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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We All Have Baggage

 Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. 
Wisely improve the present. It is thine. 
Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All of us would like to drop our personal baggage and lose its weighty presence. Personal baggage is an accumulation of all the things that aren't right in our lives. Living and dealing with heaps of problems is inevitable. Although suffering is part of the human condition, we hope to eliminate much of the lingering effects of pain. The value of being brutally honest with ourselves is crucial. But even after all our attempts to lighten our attache, we still find a sizable pack to tote. We all have baggage, even the most well-adjusted, healthiest people have it. No one is exempt.

And how about the continuous nature of baggage accumulation? Psychological author Steve Wickham says, "Go the wrong way and we attract only more baggage, and such intricate little and bulky large bags, packages, cartons and parcels of fear-producing anxiety. Go the right way--the narrow path many do not take, for it involves its own pain--and we alleviate baggage, learning to live, eventually, a free life." (Steve Wickham, "Dealing With Emotional Baggage,", 2010) Well, maybe "going the right way" will not produce a "free" life, but maybe it will provide a life less encumbered.
Adding Our Heap to Another Heap

Just as important as lightening our personal charge, how can we hope to combine our baggage with that of someone else in a happy, successful relationship? Many people want to enter contracts of union that include drastic change. These people assume, once together, they can change one another through serious discussions about their pasts and their present personal desires.Yet, soon after romance fades, they return to reality and find that they are not going to effect change upon each other.

Ideally, we all should sort out own situations before entering into a marriage or into a serious relationship. We have no burden of responsibility to "fix" the one we love. And, our partner is not responsible for making us happy. The paradox is that we are responsible for our own happiness, and we should never blame others -- that realization is the absolute heavy burden. (Beth McHugh, "Is Your Personal Baggage Stuffing Up Your Marriage?", 2011)

Our loved one simply cannot be our everything. To invest a totality of being in anyone involves adding loads to our dependence and slashing pieces of our self-esteem. When we realize this and a break up or a divorce is at hand, we feel threats to our spiritual health and develop tons of emotional baggage.

Too many of us want a "band-aid" for our most critical problems. The pain is so intense that we seek love instead of seeking help to end the pain, so when that love ceases to be enough anymore, the emotions flow to the top and the end result is divorce. Life blows that are destined to make us stronger weaken us if we take the wrong road to "healing."

Unpacking Your Own Baggage

Are we left to enduring the scars of history? Les Parrott and Neil Clark Warren, authors of Love the Life You Live, offer this helpful advice: "History is what has happened in our lives. Baggage is how we feel about it. Your psychological perspective on your past determines, to a great extent, your personal health and vitality." (Les Parrott & Neil Clark Warren, "Exploring Your Emotional Baggage,", 2003)

Parrott and Warren suggest that we unpack our own baggage and explore what we feel and why we feel the way we do about our history. This does not mean we should wallow in the past and use it as a scapegoat. We merely need to get beyond our past. To identify, sort, and label emotions in this exploration can be a springboard to personal growth, self-insight, and maturity. This exploration can positively impact our physical well-being.


Personally, I believe no one can control any other human being. Each of us has unique qualities and a distinct past. To live a relatively comfortable life, we have learned personal means of adjusting and dealing with situations. Some of these reactions have developed into habits. Of course, we should seek to break bad habits, yet the successful attempts at doing so involve deep personal commitment and usually are only successful after the habitual individual hits the rock bottom.

As far as making a sinner into a saint or vice versa, I have many doubts about any real success. The release of the mold is in the hands of the individual. Certainly, help and guidance may offer support; however, without a sincere will to change, people, at best, modify self-chosen aspects of their lives. In short, we are what we want to be.

Some Ideas To Consider

These ideas actually came from advice about how to deal with trading stocks. (Forex Psychology, I think the points represent great advice for dealing with personal baggage. Similar investment and risk are involved in both areas.

1. We must accept that our plans will not always go as planned. 

2. We must not assume that because something worked previously that it will have the same outcome.  

3. We must accept that we will face loss one way or another. It's always going to be there.

4. We must accept that the past can't be changed. 

5. We must move on and learn from a lesson, and then apply it to a future strategy.

6. We must take responsibility for our actions and understand that we create our own success or failure. 

7. We must not blame others around us for our losses or failing strategies. 

8. We must determine our weaknesses and make a true effort to turn those into strengths.

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