Everyone carries a certain amount of emotional baggage. But if the stuff you’re carrying interferes with your life weighing you down, it’s probably time to clear the emotional baggage out of your life.
What is emotional baggage?
Emotional baggage is any negative, unprocessed emotions from your past experiences. These could be things you think about a lot, such as past trauma, bad experiences, or things that created a lot of stress. Mulling over these things can interfere with your life.
Why is emotional baggage harmful?
If you’re stuck in old emotional stress or trauma, it hinders your ability to live a happy, healthy life. It can lead you to negative coping behavior and suppression of your emotions. Emotional baggage increases your risk of emotional distress. You may lack the ability to mentally or emotionally cope and recover from a crisis. All these things add up over time. You may develop physical problems because of the stress on your mind and body.
- Neck and back pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Chronic pain
- Autoimmune disease
- Thyroid problems
What is emotional intelligence?
Healthy emotional intelligence is being able to understand and manage your emotions. Being emotionally intelligent means you can
- Deal with tough conversations without losing control
- Resolve conflicts
- Manage your emotions when you are experiencing stress
- Encourage others
- Manage your emotions when you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Be a safe person for others to talk to
- Grow in your relationships with the people you love and care about
11 Ways to Clear Emotional Baggage Out of Your Life
Here are eleven things you can do to let go of negative feelings.
1 – Shift your thinking
If you struggle with things like regret because of your past, it may be time for you to shift your thinking. Perhaps you regret some decisions you made or things you did in the past. These are normal feelings many people deal with, but your regrets shouldn’t paralyze you emotionally. If there are things you can do to ease your regret, such as asking someone for forgiveness for something you did to them or making restitution for past hurt, then try to do this. Otherwise, it may be time for you to let go of these haunting regrets and move on. As you move forward, allow the past to be a tutor for making better decisions in the future.
2 – Confront your emotional baggage
Guilt can motivate you to make things right with someone else. For instance, if you got angry at someone and say unkind things, it’s important to apologize to that person. But if, after apologizing, you still feel guilty, it’s time to give yourself a good talking to. You confront yourself by telling yourself what’s true about you and the situation. It may tempt you to go back in time and start a long list of your offenses from then until now. This isn’t helpful or healthy. No one can bear the weight of thinking about all the things they’ve done wrong. All you can do is apologize for things you’re aware of and then move on.
3 – Live in the present
Don’t allow your past to hold you captive. Living in the present means you aren’t delving into your past, rehearsing all the bad things that happened to you, or having negative thoughts about all the things you’ve done wrong. The negative things are gone. They can’t affect you anymore and you can move on. Living in the present means you focus on what is happening in the here and now. You can interact with the present, make good choices, and feel happy about today. Be devoted to living in the present.
4 – Surround yourself with supportive people
If you struggle with fear, be sure to surround yourself with people who know what you’re going through. Trusted friends and family members can be instrumental in helping you clear emotional baggage out of your life. They understand you like no one else does. They can ask you good questions, comfort and encourage you in ways that no one else can. Good questions to have your support group ask you when you’re struggling with fear.
- What are you really afraid of?
- What is the worst thing you fear?
- When was the last time you felt this fear?
- Do you believe this fear is the truth?
- How can you fight this fear?
- How can those around you help you fight this fear?
5 – Journaling can release emotional baggage
Journaling is a great way to let go of your feelings. Journaling can decrease your mental distress and lower your feelings of anxiety. It’s a safe place to express your inner thoughts and helps you understand better how you feel. Writing helps you open up better than verbal communication. Try to write daily entries into your journal. Some people like to make little drawings or diagrams. Whatever you want to write or draw in your journal is for you. It’s to help you let go of negativity and the emotional baggage you’re carrying.
6 – Acceptance
Instead of dwelling on past injustices and wrongs, you can learn to accept these things as part of your past. They may have been wrong and hurtful, but don’t allow them to control you anymore. Accepting doesn’t mean you condone them, but that you are free from their tyranny over your life. Letting go of your emotional baggage means finding healing from acceptance. Learn how to accept what was and move on into your present-day life and experiences.
7 – Own your emotional baggage
Part of being emotionally intelligent is being able to admit your contributions to a past situation. If you’ve had a nasty breakup, good chance you said and did things you shouldn’t have. If you want to move on from the emotional baggage of this situation, you need to admit your own stuff-the things you said and did or didn’t do that contributed to this painful experience. Doing this helps you understand yourself better and feel more in control. Self-awareness may feel scary, but it’s one of the best ways to clear the emotional baggage out of your life.
8 – Learn a lesson
If you’re feeling weighed down by your emotional baggage, it may be helpful to step back and try to discern what lesson you can learn because of this situation. Looking for a lesson that can help you today. A lesson you could learn from these past situations could include
- Move slowly into a relationship
- Set boundaries
- Learn how to say no
- Don’t please people
- Live for today
There may be other lessons you need to learn, so take some time and consider what you’ve learned. It can help you clear away today’s negative thoughts and emotional baggage you’re carrying.
9 – Face your emotional baggage
It may be a difficult thing to do, but facing your emotional baggage can be the best way to get rid of it. Look at your past and determine because of it, you are who you are. You can stop blaming yourself for things that were outside your control and let the bags hit the floor. It’s a choice you can make to live free from anger and fear or you can let all these negative thoughts steal away your happiness.
10 – Forgive yourself, forgive others
No matter what happened to you in the past, you can’t change it. You can’t make things right or undo things from the past. The good news is that you can make good choices today. Part of making a good choice could be to forgive yourself and to forgive those who contributed to your bad experience. It’s not saying what they did was right or fair, but it allows you to break free from being held down by emotional baggage. Don’t blame yourself for what happened. It’s forgiving yourself of things you could have done differently.
11 – Hold on to your faith
Having faith in God doesn’t exempt you from experiencing trauma or pain in your life. But people who rely on their faith believe they can let go of their emotional baggage and find healing. In the introduction of Charles Spurgeon’s book on suffering, titled The Silent Shades of Sorrow, Zack Eswine says,
Pastor Charles Spurgeon was a friend to those who physically and mentally suffered. He and his own dear wife, Susannah, suffered truly through years of physical and mental pains. In this light, Charles preached transparently about sorrow and their many kinds, including depression, in all of its forms. He was no trite preacher. He spoke as one who had been there. Perhaps because he so sorely needed God’s comfort for himself, Charles dug deep for a robust biblical pathway for his sufferings. He found in Jesus, not only a savior, but a fellow-friend for the sorrowing. Over time, out of his own heartbroken miseries, he learned how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Final thoughts on clearing emotional baggage out of your life
Everyone has emotional baggage, but sometimes the things that happened to you are hard to let go of. You may struggle with fear, regret, or anxiety because of these experiences. Growing in emotional intelligence will help you deal with these negative emotions and get rid of negative thoughts. Being able to clear emotional baggage takes deliberate steps, but over time as you move toward letting go of this emotional baggage, you’ll find you have a happier, healthier life.