Emotional baggage is the residue of any and all negative experiences you’ve experienced in your life. And not just in personal, romantic relationships. It can be from a colleague or boss at work, family members, friends and schoolmates, even random people on the street or in stores.
It’s there, without you actually knowing about it. It weighs down on you psychologically and emotionally and you feel stuck and afraid and the only way to respond is by sabotaging your current relationships. You really don’t mean to push people away, but you don’t know what else to do.
“The idea is that you’re forever carrying around this metaphorical weight on your shoulders of issues from the past,” says Jasmine Ryan, a healthy relationship and dating counselor at the University of Florida. “This baggage therefore affects your worldview and how you interact with people. It can have extremely negative consequences on your ability to connect with people.”
There are different types of baggage; it’s very personal and depends solely on your past relationships and how well you’ve dealt with them. And what’s even more important is that if you let your emotional baggage sit there and –, they’ll only bring on more emotional baggage. In fact, they multiply as you get older and your experiences in life increase.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to get rid of your emotional baggage and release their hold over you.
1. Accept It
Everyone has different types of baggage, and it might make you feel less lonely if you knew you weren’t the only one. Once you stop avoiding it, it’ll stop having such a strong hold over you and the choices you make in your relationships.
2. Open Up
As you feel ready to talk about your negative experiences in the past, then find someone trustworthy and talk freely. It could be a therapist, a support group or a close friend. The important thing is that they’re willing to listen without judgment and you trust them enough to talk without fear or hesitation.
Once you open up, you’ll be amazed at how empowered and lighter you’ll start feeling. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but give it time and you’ll soon feel liberated and back on track to living a happier, fuller life.
3. Let Go
Dredging up the past, rehashing negative experiences and blaming anything that goes wrong in your life now to what happened then will get you nowhere. Another problem is we’ve all been guilty of at one point or another; comparing. We compare our lives in the past to what we have now, and we don’t realize that it’s dragging us down with it. The present is what we make of it and we shouldn’t leave it to our past mistakes to dictate how we live today.
Once you’ve made that decision to let go, you release anyone in your past holding you back and any memory you may have of failures or mistakes. This impairs any chance of moving forward and living life to your full potential. Letting go means you’re opening up to new perspectives, ideas and opportunities.
4. Learn from the Past
One thing that really paves the way for a brighter future is to make use of any past mistake you may have made. Crying over spilt milk is just a waste of time, and it won’t do anything to change the fact that the milk is already on the floor.
What you can do, however, is clean up the spill, recognize you’re just like everybody else who makes mistakes. Then, the next time you’re drinking milk, you’ll be the wiser for it, having learned from your mistake and no milk will spill over.
Only then does it become worthwhile, and your perspective of the past alters. You start seeing your past in a new light; one that you can take advantage of and become wiser for.
As we mature, we become more empathetic toward others. We understand their point-of-view more; we’re more familiar with pain and regret, and also understanding and forgiveness. And that’s what you should do with your past. Forgive, or at least be more understanding and see things through more mature, less injured lenses.