When I was 26, I went on my first solo round-the-world trip, backpacking through South America, Europe and Asia for months on end. I was so freaking excited! I packed and repacked my backpack like a travel virgin possessed, swapping bulky towels and clothes for just two sarongs, saying goodbye to all but a bar of soap, and making my wind-cheater the most sacred of my personal belongings.
I came up with awesome hacks that shaved gram after gram off the ‘Backbreaker’ until I had a practically featherlight 9kg pack, all up. The process took me a couple of weeks, and truth be told, bordered on a thrilling obsession. I culled, hard. I was now READY.
It’s a shame that at no time leading up to that age, did I ever think to hack my emotional baggage the same way I hacked that backpack.
Since then, I’ve been making up for lost time. Deciding to face and resolve my emotional baggage over the past decade has been the biggest, scariest adventure I have ever had, but it’s been totally worth it. Read on to see how to ‘call out’ your shit, and cull it, ready for a personal take-off like no other.
Holding on to the baggage
Ok, let’s say you’re told to hold a feather up above your head with a straight arm.
You hold it up for a few seconds. Easy.
A minute? Pfft!
Five minutes? Not too bad.
Now keep it up there for years. Decades. It’s not so fun now, huh.
That feather is every piece of emotional baggage you haven’t yet resolved. Holding that feather starts off manageable, but morphs into subconscious torture if you’ve been clutching it for years without ever questioning why you’ve kept it this long.
And like a hand holding a feather up for an age, a part of your spirit will go numb the longer the trauma is left unexamined. Held for longer still, and that little part of You eventually dies off completely or passes out, like a sacrifice your psyche has made in order for you to grasp onto…now, what exactly?
Who’s running the joint? You, or Them?
Our traumas and emotional baggage sit deep. They are so deeply held within us that they really do control us if we aren’t aware of them. They are our very own custom-built Big Brother, perched up on our memories like sadistic bastards, pulling the strings and controlling the cogs in our hearts, guts and minds.
Our emotional baggage is a strong determiner of our feelings, our beliefs and our thoughts – all of which lead our decisions, actions and behaviours. Emotional baggage and traumas can be identified by the pathological, immature, or negative actions and behaviours they initiate, often on repeat.
Are you doing the same thing over and over and not getting anywhere?
In short – They repeatedly stop you from growing. They stunt your potential. They keep you from moving forward; rather, they have you on a hamster wheel of attempts and failures, over and over again. These bits of baggage make you do things that aren’t good for you and the people around you – sometimes, without you even realising it.
Are any of these familiar?
Can’t control your anger? That’s them.
Don’t trust people? Again, them.
Bad choices in partners? That’s them too.
Low self-worth? Bingo.
Doubting your abilities, gifts and talents, thinking you’re no good at anything? Ahh, yep!
Don’t appreciate what you see in the mirror? You’re getting the hang of this.
Paralysed by a fear of the unknown? You guessed it.
These are ALL behaviours, thoughts, and actions (ie. the RESULTS that become the sum total of your LIFE EXPERIENCE) that may stem from your unresolved baggage and traumas.
It’s SO energy zapping, isn’t it? Good news, you can sort this shit out with vigilance, support, and a kickass attitude. You can DO this.
“What does your baggage look like, Sir?”
Your ‘feather’ may have been one thunderous moment that seared a single blunt-force trauma into your psyche. Or maybe your ‘feather’ is a more like a long-term visit from a bunch of squatters that have set up house in your mind and just sit there in the dark, collectively stinking up the place.
Either way, the key to resolving your emotional baggage is in these three steps:
- Identifying the exact moment(s) the trauma(s) happened
- Exploring what thoughts, feelings and emotions caused them to stick, and
- Seeing how they affect you now in your decisions, actions and behaviours.
Performed regularly, and with full intent to move forward into a new, better ‘unknown’, you will find peace. Pay special attention to Step 1. Without it, you will continue to run around in circles. Here. I’ve helped you play detective 🙂 read on…
Finding those bags (Hint: they’re the smelly ones at the back)
Like anything that’s been around for years, hidden amongst all the other ‘stuff’, your emotional traumas can go unnoticed as a problem, up until the moment they cause a significant stink. At heart, we’re a lazy bunch, so it’s not our forté to make changes if we don’t absolutely HAVE to. Sometimes life needs to REALLY reek before you throw the rubbish out because you can get used to the smell, you know?
So we have to try HARD. We have to FOCUS. We have to consistently catch ourselves doing things and thinking things that aren’t in our best interest, and ask ourselves WHY we are doing them. Get in the habit of checking in with the ‘why’ of your decisions throughout the day. You owe it to yourself to hunt out the dead weight, cull it with no mercy, and keep moving forward, lighter with every step. You’ll get better at it the more you do it.
WARNING: It makes no sense sometimes…
Before you begin, I must now alert you to a HUGE tip on I.D.ing your rough stuff: Traumas and past emotional distress can come to the surface in weird and warped ways. This stuff is not logical. It’s not linear, you sometimes can’t connect the cause and the effect. Common sense is weak when tasked with understanding emotions. This is really core, ‘lizard brain’ stuff. They’re survival instinct misfires that take a special level of self-awareness to uncover.
So don’t be surprised if a family member’s passing a decade ago is the reason you manipulate others today; if the teasing you copped in primary school 20 years ago is the reason you’re never put forward for promotion despite all your brilliant work and skills, or if you feel guilt from what essentially was a perfect childhood. They (and countless others) all stem from deep, controlling, irrational belief systems and are evidence of something there that may need investigating.
Get help and support from the kind ear of a professional in the mental health care space. There’s a reason they’ve studied the human psyche for years – it’s to give you a ‘torch’ so you can see the way past whatever is holding you back. Trust me, it helps to see them. Make a call today if any of this is triggering a desire to make a change.
How I got rid of a bag this year
Publishing this blog has been one great way for me to hack at a particular bag I’ve carried for too long – a self-defeating perfectionism I developed as a young kid.
A seeping guilt came along because of, weirdly, how much my parents loved me and looked after me. They worked so hard! It kickstarted a (nonsensical) belief in my young mind that I’d better produce 100% awesome work every time, or else the effort wouldn’t be ‘enough’ to repay their amazingness (whatever that means…see, lizard brain) . As you can imagine, I wasted a lot of perfectly good creations by killing them off before they were fully fledged. I also unconsciously thwarted the “learn fast/fail fast/reach success!” cycle more than once. I’ve since processed all of that and let it go because I realised that those feelings of guilt and self-sabotage were actually STOPPING me from producing the awesome work that I am capable of.
I could’ve kept rewriting these blogs until I was old and grey, never deeming them perfect, but instead I chose to press ‘Publish’, and here I am, still alive, and the world didn’t end! It feels good, and you know what, it’s exactly what Mum and Dad worked so hard for.
For me to be me.
Post-traumatic growth – It’s realising that the luggage you lost, you never actually needed
I like thinking of my resolved issues as actual luggage that’s lost forever in the airport system. It’s somewhere, vanished from view and my possession, but I haven’t forgotten it. I remember what it looked like and felt like, but am glad it’s out of my life and sitting somewhere else, taking up nobody’s energy anymore.
Traumas still provide value in having taught us life lessons, but we don’t need to carry them forever.
We just need to learn the lessons they teach us and replace the old reactions with a new way of behaving. There’s value in remembering that they once were – but no longer are – relevant.
This, in a nutshell, is post-traumatic growth. It’s coming to terms with what has happened, and letting it go. The result is a spiritual and emotional growth and a refreshing, bouncy renewed freedom. That right there, my friends, is inner peace 🙂
No need to check in – ready to fly!
Has this blog triggered any of your emotional baggage? If so, now that you’ve uncovered it, open it up, start your culling project and board that plane with no extra weight!
Bon voyage and happy hacking!
Let me know in the comments below if this post has helped you. I’d love to hear how you feel right now, or what you’re thinking in response to it. If I can add anything, let me know too!
I’m no expert. I’m just sharing my personal experience and what I’ve learnt by chatting with professionals in the mental health space. I think with your experience added below, together we can really create positive change, support each other and lighten our loads.