Packing luggage for a trip is fun. Especially when you master compacting numerous essential items into a carryon bag. Perhaps you are a Marie Kondo fan. And thinking about packing makes you long to jet off for a relaxing spa weekend, an exciting tour of famous cities or your honeymoon.
Emotional baggage is similar to that bag you take on holiday with you.
- Does it only contain the essentials (healthy emotions)?
- Or do you carry around stuff you no longer require (unhealthy emotions)?
Like what happened to you in the past. Snags or impediments you postpone addressing. But later never comes and you continue with unresolved emotional issues. Drawn from your childhood, past relationships, previous trauma or stress. You lug around a bag that has none of the necessities appropriate for you to live a constructive life. Additionally, the risk of the bag bursting is highly likely. As you keep adding items, but never discard the things you no longer need. Steering you towards fight or flight methods in challenging situations. Similar to one of those embarrassing moments we all recall on holiday where our bag suddenly splits or ruptures, at the most inconvenient or impromptu moments.
What emotions are you carrying in your bag?
Painful memories leading you to believe that no one cares about you. Mistrust that has driven you to believe you will always be alone. Rejection that makes you feel like a failure. Hurt that forms a sense of being ashamed. Fixating your thoughts in relation to particular opinions that are jaded and destructive.
- How long have you been carrying this over packed bag around with you?
- When you open your own emotional bag – what do you find in it?
All those hang-ups that hold you back from prior experiences. Including the insecurities you never confront. Accumulate unresolved emotions that turn into issues. Highlighting how you interact with other people and before you know it you are heaving this huge unwelcome emotional bag everywhere you go.
Are there emotions holding you back from living a fulfilled life?
Visualise planning a coffee date with someone special. You walk into the coffee shop dragging and hauling several over packed bags with you. And proceed to try and sit in a small chair and attempt to stuff your bags out of the way of passing people or under the table where you are sitting. I am sure you will receive many peculiar glances.
Comparably guilt, regret, shame, anger and fear are some of the emotions that we can carry around with us for years. Inherited from our family backgrounds. Painful or stressful events. Then mindlessly transport these into our future and relationships with people we brush shoulders with, to more meaningful relationships. Where we constantly question ourselves with ‘what ifs’ or ‘should haves’. And continually clutch onto and load up all the stuff we use to cope that we don’t really need.
No time will be the best time to ditch the useless emotional baggage that you plod around with! There are no benefits except self-defeating behaviours that constantly pull you down. Imagine the freedom you would gain from discarding needless detrimental emotions.
Step #1 | Pinpoint It
Evaluate the impact not ridding yourself of unwanted emotional baggage can have on new friendships and relationships. Bagging and reserving, but never decluttering and clearing unwanted emotions precedes getting ‘stuck in a rut’. Begin by identifying every thought, behaviour and belief that is weighing you down.
- Write each one down. The unhelpful and self-critical thoughts. Those emotions that remain undealt with and just hang around.
- Dedicate time to recognise your baggage and distinguish what unhelpful behaviours you have been relying on to process emotions. Where your pivotal actions are either clinging to or withdrawing from situations.
Step #2 | Explore It
Once you identify your helpful or unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Cross-examine each of those points you have listed in more detail.
- Investigate every memory and reaction that is linked to those thoughts, behaviours and beliefs.
- If you continuously fill your bag with more emotions, you will realise that the new experiences are still being filtered with negative emotions. You have to remove the old items linked to your emotional baggage and break every unfavourable link first.
- When you figure out the triggers and the patterns. Recognise what approaches you use to cope.
- More importantly how do other people respond to your approach? When you say or do something, did you receive a positive or negative reaction and result?
Step #3 | Replace it
By now, you can recognise that what you are doing is not generating the outcome you desire. You detect this in the responses of others towards you. Which I assume is not what you like either. Keep a note of all these reactions by recording them in a diary (until they change).
- The measures you resort to dealing with your pain that affects your relationships with others.
- The responses filtered through fear that result in a fight or flight mode.
- Subsequently how you clutch the sadness and isolating emotions, adding to your emotional baggage.
To abolish your self-defeating behaviours, you have to stop carrying these negative emotions with you.
- End the ‘what if’ and ‘should have’ mind games. For every negative experience you encounter there is a hidden positive outcome.
- Interrupt your life from getting clogged up with unnecessary baggage, by determining what you feel is weighing you down. Then remove intrusive emotions one by one.
- Start searching for one positive in every negative experience you contend with. Every occurrence presents a lesson where you can learn the concealed pointers to behave differently next time.
- Regain a more balanced and realistic perspective. Based on facts not your opinion of yourself or others in each scenario.
- Soon you will replace your attacking reactions to encounters with happy and tactful efforts.
- Unleash each harmful emotion and step forward. Keep repeating this until you empty your emotional baggage.
Step #4 | Live It
We all want to live our best life. However where you won’t kick those bad habits you live in sequence with a lack of self-control. Always viewing the negative side to life. Or getting angry all the time. There are underlying issues that need to be dealt with.
- List all your fears, those you have hurt and those who have hurt you. Then from each situation, mind map of outline a new path to move away from this mind set.
- Flush away any negative thoughts as soon as they enter your mind with positive ones. Constantly renewing your mind (Romans 12:2) and focusing on true, noble and admirable thoughts (Philippians 4:8).
- Record all the delightful moments of your day and how you found positive reinforcements to challenge your negative thoughts.
- Transforming your conduct (Psalm 139:23-24) offers you the best chance to change your future actions and their outcome, by consciously considering what your past actions and outcomes brought you.
Effective living doesn’t happen by chance. But through learning alternative ways to mould change when you combat those negative thoughts and choosing to seek God’s direction (Proverbs 16:9). Lean on God’s promises and commit your thoughts and behaviours to Him (Psalm 37:5).
Step #5 | Practice It
Fresh patterns require practice to become habits, as they can be rooted in your past hurts and fears. Your identity isn’t founded in your past scars or the wounds that have led you to who you are today. They are established in what God has redeemed, by using your past to create your future and the best version of yourself. Forget the former things; God will do a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Your life will only become richer and more meaningful when you choose to ditch emotional baggage forever. But that is the choice you must make! If you are still unable to move forward with your life, seek professional help. There are many trained psychologists or psychotherapists who can help you process and deal with emotional baggage, in a methodical way so you learn how to manage your emotions.
Next week: The One Habit You Can’t Avoid : Recognise How To Manage Your Stress Levels By Diminishing Worry
Share your thoughts…
Do you have any approaches you have effectively used to drop off your emotional baggage and never pick them up again? Please share your successful moments with us.