Emotional baggage is something most of us are carrying around to some degree. After all, we are all shaped by our experiences. But it’s less about what the experiences do to us than what we do with them. We are shaped by what we choose to make those experiences mean about who we are, what we deserve, and what we are capable of.
Before we go any further, let me say this: Not all baggage is the same. If you are suffering from serious trauma, then I encourage you to seek help so you can lay those ghosts to rest, pack them away for good, and move forward.
For most of us, however, there’s no reason we cannot start packing up our emotional baggage right now. Here are my 6 ways to deal with your emotional baggage.
Recognise Your Baggage
We talked about this a bit last week. It comes down to this: Take responsibility: Acknowledge how you contributed to the situation or event. Appreciate the fact that you could probably have done better, behaved better, or made better decisions.
This acknowledgement and quiet internal acceptance of accountability helps you to move from being a victim to a co-conspirator.
Focus On The Positive
You are a product of all your previous experiences, good and bad. They have made you who you are today. Even the tough times delivered some benefit. It could be anything from, “It’s made me more patient” to “It’s made me more empathetic” to “I was able to help others.”
Identifying the benefits can be instrumental in helping you to change your “story” around these events so you can repack your baggage and move on.
When your dreams are dashed or something doesn’t work out as planned, you will always go through some kind of grieving process. This is normal and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but grief is essential for healing, so embrace it. Go through the process with this assurance: It’s not permanent, it’s just a transition from difficulty and loss to light and new beginnings. You don’t have to stay a hostage of misery forever. You don’t have to stay unhappy! It really is your choice.
Seek support. Talking is healthy and there are some wonderful therapists who can help you repack and then close the lid on your emotional baggage once and for all.
Be clear about what you will and will not tolerate. If you don’t have boundaries, then it’s time to set some. Everyone makes mistakes and berating yourself about what you could have or should have done, but it won’t change the past.
Learning from that past will, however, change your future, so dissect your mistakes with the impartial enquiry of a scientist. Then you can create clear boundaries for yourself that will prevent a repeat performance. Know what you are willing to negotiate on and what are your “deal-breakers”, and you will be less likely to find yourself in a similar situation somewhere down the track.
Remember, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, life has a funny way of sending you the same lesson in a more intense and often more unpleasant package!
Don’t Close Yourself Off Completely
Boundaries are important, but beware closing yourself off from life. When you get hurt by life’s lessons it can be easy to develop a ‘hardness’… By shutting yourself off from life you can easily become bitter and move further and further away from what you want, and how you want to live your life.
You need to be brave and open your heart, albeit with boundaries in place, so you can fully experience the wonders that are waiting for you.
How To Know When You Are Free Of Emotional Baggage
Are you wondering how you will know when you have neatly packed your emotional baggage? That’s easy. You (or your relieved friends or colleagues) will realise you aren’t talking about the situation much anymore. You will be able to reflect on it factually, as simply a chapter of your life, rather than an emotionally drenched synopsis of the whole book!
Finally, you will be able to give guidance and wise words of encouragement to others who might find themselves in similar situations, without being bitter, resentful, or stirring up uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Congratulations! Lesson learned bags packed. You are ready for new adventures and thrilling new beginnings.
And the best bit: Once you’ve packed your baggage away neatly, you can choose to put it in long-term storage or dump it all together. If you’re lucky, it might dump itself without you even realising it!
To Sum Up
If you are struggling with emotional baggage, I hope the above tips have been helpful. Remember, everyone is on a sliding scale here. Some baggage is easier to deal with than others. Taking small steps to recognise how you are feeling so that you can move forward will slowly help you on your way.
Now that your bags are packed and ready to go, prepare for your journey. If you’d like to read more about emotional baggage, it is one of the topics I covered in my latest book, Your Life Your Way. As a therapist and life coach, I may also be able to help you through virtual sessions. Get in touch to enquire and I will get back to you.