Emotional baggage is one type of baggage that you definitely pray gets lost at baggage claim and finds its own way to a journey to the moon. It’s a heavy parcel package of feelings packed inside of us that weighs us down like cinder blocks on our backs. To put it simply, this weight is layers and layers of insecurities and traumas from our life experiences. It’s quite like our memories become clogged in the drain of our head, which cannot figure how to let go and allow these thoughts and feelings to trickle down the pipe. It can be layers of past experiences: stress, marriage failures, and even something as simple as a bad relationship with someone you work with who made you want to bite sheet metal. It can be personal, or you may even be carrying around generational baggage you didn’t realize was clinging to your foot as you entered the world, naked and afraid. Depending on your age, that baggage can feel like pounds of wet blankets on top of you or maybe even tons! How can you possibly make any good decisions with that much invisible weight on you? Well, you can’t. But you must realize it will take a huge toll on your emotional well-being, not to mention terrible back pain from stress, so then the answer is to clear it and release it.
If you have had a difficult traumatic childhood, that baggage will totally rear its ugly head as you interact with people in your daily life. You cannot possibly be secure and confident with trust issues flowing like Kleenex in the wind. Emotional baggage can define us as the type of person we represent to others – they may sense the reservation, tension, or unease before we even articulate it to ourselves. If you have lived on high alert, it is hard to feel at ease with others or feel confident around them. You are too busy worrying about what the next minute will bring and probably hear half of what they are saying, wrapped up in a play-by-play analysis and commentary with the opposing sides of your brain.
As humans with baggage – because we all got some, even if you’re blessed with a fanny pack and I have a U-Haul – we take care of ourselves by being in defensive mode all the time and feeling something terrible is going to happen again. Being in defensive mode does not actually help make us approachable to people, though. It can be a real hindrance to making friends, romantic relationships, success at work because we spend all our time not allowing anyone to hurt us. So, we begin the process of peeling back the layers… one at a time, getting ever more comfortable with the fresh skin that toughens, then eventually sheds. It’s an intentional process, and the evolution takes time.
If you don’t embark on your shedding process, anger issues are bound to explode at some point. It’s kind of like an unattended piece of luggage at the airport. It might be harmless, but it could also be a ticking time bomb. I once worked for the chair of pediatrics, and he asked me to get him a sandwich for lunch and bring it back to the office. Well, I did, and God forbid the lettuce was missing. He took said sandwich and threw it against the wall, as I ducked to avoid salami to the schnoz. I would define him as being the owner of having unattended baggage. I did not react, because I have seen it all too often… but really, this is just as embarrassing for him as it was dreadful for me.
Should emotional baggage fill you with fear and mistrust and you cannot function in society, it is time to find reasons why this is happening and throw that suitcase in a nearby dumpster. Emotional baggage does not always occur from the life experiences that you created. In some cases, it can come from what people have done to you and it is unfair that you must be the one to dispose of it. Even if you’re left holding a bag that’s not yours, don’t hang on to it like a security blanket. Do the work and rid yourself for good of it. It is the price of setting yourself free, so to speak. Remember, other people’s baggage when properly handled creates us as survivors and stronger people.
Now, that you’re suddenly unburdened, you’ll need a new blueprint for our life when your suitcase is empty or gone. Don’t keep walking by that dumpster wondering if your baggage has been hauled off, like the Pediatrics Chair hoping sandwich could be put back together. Much like organizing your storage space, we can compartmentalize thoughts. I do that all the time. When I worked in academia for many years, if things troubled me on my long drive to work, they would stay in the invisible attaché in the trunk of my car and when the workday ended, Poof! Gone were those thoughts. When we tell thoughts “Not now” and have confidence we can pick them up later if we choose, we are exercising power over our own minds. Most of the time, our brain chooses to release those thoughts and we’ve successfully prevented those thoughts from taking us hostage. And, if you really want to pick it back up later, they are still there, waiting for you. The more you practice telling your brain “Not now, we’re locking the luggage up for some hours,” the more often they just disappear, and the easier it is to live in peace.
If you cannot escape your thoughts, and they keep creeping back, even when you’ve set them aside, pay attention to your triggers. Those triggers are your own private ammunition. You don’t have to let that heaviness assuage you at any time. Be aware of your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. Don’t get along with your mother? Don’t call her on your drive home from work! Pained by memories of a painful, abusive relationship? Burn the clothes and trinkets that surrounded you during that era, and literally clothe yourself in a new skin. Exhausted by guilt over a fair-weather friend’s absence? Send them love and light, but don’t keep sending them texts; let them go. You are free now. Letting go takes almost as much time and energy as holding on, but how liberating it is! It is productive pain. You are not that same person dragging the yoke around your neck. Say this out loud as a morning affirmation: I have nothing on my back. I am light and free and forgiven. May all others find this peace. Evolution is what life is about. Claim your freedom, we only have one life to enjoy!