What is Emotional Baggage? How to Let go of Emotional Baggage?

emotional baggage

Emotional baggage refers to the negative experiences, trauma, or feelings that you haven’t worked through in the past, and those unsolved feelings are constantly hurting you, negatively affecting your behavior, relationships, or general mental state in the present. You should note that even though the term “emotional baggage” has a negative connotation, having emotional baggage does not indicate a moral failing on your part. It is a fact of life that your mind will not always just make you experience things that are good for you or other people. That being said, your emotional baggage might often result in making life harder for you and even your loved ones. It can make you appear to be different from who you are without it. Emotional baggage can lead to strained relationships, damaged self-worth, loss of previous interests, and sometimes even depression and suicidal tendencies. Needless to say, it is not doing you any favors in life. 

What Causes One to Have Emotional Baggage?

Causes to Have Emotional Baggage

This is not an attempt to create an exhaustive list of the causes of emotional baggage, as it is a vast and nuanced topic. But generally speaking, any negative experiences that you have could lead to you developing emotional baggage. Abuse of any kind, especially during childhood, can lead to the development of emotional baggage that is often severe. It is not uncommon for these to lead to serious mental health issues. Another reason could be relationships that had gone wrong. This can lead one to project their experiences of past relationships onto their current ones. Any other situations that have left you stressed, frightened, or sad, for example, unmet needs or emotional neglect, can lead to them developing into emotional baggage.      

Symptoms of Emotional Baggage

Every human being is different, with identities and different responses to stimuli. Symptoms of emotional baggage for some people are just normal existence for others. Yet, some general symptoms can indicate that you might be carrying around emotional baggage, even though exhibiting these symptoms is not a clear indication of any mental state. You could think of them as possible warning signs for which you should look. 

1. Trust Issues

Trust Issues

If you have been in unhealthy or abusive relationships where your trust has been violated many times, or in other scenarios where your faith in someone or something had led to you being hurt, you could project that mental state of yours into your current relationships, as a subconscious defense mechanism against being hurt again. This can obviously be very harmful to your relationships, but also your overall happiness, as not being able to trust people takes away a facet of security from your life. This can also manifest as insecurity.   

2. Constant Paranoia or Fear 

Constant Paranoia or Fear 

If seemingly innocuous things, activities, or situations invoke feelings of paranoia or fear in you, or if you feel like these feelings have become a significant part of your daily life, you might be experiencing emotions that you weren’t able to fully process in your past, leading to your everyday life being colored in grey. The inability to deal with hurtful or painful experiences in your past could lead to you carrying sorrow in your mind without any triggers.  

3. Frequent Bouts of Anger and Frustration 

Anger and Frustration  - emotional baggage

If you have noticed yourself losing your temper quickly or experiencing frustration without a clear cause, it could be because of residual feelings of anger due to past unfavorable circumstances that you haven’t let go of yet. These feelings of anger and frustration don’t always have to be directed at external situations or people; they can also be directed at oneself.

Getting Rid of Emotional Baggage

Carrying emotional baggage can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, negatively impacting your interactions with others. Getting rid of emotional baggage is not only essential but transformative for personal growth, mental well-being, enhanced emotional resilience, heightened self-awareness, improved happiness, bolstered self-esteem, and a fulfilling life. To let go of emotional baggage is not always easy and may need the help of a therapist, counselor, family, or other support network. However, the benefits are immeasurable and well worth the effort, as they can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Here are persuasive reasons why letting go of emotional baggage is indispensable.

1. Introspection and identification 

Introspection and identification 

You cannot resolve any emotional baggage without identifying what is causing it. Ask yourself what is causing you pain. It is common for people to go through severe mental distress without knowing where it is coming from, and that can lead to the inability to do anything to help yourself from your emotional baggage. Spend some time going through your past and find the root cause that is driving you all this torment. 

2. Acknowledgment and Acceptance 


Do not lie to yourself for the temporary relief of not having to deal with the pain you have been in the past. Do not pretend that you are okay when you are clearly not. Acknowledge the fact that whatever caused you to have pain, sorrow, or frustration in the present did indeed happen to you in the past. Accept that it is having a significant impact on you, learn to sit with the pain and anger, and understand that it is okay to feel that way. Do not bury your emotions, as it will only serve as a temporary solution and cause your emotions to build up. Actively notice your feelings and allow yourself to go through them. 

3. Ask Yourself What you Can Do  

Ask Yourself What you Can Do

After you have accepted the impact that your past is having on your present, you are in a position to be able to question yourself about your reaction to your emotions. Sometimes, you can repair what had hurt you in the past. It can take the form of long overdue conversations with certain people, coming to terms with the reality of something that happened a while ago, or doing anything you should have done in your past. Sometimes, though, all you can do is let go. 

Let go of a situation, a person, a feeling, or whatever you have kept with you for too long. At times, what you have to “let go”, the source of your anguish, can be something that means a lot to you despite how it makes you feel. Holding on to something might be preferred because it is familiar. But do understand that letting go does not mean removing anyone or anything from your life or memory. It can just mean letting go of what they are making you feel. You are not forgetting anything by letting go; you are simply not letting something take control of your life.

4. Learn to Live in the Present

Live in the Present

Ask yourself if you have been looking at your present through the lens of your past. If the answer is yes, make an active effort to live in the present. You are more than your past. Although it is understandable to have one foot in your past and another in your present, do not make your past into your present and your future. Embrace the newness of the present and use that as a source of light to lead you away from the dark of your past. If you find you can’t resolve your emotional baggage alone, please consider getting professional help. There is no shame in needing a helping hand. 

Final Words

Life is such that problems never stop arising. However, when one has emotional baggage from their past, it becomes difficult for them to deal with the newer issues that occur in their life and muster enough courage to face situations in their present. Emotional baggage can cause one to feel heavy and drained out. This is because your emotions are causing you to ruminate over things that are well in the past but are having a near-constant effect on your present and future. In such a situation, following these steps on how to get rid of emotional baggage can become extremely important to prevent your mental health from worsening and for you to become more emotionally stable. You must be able to slowly shed the emotional baggage you feel weighing yourself down and see how you instantly feel lighter and more capable of facing the newer challenges in your life

Also Read: For centuries, people have believed in the mind-body connection. Our physical body, mental, and emotional states are interconnected.

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