By David Joel Miller.
Just what do you have packed away in your baggage?
The idea that we all have some baggage, things that connect us to our past and that we keep carrying around with us, is common currency. We find that if we fill our lives up with that left-over stuff from the past then there is no room for making new experiences and memories in the present.
The result is that people continue to live in the past weighted down by their pain and suffering when they could just pitch some of that stuff and move on. Easy to say, this is really hard to do.
Unpacking that trunk is a task the may require some help. Professional helpers spend a lot of time working with people on healing from the past. Please consider getting some of that help. I don’t want to hear that you can’t afford help. That is an excuse, not a reason. Last year there was a post on “How to get help when you do not have money.”
The short version is that if you are really that impacted by the pain of the past there are those who will help you with this unpacking task. Therapists, peer counselors, religious leaders and sometimes friends can all be of service here.
Beware of friends who want to take things out oh and ah over how awful that was and then help you put the thing back in the trunk for safe keeping.
If you want to move forward in having a happy life you need to start tossing that garbage.
Unpacking this trunk is messy business. There may be some things you want to keep. Let’s see what you might find in your trunk.
There is that large bottle of jealousy and anger that you filled up during a series of particularly nasty fights you had with the ex. Your anger has spilled over everything.
Down towards the bottom is a photo album that has the pictures of the birth of your child and their first step. When you look inside there is your ex in those pictures. That is how those kids came about. How do you toss the anger towards your ex without tossing the pictures that remind you of the birth of your children?
So there will be some large things that got all messy and painful that we need to get rid of. And mixed in there may be some small pieces of treasures we don’t want to toss.
Some trunks wiggle around on their own. Looks like a lion in there. When we open that one up for a peak the lion tries to stick its head out and eat us. We don’t want to face that one. The temptation is to slam the lid shut and never look in there again. The downside to that is that this is a really heavy trunk we have to carry around forever to avoid dealing with that creature in there.
This unpacking time is when you most need help. A good professional lion tamer with a chair and a whip can keep that lion at bay. Sometimes though, once that initial roar is over what we find is that lion, it is a very small scared little house cat. Having a friend look in the trunk with us can help with perspective. We think we have a lion, they laugh and tell us their cat is bigger than that. Now together you can deal with this unruly animal.
There are times that in unpacking the trunk of the past you will find some really awful things. Learn that if a real lion jumps out you can’t solve this problem by trying to put it back in the trunk and pretend it isn’t there.
Sometimes the only way to deal with a really awful creature in the trunk is to open the door; get out-of-the-way and just let it go. Don’t hang onto it anymore, just be glad it is gone.
There may be a few things from the past that you will keep anyway. That photo album of the kids and the good times, you may want to keep that even if it is stained by the anger and hurt of the arguments that came after. Some of those painful things made you who you are and you don’t want to forget how you got to be the person you are today.
Most of the stuff in this baggage is just junk. Stuff you were carrying around that is of no further use to you but you were not sure you were ready to pitch it. Have your friend or helper work with you and toss out everything you no longer need. You are about to take a journey on the road to a new happy life and you will need to get rid of all the baggage you can dispose of.
Repack what’s left along with your list of values and goals in a small overnight bag and let’s get going!
Some of us find this is harder than just cleaning out that one trunk full of baggage. What if you are an emotional hoarder? What if you have not one, but a whole bunch of containers full of baggage? You have accumulated so much emotional wreckage that you just don’t know where to begin.
You may need to do a couple of things before you are ready to move on. Next, we will talk about figuring where all this baggage came from, a look at the past. We will also need to take some inventory of the emotional baggage contents to help with the “what to keep and what to pitch” part. You may decide to keep some parts of you even if they are not fully perfect.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books