The Baggage Breakdown
"Bag lady you gone hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that. I guess nobody ever told you, all you must hold on to, is you, Is You, IS YOU... So pack light."
The term "baggage" has normally been thrown around to mean that something is wrong with a particular person or their ways of reacting to a situation. It signals that past issues are at play and the person in question has not managed to get over it. The interesting thing is we all carry around baggage in unexpected ways. Some forms are even socially acceptable. Take for example, society's collective disdain for "the ex". We've all seen the memes, you know the ones that depict picture perfect pettiness (for reference, please see examples below). We chuckle or actually laugh out loud at these because 1) They are, in fact, hilarious; 2) They perfectly capture all our feelings about those past situations; and 3) They identify, in exaggerated ways, the justice we feel they deserve for causing said pain.
Baggage: What is it really?
For most people, whether we acknowledge it or not, we have a hard time letting go of past experiences. We almost nurse our hurts, cherishing the memories of the way we were right and how wrong they were. How unfortunate we were to have to been subjected to such a vile person/circumstance. This is largely because on a primal level, we desire for the universe to enact karma on those who have hurt us. We then vow in our hearts to prevent life from ever hurting us in that way again. It makes perfect sense. Simple fix, right? Well, it’s not quite so simple.
The problem is the ways we react to offenses are often counter-productive to healing and moving on. Instead we often push our feelings aside, and forge forward. The simple resolve of “don’t get hurt again”, is often too ambiguous and shortsighted to achieve our goal. Instead it manifests as vengeance, un-forgiveness, self-sabotage, excessive self-sacrifice, over-compensation, and/or isolationism. The end result is that these responses rarely fix anything; instead they cause us to make poor decisions that leave us feeling undone and possibly even more hurt. Our baggage is then compounded with more and more situations that cause us pain despite greater effort on our part to avoid it all.
The most inspiring people are the ones who have been through the most. The stories that touch us the deepest, and bring us to the most tears are the most unspeakable horrors--those who have been raped, abused, enslaved, or anything else. Those who have endured abusive and soulless marriages--they test us to look at our own characters. How long we could have survived those ourselves? At the root of most of our baggage are mini traumas. We often attribute trauma to veterans or human trafficking survivors. These are horrific situations that rightly deserve intensive care. However, the definition of trauma is simple: emotional shock or bodily injury.
By this measure, I don’t think a single person can say they have not experienced trauma. The important point is, however, that the effects of trauma are not properly considered. Current research shows that trauma literally changes the brain, see video below. According to Psych Central, in an environment or situation where your brain senses danger, it shuts down all nonessential parts that are not related to your immediate survival. Stress hormones increase, and your senses heighten. Breathing quickens and shortens, and muscles tighten to prepare you to run, fight, or freeze for your safety. The problem comes if your brain never shifts back out of survival mode. This can be due to the trauma being so great, or because it was so consistent over a long period of time. These changes to your brain change you.
Letting go of the weight
If this has been your experience, you must realize that you probably are no longer the same person you used to be before you were impacted. If the event was big enough, you may not even be able to function the same way you did before. The good news is, with the dedicated effort or the right professional help, your brain can reverse these changes. In this series we will look and unpack different kinds of baggage and provide you some tools for self-reflection that hopefully will offer you some breakthroughs to living your life forward.
How to move forward
We've created resources designed to help you assess and begin to deal with this specific issue. We have a free community area that gives you access to guide sheets relating to the topics discussed in this blog. Check out our free community resource area to access downloadable PDF guide sheets for this blog and much more: