Picture yourself trudging through the airport with your spouse, 3 kids, 4 suitcases, a diaper bag, a stroller…..oh and don’t forget the car seat for the baby. You approach the counter to find that you now have to pay $100 extra because the weight of your bags is too heavy. Oh my, this sounds exhausting!
What do you do? Do you leave the bags, leave the kids (no way!), or pay the money? You could start sorting through the bags to see what you can do without, too.
In this analogy, for convenience sake, most of us would fork up the $100. After all, your husband is irritated you brought those extra 4 pairs of shoes, one child has to go potty, and the baby is screaming because she’s hungry! It’s easier for the quick fix, right?
In real life, we all have baggage. We have emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical baggage. Every day we get out of bed, pack up our “stuff”, and bring it along with us for the day. We don’t do it consciously. It is just part of who we are.
Most of our bags are labeled “childhood” and “previous relationships”. They each have some compartments inside them usually labeled “parents”, “siblings”, “friends”, “school experiences” “sexuality” etc. These compartments keep things separate in the big bag, but are a part of it.
The weight of these bags tell us everyday who we are, or who we think we have become. Some of the bags tell us how we think others view us. Some of the bags say, “piece of junk, fat, ugly, stupid, no good”. Fortunately, some people have bags that say, “You’re great! Beautiful, smart, worth it, and you can do it!”
The point is, we all have baggage. Inevitably, we bring it into our relationships. For some of us, this can create major challenges in our experiences. We may hear things differently than they are actually said. We may perceive things far from what may have been reality. We may react to things or over-react to things based on these perceptions.
Many times in relationships, we may be having conflict over something that has very little to do with that person. It could be from our baggage.
As a therapist, I am amazed with how someone may hear their partner say something completely different than what was actually said. They are grateful I am there to help their partner see this because it is an everyday occurrence that causes much conflict in their relationship. What the person with the baggage hears actually goes through a filter in their mind. This filter is made up of their experiences. So they hear it differently than it was intended. Their reaction is based on their baggage instead of what that person is saying.
Where do you check your baggage??
By now you may be identifying some baggage of your own. Now where do you check it ?
1. Listen for things you have a strong reaction to.
2. What are some common themes in your conflicts in relationships? Feeling unheard? Abandonment?
3. Ask yourself when in your life have you felt this way? Or when was first 1st time you felt that way? Doing this can actually take you to that place and help you see where the work needs to start.
If you are able to identify it, that is the first and most important step. Without it, you can’t work on it. Now you need to decipher if this is something you CAN do on your own. Or is this something that might be suited better for a professional? If so, seek a qualified therapist to help you sort through it. Then talk to your partner about it and let them know what you are working thru, so they can be more sensitive to it and understand it better. This helps them be more empathetic and patient with you.
The thing to remember with baggage: WE ALL HAVE IT. It’s just a matter of asking yourself the following questions:
Do I know what’s in my bag?
Do I unload it when it gets too heavy (or take the quick fix and pay the $100 i.e. be addictive, yell at my partner etc. )
Do I use what’s in my bags to help me be a better me and leave what I don’t need behind?
Or do I continue to carry a really heavy bag, with bad handles and broken zippers around, expecting to get a better result when I arrive at the airport the next time?
I hope you will unload your bag periodically, take out the bad, use the good, and make yourself feel marvelous!
Personally, I think if a bag weighs 100 pounds emotionally prior to going into a relationship, some pre-relationship counseling might help!
So what’s in your bags? Have you “unloaded” and have a story to tell? I would love to hear how unloading can help us all experience wonderful relationships!
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville