If there were a lot of ugly, heavy stuff in a giant suitcase and it was useless to you in every way, would you schlep that suitcase everywhere you went? In the shower, to bed, through the mall, on your after-dinner walk? The answer: no. Not only would doing so be counter to your best interests but it would make you exhausted and cause you all kinds of discomfort.
But we hold tight to our emotional baggage as if our lives depended on having all that crap right there with us at every moment. We lug it around even though it gets in our way at every step, causes us no end of trouble, and holds us back from being our authentic selves.
What is emotional baggage? It is unresolved negative beliefs and feelings about past experiences that we carry into the present and allow to influence and even sabotage us.
Why get rid of it?
Maybe if you just ignore it, it’ll fade into the background…? You mean like maybe you can leave that stinky suitcase on the bus when you get off? Nope. For sure someone will say, “Excuse me? Is this yours?” and you’ll have to claim it. Sorry but you gotta get RID of it. And here are some reasons why:
You’re starting a new relationship. You want a clean slate? You will need to ditch the baggage that causes you to project a past partner’s behavior onto your new one, compare them, or feel guilty about what went down in the past.
You want to feel stronger… and lighter. Are you sick of living with regret, worry, anger, fear? Maybe your emotional baggage is serving no better purpose than to rub your face in what is past. You will be able to learn from the past, without having to carry it around in a giant trunk. You can feel more self-confident and positive about yourself.
You’re sick of hurting. Emotional baggage often comes with pain. We can become inured to pain, but the pain is still there and is still wreaking havoc. It can affect how we live, what we do, and who we are. Something has to change for us to live a richer, deeper, happier life. We need to let go…ditch that suitcase of pain.
To change your life by getting rid of that baggage you will have to change your beliefs and thus change your behavior. I don’t mean to sound bossy, but I have to be honest with you, right? Allow me guide you so it is not so scary.
First of all, identify what is in that damned suitcase you’ve been dragging around. You packed it so long ago, you may not even remember what you are holding onto—even though it is doing its dirty work every day without your knowledge. Figuring out what’s in there, however, is often the hardest part. It’s tough stuff but worth the effort. Here are some possibilities:
Fear. Are you scared of attracting the same kind of troublesome relationship you had before? Marla had been hurt so badly that she could not even look at men. She did not realize fear was controlling her. She thought she wanted a relationship but her core belief that all relationships bring pain was sabotaging her.
Guilt. Did you do some things last time that you regret? Learn from past mistakes; don’t let them crush you. Tim was so sure he was a screw-up because of the way he dealt with his ex that he was convinced he wasn’t “relationship material” so he shied away from wonderful possibilities, time and again.
Stress. If you live in anxiety because your baggage is a constant reminder of a highly stressful past relationship, you may be worrying yourself out of luck. Diane was cripplingly nervous about meeting new women because her last partner was critical, controlling, and vitriolic. Diane could not trust her own intuition, even when she met Lee Anne, the kindest soul possible. Diane trashed the relationship before it got off the ground because of her hurtful beliefs.
Unworthiness. If you are convinced that you are not good enough, you will play that out and live the life of less-than, although you are more-than-enough! Linc had to build his confidence before he could risk being in a relationship again. His beliefs about himself were so belittling that he began to be the man he feared he was. Again, sabotaged by baggage.
Trust issues. Betrayal and hurt can do a number on you, and create an outlook that does you no good. If you believe that everyone is a liar and a cheater, you’ll live in a walled fort called Doubt and Paranoia. Stuart saw every woman as a threat. He would never trust again, not after what Jill did to him.
Lack of self-respect. When your baggage is a reminder of a co-dependent past, or previous relationships in which you were trammeled and ignored, you might be getting in your own way, just like Peg. She had long ago stopped being able to set and keep boundaries. She never got what she needed because she did not ask for it, or expect it. This behavior became the blueprint for future relationships. Peg needed to ditch the baggage, big time.
Now that I’ve got you thinking about what YOUR baggage might be, let’s meet here again next week when I’ll give you some super-practical advice about how to ditch the baggage and move on to a better state of being!