Emotional baggage is a term used to describe the insecurities and unresolved issues of our past that we carry with us to our present, consequently messing up our future. This is referred to as baggage or luggage as it literally feels like carrying a huge burden on one’s shoulders.
This can happen due to various individual problems or a combination of collective issues, situations, reactions, emotions, thinking patterns, and habits.
We all have some parts of our lives we would rather not revisit. Leaving behind our past and accepting ourselves is healthy. But if you are unable to think back about it without getting uncomfortable, it only means that you still have some emotional junk in that trunk. So, how to unpack and let go of the past? Continue reading so you can learn to move on.
How to stop holding on to the past?
Well, moving on could mean different things to different people. To understand about letting go of things from the past, we first have to identify what emotions are holding us back. Some baggage we tend to carry from our past could be:
Identifying if emotional baggage is weighing you down
Carrying our past with us is not always bad. It is what makes us conscious and alive. So, how to know if the baggage is stopping you from living your best life? Life is essentially about the choices we make. If your past is preventing you from making sound decisions in your present life (career, relationship, or financial), it is a definite red flag. Instead, if we can carry our past experiences to learn from them, they can instead enrich our lives.
Emotional baggage usually affects:
- the way we feel about ourselves.
- how we respond to stressful situations.
- how we navigate relationships.
Another way of pinpointing if our past is haunting us is by observing our physical health. Carrying emotional baggage is called so because it literally feels like ‘carrying a backpack’ with us. We tend to load it with all our emotions, experiences, and our perceptions. If it gets so stuffed that you can’t zip it closed, things can scatter out and get all over the place. This can get manifested in our physical health, in the form of stiff muscles (especially neck and shoulder), headaches, and upset stomachs. They can also manifest as fatigue, mood swings, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Also Read: Emotional Detachment: Let The Healing Begin
How to lighten the load?
From what we read, it is no wonder then that the emotional load we carry is also called an emotional roadblock. They are like giant boulders blocking the freeway of life. They do not allow positive energy and vibrations to pass through easily. So, how do we allow good things to come our way again? To figure it out, we have to first grasp this concept known as Closure.
What is Closure?
The closure is the feeling of obtaining an emotional conclusion to a life event that holds significant emotional value to us. That is, you must finish what you started. You have to own up and take responsibility for your actions in the relationship. You may tend to feel guilty for ending it, but it is impossible to move on without the feeling that the issue has been resolved. It helps us open ourselves to new relationships, experiences, and hence growth.
The significance of closure can be related to finding that missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle – why someone said something, why they did what they did, why they ended the relationship, etc. It may be a one-time thing or an ongoing process depending on the number of situations you are processing in your head. But, be mindful of your fears and ego stopping you from getting your closure.
Some examples of what closure look like:
- Calling the person who hurt/tricked/insulted you in the past and telling them you were upset about what they did or said.
- Writing an email or a letter to express your feelings of resentment (may be sent or remain unsent). Or even a journal could help.
- Burning/deleting old photos you associate with a traumatic past.
- Meeting an ex-partner for coffee (or with a counselor) to discuss what went wrong and why the relationship ended.
- Trying to analyze the cause of a loved one’s death.
- Receiving financial compensation for a crime committed on you.
Closure can be with anybody. It does not necessarily have to be with someone you do not like – it could even be with your best friend, a client, or parents. Let’s suppose an incident from the long past is still bothering you at the back of your mind. You can still choose to get closure for it. Your friend may have entirely forgotten about the incident, but you still associate it as a bitter memory, and it is eventually affecting YOU.
The point is – closure is not for the other person; it is only for you to get rid of the negative emotion from within you.
The closure is the most difficult thing to do. But for you to move forward, it is the only way out. So pick that phone and call the person and just tell them how you felt during that incident. You do not even need to expect an apology or a justification. Just say it and get it done with. The moment you do it, you are sure to feel liberated, which is incomparable to anything else.
Life is not fair all the time. It is indeed hard to organize our thoughts, implement all these steps in our lives, and stay only in the present. But we do have to keep in mind that life is an escalator – it doesn’t stop if you aren’t ready.
It carries on regardless. We might as well choose to practice Carpe diem and just seize the day!