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Baggage Claim

No one is going to applaud you for carrying your own baggage.

After searching for a fitting quotation to open this article, most only referenced that carrying baggage was not a good idea. None I found offered any genuinely practical or applicable steps toward achieving this goal. The passage I ended up selecting was borrowed from last week’s article which focused on the idea that letting go of our baggage isn’t as simple as dropping it on the floor.

No one needs convincing that emotional baggage is an awful predicament. The challenge ahead is how does one let go of the proverbial baggage which prevents anyone from living a fuller and happier life.

Figurative baggage is a metaphor for everything holding us back, weighing us down, or even halting any progress. Its literal meaning is profoundly contrary to its counterpart. Baggage for travel is basic essentials, things which we need or even require. If extra room is available, we put more stuff in it.

For our everyday lives, baggage is the complete opposite. It’s filled with hurtful and painful memories. No one wants to hold onto what it signifies and certainly isn’t hoping to add anything extra.

Unloading our emotional baggage is quite different from handing a suitcase to an attendant or skycap. This is why telling someone to “just let it go” is never a practical solution. Anyone knowingly carrying psychological baggage is not thrilled about the idea of constantly lugging around this unneeded and undesirable burden.

Another dilemma is understanding how or why we ended up with all this baggage in the first place. This is perhaps the most difficult step and why so many are not able to unload it very easily. The reasons can be as vast as the individuals bearing it; however, many of them center around the false perceptions we have of ourselves.

These perceptions begin at an early age while our minds are quite impressionable. When those whom we trust say hurtful or damaging things to us, unwittingly or not, we tend to believe them. As we grow older and encounter this more frequently, we feel obligated to carry these bags as if somehow, something we did deserved punishment and now we’ve given ourselves permission not to “let it go.”

In many cases, psychological baggage is associated with difficult, abusive, or tragic events. Often, these situations leave victims with overwhelming anxiety; spawning a need to ask countless questions such as “why me” or other demands in which solutions are impossible to find. Sometimes this need is so great it causes us to conjure up reasons not even close to the truth and highly damaging to our own self-esteem.

The antidote for unloading emotional baggage is as varied as the individuals who seek it. Thankfully, most of it can be centered around one action – that is self-forgiveness.

Self-forgiveness is a frequent remedy for emotional healing but also requires some deeper understanding. The most common response I receive from my clients after hearing this remedy, is along the lines of, “Self-Forgiveness? I didn’t cause this pain on myself so why should I have to forgive me”?

Truthfully, this is exactly how I hope they respond because it means they’re listening and searching for a solution.

“You are absolutely correct,” is my reply. “You didn’t do this to yourself.”

“But,” I continue, “did you ever one time believe that in any way you deserved or earned it”?

Frankly, I don’t ever recall hearing any other answer than yes. This admission is a huge step. Next, I ask them to imagine they were talking with someone else in this exact situation. After hearing their story would they really tell that person they deserved it? Seeing themselves from another’s perspective allows them to finally recognize the error in their thinking, and forgiving themselves for actually believing that lie becomes attainable.

Self-forgiveness is not forgiving the act nor the abuser; it’s about acknowledging you did nothing to deserve the original pain nor its aftermath. After all those years of believing you did, now you can absolve yourself of that burden. Pardoning yourself is a good way of figuratively letting go of the handle on your baggage. It creates a sense of emotional relief, and some have even experienced a physical respite along with it.

There is an important caveat to keep in mind during this process. When we undergo these breakthrough moments, they’ll create a huge sense of accomplishment. However, sometimes we can fall back into a dark place which causes us to question whether or not the baggage was really ever let go. This is a common occurrence during the “letting it go” process for many – present company included. The remedy for this is akin to the original one. Simply realize you fell into that trap and once again forgive yourself for believing nothing ever happened.

When first embarking on the task of letting go of your baggage, the key is not to blame yourself for circumstances you didn’t create. Don’t demand unwarranted or unjust punishment on yourself by believing all that baggage you claimed was merited.

My thanks to Franz Spitaler on Unsplash for the wonderful picture. If you are having difficulties letting your baggage go, please feel free to contact me. I’m now available to help. Thank you and I look forward to your comments.


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