“Forgiveness is the process of dropping off your emotional baggage.”
~ Tim Fargo
1. Identify your issues.
You can’t deal with something, if you don’t know what it is. Analyze your childhood and other significant relationships. What has happened in each of those that have left you with hurts, wounds, and scars?
What roles did you play in those relationships and what patterns can you identify that are reoccurring?
Once you know how you have been impacted by prior relationships, you can see which issues have the potential to affect your current ones.
2. Identify your triggers.
One of the hallmarks of past emotional baggage is that it is riddled with triggers.
A trigger is something that reminds you of the past, thereby bringing up the old feelings, memories, and reactions.
If your prior partner cheated on you, a trigger might be his talking to another woman at a party or walking away from you to talk on his cell. These triggers would cause you to feel distrustful and suspicious.
3. Identify your reactions.
Once you recognize that you have triggers, you can then identify your reaction to them. What do you do when you feel distrustful, suspicious, neglected, pressured, controlled, or mistreated?
Past baggage often results in emotional reactivity which is often an over-reaction to current circumstances.
When you know how you react to things that trigger your past baggage, you can begin to change them.
4. Identify your reality.
Even when you know you are reacting to the past, the feelings can be so intense that it can be hard to react differently.
Force yourself to identify your current reality.
Do you have evidence your current partner is unfaithful? If not, then recognize that truth. Use your mind to counter the thoughts and feelings that aren’t reality today.
5. Identify your new behavior.
Once you have done all these things, you can then choose how you want to act.
It is okay to share your feelings with your partner, as long as you own them as a part of your past that you are working through.
This helps your partner to understand who you are without feeling that you are blaming or accusing. Choose how you want to act and do the necessary work on yourself until that behavior becomes your new normal.
Karla Downing, MFT – www.changemyrelationship.com
Anytime a romantic relationship ends, it is of vital importance to take care of the business of YOU prior to embarking upon another one.
However, for a lot of folks out there, the opposite is true. We try to immediately fill the void that was created and we look to distract ourselves (through another relationship) from our pain and healing. In the end, this serves no one.
Patterns will be repeated and with the additional baggage on board, new unhealthy patterns will emerge.
Look at the space you have been given as a blessing rather than something to be filled. Now is the time to give yourself the gift of the “Exit Interview”.
In all relationships both sides contribute to the success AND the demise of the relationship.
Although the percentages are not always evenly matched, there are places in the relationship that are yours to own and other places that need to be forgiven and healed.
An Exit Interview is the examination of whose crap was whose and then ONLY looking at yours and healing that area of your life.
In this process, it does not matter what the other did. ONLY what is yours. We are not seeking to heal him/her, we are seeking to heal self.
Discovering and uncovering your “stuff” will take some time to recognize and to heal.
How much time will depend on person to person and situation to situation. I took two years off of romance after a profound betrayal to find my places and to heal me.
It was the best thing I ever did for myself.
It is important to remember this is not the end for you! This is you working to heal in order to quit repeating patterns and to find a life partner as equally awesome as you are. This is your time to finally do what is necessary to get you right!
Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.facebook.com/SweetEmpowermentLifeCoaching
Emotional baggage is all about fear – Fear of repeating mistakes; fear of hurt being inflicted upon you and fear of being blindsided again by whatever travesty you lived through previously.
While fear is a very real and very human emotion, it can be totally debilitating, taking a healthy relationship full of possibilities and halting it under the weight of your memories.
Not only do you deserve to live “ghost” free, your partner deserves a clean slate and the opportunity to show you who they really are, away from the negative comparisons of relationships past.
But how to do just that?
Take out a piece of paper and write down all of the fact-based evidence that proves that this relationship and this partner are different from other dynamics and situations you have experienced.
Write down every detail as to how this person and partnership differ (and I mean every detail).
When you feel anxious, review this list, take a deep breath and choose to believe in these facts and this logic.
Through this process, you essentially re-write the negative code in your head and begin a healthier, more realistic internal dialogue that will keep that “baggage” on the carousel and away from your relationship.
Bare in mind, if you don’t actively (and frequently) work this routine, you will be trapped by the emotion (perpetuated by the fear) and spiral into irrational and damaging protective mechanisms that will quash any future you have with your current love.
At the end of the day, while it’s a tremendous leap of faith, the only way to truly know if you can trust someone is to trust them.
Love is never a guarantee but you can maximize your chances for success by jumping that hurdle with aplomb…and a pen and paper handy.
Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT – www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com
Emotional baggage can be framed as a “story”.
- Maybe we created the story that “people can’t be trusted” because one of our parents often didn’t follow through on what they promised.
- Maybe we created the story, “I am unlovable” because our parents were neglectful or abusive.
- Maybe we created the story, “Joy is scary because it is always followed by pain” because several times in our lives this was true.
We carry around these stories, and often they are not a true representation of who we are or how the world really works.
They are sometimes strange, one-dimensional, child-like interpretations that lead us to live from a place of fear and pain. They pop up automatically (and often, unconsciously) and we begin filtering many of our experiences through these strange, and often untrue, lenses.
Challenging these stories is the first step in dealing with, and releasing ourselves from, emotional baggage.
Take some time to identify the story that comes up and gets in the way of you responding to things in a healthy way. Then, ask yourself, “Is this ALWAYS true? What else could be going on here?”
Expand your view of the situation, instead of just collecting information that confirms your automatic story.
Next, ask yourself, “What other story would I prefer to have here, guiding my decisions?”
You can choose the story you tell yourself, and make choices from a place of health and opportunity, rather than from a place of fear.
Soon, you will find that the stories you create empower you, rather than weigh you down.
“I’m not good enough” turns into, “I am enough, and I deserve to be with someone who can celebrate me and encourage me to continue growing, learning, and evolving.”
Shelby Riley, M.S., LMFT – www.shelbyrileymft.com
If you are ready to start dating again or in a relationship now, you should know what to anticipate and how to avoid the common relationship pitfalls.
The number one mistake women make is bringing the past into the present.
Any unfinished business needs to be cleaned up as part of the closure process so you can move on.
Here are the steps you can take to release yourself from the past:
1. Identify your “issues.”
- Are you having trust issues because your spouse cheated on you?
- Were you a victim of physical or emotional abuse from a controlling partner?
- Are you so co-dependent you don’t know how to live your own life?
It helps to pinpoint areas that are bothering you and identify your underlying concern. Notice any patterns you keep repeating and be responsible for changing what you can about yourself.
2. Once you know the problem areas, feel the feelings associated with them.
Are you feeling sad, angry, guilty, bitter, hurt, resentful or just plain disillusioned?
Some external trigger, like a familiar song, a comment, a certain look, a meal, etc, will usually uncover these feelings and other feelings that are suppressed. Your new partner, unaware as to what is going on, will be a clueless recipient of your snide remarks and inconsiderate behavior.
By getting clear on what triggers may be setting you off, you can neutralize your feelings, making those emotions lose their negative charge.
In that way, you allow your new relationship to move ahead successfully, without the usual drama.
3. Visualize yourself happy in a relationship.
You know what you want and what you don’t want. Have a clear image in your mind of your desired partner and see yourself happy together. Experience how that would feel.
The more genuine the feelings are, the more you will attract what you are looking for and what you most deserve.
When you release old baggage from your past, it is very liberating. You feel a weight lift off your shoulders, setting you free to have a healthy, long term relationship.
Remember, insight is the gift you get for learning your lessons and taking another path.
The time you spend letting go of the past will make you and your potential partner grateful that you took the time to clear your mind, heart and soul to love again.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
For anyone who has tried to start a relationship or is in one can attest that their emotional baggage has come up and impacted the beginning of a relationship.
People attract their perfect match in terms of emotionally availability.
For this reason, it is easy to blame the other person when things don’t work in a relationship.
If you find that you are in a place where your emotional baggage or your partner’s emotional baggage is showing up, look no further because this recipe for success may work for you.
The first step is to take a hard long look at how you are showing up in your relationship because it might give you an idea of issues to look at in your life.
Are you constantly worried about what your partner thinks about your appearance or is he critical about your looks?
It might be time to see your view of your body and self-image and what messages you receive and tell yourself about your appearance. This might be an appropriate place for you to work on your femininity and what it means to be a woman.
The next step is to do something about your unhealthy thinking patterns.
Explore your thinking in therapy, through the usage of a journal or with the help of friends and family. Look for themes in your thinking.
If you are constantly worried about being left by your spouse or you see a pattern that you are giving more than the other person, it’s time to look into your abandonment issues.
Thirdly, once you find those core issues, it’s important to work through the pain and grief that comes along with facing the things that are the hardest to look into.
If you have an abandonment issue, explore where that comes from. Look at your relationship with your parents. Many times core issues stem from childhood experiences.
With the help of a skilled therapist, working through emotional issues from childhood is one of the best ways to form healthier attachments to spouses.
Finally, celebrate your successes.
Look for a man that meets your new emotional needs. Once you let go of your emotional baggage, you will find a man who has let go of his stuff. That relationship has a greater potential to turn into something fulfilling because both of you will be on a healthier emotional plane.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com
One of the hardest parts of dealing with emotional baggage is figuring out what your baggage actually is and then learning how to own it.
Emotional baggage is usually more troublesome to relationships when it is unconscious.
The best way to deal with your past emotional baggage is to make it conscious and be aware of your own pitfalls.
Anyone who has been in a relationship at some point in life (not only romantic relationships are included, so that means everyone) has emotional baggage of some kind. Emotional baggage is only human.
As humans, we tend to get hurt in relationships, and then not confront that hurt or pain, which means it remains unresolved.
Sometimes this pain is small and can be worked through quickly and sometimes it is much more complex and requires more time and attention.
How do we figure out what our baggage is if it’s unconscious?
You may wish to seek help either in the form of a professional (psychotherapist or counselor), or a trusted and compassionate friend. It can be as easy as looking at patterns within past relationships.
- Are you willing and able to look at yourself?
- What part did you play in the dissolution of the relationship?
- Do you notice a pattern with the people you are choosing as partners?
Do not forget to take a look at important past non-romantic relationships as well.
How did you get along with each of your parents and siblings? Notice if there are any patterns there and look into any possible similarity in these patterns with romantic relationships.
The more you can separate out your ‘stuff’ from your partners’ ‘stuff’, the more you can own your emotional baggage and not blame it all on your partner.
This will increase you chances for a successful relationship.
Kimberly Atwood, M.A., LPC, LCAT, MT-BC – www.kimatwood.com
None of us makes it through life without getting at least a little emotionally bruised.
We make ourselves vulnerable and open our fragile hearts and souls to another person. In the ideal world, that emotional intimacy is valued and treated with respect. But the world is not always an ideal place, nor do we always receive the kind of treatment that we expect and deserve.
After these relationships dissolve, we are left feeling betrayed, disappointed and suspicious of others.
As we try to move into new relationships, all these unresolved feelings of anger and resentment travel along with us. Over the course of time, they damage and inhibit our ability to connect with others on an emotionally intimate and open level.
So, how do we move past these old issues and on to new, healthier relationships?
We begin with forgiveness.
Forgiveness comes when we release the anger and disappointment we feel toward others. When we hate others for their treatment of us, we actually remain in a relationship with our memories of that person.
Until we let go of that negative emotional attachment, any new relationship we enter into will always be a party of three;
ourselves, the new person who would like to establish emotional intimacy with us, and the hurtful person or persons of our past.
Forgiveness is a wonderfully self-centered emotion.
It is the act of letting go of the hurt that others have caused you and represents a conscious choice on your part to stop the cycle of pain. Forgiveness is the active process of choosing to move forward and deciding to allow others to find their way into your life.
Forgiveness is not passive acceptance of the poor way in which others have treated you.
It also does not require that you “forget” what has transpired in the past, as forgetting past behavior is essentially failing to learn from our experiences.
The act of forgiving, instead, signals that we have ceased to dwell in the pain of the past and are committed to moving toward the future.
Only after we move beyond the negative events of the past, we can start to establish strong and loving connections with others.
Dr. Kristin Stover – www.kristinstover.com
You have to do the work. Look at those past relationships.
Take brutal responsibility.
What went wrong? What went right? What was your part in both? If your answer is “he was (fill in the blank),” then you have some work to do. Whatever he was, you opened the door to him. Find out why he looked good in the first place.
To do that, you have to examine what came before that.
- Are you attracted to bad boys?
- Are you attracted to men who need taking care of or fixing?
- Are you attracted to money and material things versus intimacy?
- Are you attracted to men who are emotionally unavailable?
- What experiences have you had in your life that draws you to one type of man versus another?
Finally, consciously develop your vision of a complete and fulfilling relationship.
Look for qualities in a man that align with that vision. And when a man doesn’t fit into the vision, let him go. Too often we put all of our effort into molding him to fit the vision. Let him be who he is.
Just because he doesn’t align with your vision doesn’t mean he’s not wonderful. It’s just not a fit. Find someone who is a fit.
Bobbi Jankovich, LMFT – www.bobbijankovich.com
Every relationship begins with optimism and hope.
“Maybe, just maybe,” you tell yourself, “You’ve met Mr. Right.” But sometimes Mr. Right ends up being Mr. Not-What-I’m-Looking-For, or worse, Mr. Wrong.
When the relationship ends, you lose not only a partner, but all the dreams that you had of a future together as a couple.
Healing from that loss is an important part of being able to move on.
Well-meaning friends and family might tell you to brush yourself off and “just get back on the horse.”
However, rushing through the initial period of grief and loss isn’t the best way to go.
In fact, taking some time to reflect on what went wrong and what you can learn to do differently next time will help you go into your next relationship with greater self-awareness and confidence.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
1 – What did I do in the relationship that I feel good about?
List things like being a good listener, or being willing to talk about difficult issues. Anything that you believe makes you a good partner.
Acknowledging your strengths will make it easier to look at the things you need to improve.
2 – What did I do that led to things going badly?
Most of us know our less-than-stellar attributes. Choose one or two that you’re willing to work on. Make a concrete plan for change.
Part of leaving old baggage behind is leaving behind our own unhealthy behaviors.
3 – What are the relationship issues that I face over and over?
- Do you choose people who, for example, withdraw or have volatile tempers or abuse drugs or alcohol?
- Do you ignore the signs and find yourself YET AGAIN in a relationship that was troubled right from the start?
Ask yourself this:
- Am I prepared to be alone rather than go forward with another relationship that does not support my well-being?
“Bad” relationship experiences are bound to injure your sense of self.
4 – Pay attention to your self talk.
- Are you telling yourself that you’re a fool, that you’ll never love again, that you’re unlovable? Or
- Are you reassuring yourself that people don’t have to be perfect to have satisfying relationships, that you’re working on your own relationship skills, that you see the ways that you’ve grown?
One last bit of advice:
When starting to date (or just THINKING ABOUT staring to date) it’s important to stay in the present.
Remember, not every guy is the guy who broke your heart. While even the best relationship will hit some bumps, if you’ve done your homework, you’ll be more prepared to deal with them successfully.
Winifred M. Reilly, MA, MFT – www.winifredreilly.com
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