If there's one thing I know, it's emotional baggage. It's like that annoying friend who really shouldn't be your friend, but when she calls you just can't help yourself (and you end up all, "Why the eff am I answering my phone?!" as you're answering your phone).
Emotional baggage is basically the sum total of every crappy thing that has ever happened to you. It's heavy. It's obsolete. It's out of season. It creeps up at the most inconvenient times. You may think you've moved on, and them bam: suddenly, you're back in your dark and twisty place.
Here are just some of the ways emotional baggage might be messing with your life (like, right now):
1. You're the projecting queen
You take your past out on others—for example, irrationally treating someone like crap because they remind you of someone who hurt you.
2. You barely trust yourself half the time
You're always waiting for the other shoe to drop and this can bubble to the surface in some pretty unhealthy ways (trust).
3. You're constantly in comparison mode
You dwell on how much better your life used to be, and ironically in doing so keep making it worse, which brings on more dwelling.
4. You're too guarded
You're so busy making sure nobody hurts you again that you can't remember the last time you had a legit emotion.
5. You're holding back
You find yourself hesitating over everything, right down to what toothpaste you should buy.
How to Ditch Your Emotional Baggage
The first step to dumping any toxic emotion or behavior is to expose it for the defective security blanket it is. Just because you have the emotion doesn't mean you have to act on it. Allow yourself to feel it, but like that annoying friend, don't answer when it calls.
And when they bubble to the surface:
1. Own how you feel
The biggest mistake I kept making was acting like I could just stop feeling the way I felt. Anytime I would feel something brewing, I'd shut it down... which would cause how I felt to explode back onto the scene later, stronger, and more powerful. (So basically, don't do that.)
2. Take a time out
Because emotional baggage is never triggered at an appropriate time, promise yourself to take a time out and deal with the triggers at your earliest convenience: What upset you and why? And what are you going to do about it?
3. Make the experience mean something
Decide how you'll do better next time, but also find something you can take with you from the experience that doesn't weigh you down. Learn something from what happened and use it as fuel to improve your life.
4. Create rituals
We let go of crappy things that have happened piece by piece, until eventually we're left with a much healthier perspective on the situation and our future. Create a ritual to let go of those pieces, such as writing it down and throwing away the paper, or breathing in the good and breathing out the bad—whatever works for you to move on.
5. Be patient with yourself
Emotions are a funny thing. You can go years without thinking about something, only to have it slap you in the face years later and ruin your day. It sounds weird, but the best thing you can do is let it. Don't fight it, don't suppress it, just feel the emotions until they pass. Because they will.
How do you deal with your emotional baggage?
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