel and release fear. And unlike drugs or alcohol, it has a positive feel-good bonus.

On the other side, if you hold resentment towards someone in your life who is a clean freak, it is my hope that that message will enable you to release yourself from any resentment towards them because now you are aware that they are cleaning to release the stress of fear and anxiety.

I’m now proud to be a clean freak.