I’d like to start out by saying – we all have baggage!
It doesn’t matter that you HAVE baggage, what matters is whether you go through it regularly or not – discarding what no longer fits and working on what may be causing disruption in your life and relationships.
If you don’t, at some point your bag will either become so full that it will explode all over the place, or you’ll lose something (or someone) you really cherish.
What’s in a bag?
So what do we tend to shove into the bags that live in the deepest, darkest recesses of our minds?
- Horrible or failed relationships (both romantic and friendships including the relationship we have with our parents)
- Things that happened to us when we were too young to know how to deal with them
- Events that were totally overwhelming at the time
- Disappointments and unmet expectations
- Thoughts and ideas which may have served us at some point
These are just a few of the things we’ll push away from – but the thing is, if we just push them away, they don’t actually go anywhere except into the bag in the corner. We have to actively do something about them, in order to remove them entirely. This requires action!
Over time, baggage that is left unprocessed and unintegrated leaks out like a toxic ooze – doing damage as it goes and preventing us from connecting to others in a meaningful, healthy way.
What does this look like in real life?
This looks like reactions to situations that are way bigger, more dramatic, or in some cases, totally inappropriate to the situation. It also looks like the inability to open fully to another person or into a relationship – the proverbial ‘one foot in, one foot out’ feeling.
To illustrate with an example – When I was younger, I used to get really upset when a partner displayed ANY signs of not being connected or present. I’d interpret this as him not wanting to be in the relationship anymore, which would make me feel really insecure. As a result, I’d become clingy and he’d feel smothered.
It was only after realising that this pattern was rooted in my baggage and after unpacking it a few times, I was able to break this pattern of insecurity and learn better ways of dealing with feelings of disconnection – like clear and honest communication.
Why is it important to deal with your baggage?
People resist looking at their baggage because there is fear around what will come up once the bag is open, but here’s the thing – the longer you leave it to fester, the worse it will become. As I said at the start, the only way is through it! PLUS, often our fears are way worse than what reality is.
One of the great things about going through our baggage is that it often leaves us feeling lighter and more vital, and is essential in establishing meaningful connections with those in our lives.
How does one deal with baggage?
Raising your awareness around the arguments you keep having, or the times where you’re triggered into a big feeling, will help you know where to start looking.
Sometimes we’re able to sort through the things that keep coming up on our own, but sometimes, the hurts are just too big to be able to do it without help and in this case, a coach or therapist would help. In some cases, looking at old wounds that are particularly traumatic, will require someone trained to help with trauma.
There is a note of caution here though – only looking at our baggage from one perspective (like our own) may help us feel better in the short term, but by not sharing what we’re thinking and feeling, we only have access to what we know, which may not be enough.
Being open to other perspectives, self-discovery through reading or listening to podcasts, and reflection based on other people’s experiences can really help in tossing out those things that no longer serve us.
Our baggage, while it’s our own and in most cases does us the most harm – also has the potential to hurt those around us. By regularly (and courageously) going through our baggage, we get rid of the thoughts, belief systems, behaviors, and wounds that have no relevance in our current experience. It also allows us to bring more of our selves into being, allowing us to have more meaningful connections with those around us.