Quite often when I’m coaching people emotional baggage comes up. It can be attached to a work situation, a personal relationship or a negative experience that has happened. Emotional baggage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We all carry some. If you are an adult, it’s inevitable. We have all been through the highs and lows that have shaped us into the people we are today. The problem is when said emotional baggage quite literally is weighing heavily on you.
If you look back at your life like it was chapters of a book, it can provide a varied and interesting read. Different relationships, different jobs, different cities, different friends – even different names. All of these help us to gain wisdom and help us to understand ourselves better. For some though, emotional baggage is stopping them from moving on. Some might not even be aware they have it! Here are my thoughts on how to deal with emotional baggage.
How To Recognise Emotional Baggage
We can’t change what we can’t recognise. The first step, therefore, is to learn how to recognise badly packed emotional baggage.
How do you know if it’s time to pack – or repack – yours? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you seem to have favourite topics of conversation that always seem to come around, no matter what you are talking about? Do you often seem to bring a conversation back to a story about how your life isn’t fair? Your “story” focuses on the negative. Do you still feel “wronged”, “slighted”, “mistreated”, “cheated on”, etc.?
2. Do you tend to “sabotage” yourself if you notice anything that is at all similar to something you have previously experienced? For example, let’s say you’re ready for a first date and A: He’s late picking you up. B: The song playing in the car when you get in reminds you of another horrendous first date. C: He doesn’t use his knife when he eats, eats loudly, or doesn’t like his food touching, which reminds you of someone else. Or D: He calls you by an endearing nickname that a previous partner used for you.
These or similar scenarios could trigger an internal, “Oh, no, not again” response that leads you to write the person off before ever giving him a chance – and just because they triggered emotional baggage about your own past.
Your reaction or behaviour frustrates and confuses you. You even hear yourself saying, “But, I can’t help it,” or “I can’t help how I feel.” If you can’t help it, chances are your emotional baggage is spilling out of its suitcase.
Recognise Your Personal Story
Our life experiences result in our own unique story – or really, series of stories. They create wonderful – and not so wonderful – memories. We often remember these stories and relay them to those we meet. Our stories are a way of connecting to each other: “I used to be a bus driver.” “Oh, did you? I used to be a bus driver, too.” They help us find common ground and build successful relationships, often with people who have similar stories. We feel comfortable with that person because we have things in common.
Most of the time, the emotions we experience as we travel through each chapter can be neatly packed away once we transition to a new situation or stage. We close the lid on our wild single shenanigans (the good and bad) once we enter a committed relationship, or we pack away the highs and lows of marriage when we divorce.
Learn To Separate The Past From The Present
But what happens when those emotions just won’t stay in the suitcase? The term “emotional baggage” is frequently used in connection to personal relationships – probably because this is an area of our life that is highly charged, intense, and often deeply affecting for most of us: the thrill of meeting someone new, the disappointments, the hope, the fights, the making up –it’s primarily an emotional journey.
As a result, you tend to blame a previous experience (or person) for making you feel the way you do, rather than taking responsibility for your role in the situation and the way you’re reacting to it. Separating a past situation (or person) from the present is tough, but it can really help gain perspective.
Find Out More
What do you think? Is it time to pack – or repack – your emotional baggage? To learn more about claiming, packing, and stowing your baggage, read my latest book, Your Life Your Way. As a life coach, I help my clients overcome a variety of issues including emotional baggage.
As part of this, I also offer virtual sessions on personal development to clients based in the UK and internationally. If you are struggling to overcome your emotional baggage (or other issues I help with) then speaking about it might help you find a way through. Please contact me and I will be in touch.
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