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Why Are We So Afraid of Empty Space?

fear of empty space

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping for a new handbag. I had picked up some new spring clothes in the hopes that warm weather would eventually arrive in Syracuse, and I wanted a more colorful bag to help punch up my outfits. I found a cute little yellow cross body bag on sale, so I brought it home and found it was the perfect compliment to the new purchases I had made. The only downside was that it was significantly smaller than the bag I had previously been carrying, and all the stuff I was lugging around wouldn’t fit inside.

downsizing purses

before & after I was faced with a dilemma: do I return this smaller bag that I love, or do I keep it and try to make it work? I decided to try to pare down. I took all the items out of my current purse and did an assessment. There were a number of things I was carrying “in case of emergency” that I had not used in over a year. I had a bulky notebook filled with cute paper and folders intended for grocery lists and coupons. As much as I loved looking at it, I had to admit I rarely ever took it out to write something down. I removed all these unused items from my bag, and I’m happy to report that after more than two weeks I have not missed a single one! Limiting the size of my handbag forced me to prioritize which items were essential and identify the ones that were simply taking up space. The lesson to be learned here about the other spaces I occupy was pretty obvious. Coincidentally, I recently discovered Anthony Ongoro, a blogger and YouTuber behind the idea Break the Twitch. He defines the twitch as “an impulsive, unproductive response to discomfort,” and it can manifest itself in Facebook scrolling, online shopping, snacking, or any other habitual behavior that does not serve our goals. Here’s a short video of him explaining the concept and how to resist it: How to Break The Twitch | Anthony Ongaro | TEDxBrookings So what does my new yellow handbag have to do with breaking the twitch? Both are about filling space. Most of us are not comfortable with any open areas in our lives, whether it’s an empty cabinet in our kitchen or a wait in line at the grocery store or a pause in the conversation. Modern technology has given us the ability to immediately fill all of these spaces as soon as they appear, and most of us are in the habit of compulsively doing just that. But what is the cost to our finances, energy, and relationships? I’m making a conscious effort to identify the ways I’m impulsively, unproductively filling up my life, and trying to become more comfortable with empty space, free time, and a clear mind. I have a hunch it’s the key to feeling less overwhelmed and more at peace.

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