The Fifties Surfaces Emotional Baggage from our Childhood

Emotional baggage from the past can catch us off-guard if we do not expect it. I have observed with clients, both men and women, how emotional baggage is triggered by events.

Sadly, more often than not, our unresolved emotions are taken out on those closest to us. Little do we realise that it is not our partner or children who caused our baggage. Instead it is someone from our long distant past: a parent, sibling or caregiver, etc. Sometime our suppressed emotions will creep upon us. It may even be so subtle that we do not realise what is happening.

How do we know it is emotional baggage?

When we are in crisis, under pressure or chronic stress our inherent coping styles come to the fore. We develop certain ways of coping when we are young as a way of dealing with what we experience. Emotional baggage is not only caused by traumatic events. In fact it has everything to do with how a child perceives a situation or experience at the time.

So even though an event was not traumatic or a parent did not intend to hurt a child emotionally, a child may subconsciously see the situation as threatening. Any events or people later in life that slightly resemble the original happening, may trigger the same emotional reaction we had at the time.

The reality too though is that we all go through universal growth phases. So this means that without there being a specific trigger, unresolved emotional baggage bubbles up.

It is easy to recognise unfinished business:

  • We have a strong reaction to what someone says or does.
  • We have certain beliefs about ourselves, both positive or negative e.g. “I am not good enough”, “others have to listen to me”, etc.
  • We feel strongly about some issues e.g. a strong sense of fairness.
  • Etc.

Let me give a few examples:

A successful corporate manager over time becomes exceedingly impatient with her teenage children. Teenagers continuously push boundaries. This is a normal part of their development. It is hell though for a mother who may be menopausal and trying to deal with the impact of hormonal changes on her mood and body. Children not listening to her trigger memories of her mother who never listened to her as a child.

Tony is a successful business man. But he comes face to face with self-esteem issues when he thinks back to the poor relationship he had with his father. Parents are known to be much harder on their sons than their daughters. His father was hard, no nonsense and always telling him to take things like a man. Now in his fifties, he suddenly finds himself feeling very vulnerable. As a result his self-esteem is low.

How to deal with emotional baggage in midlife

We live in a society that tries to fix everything and find quick solutions. Dealing with emotional baggage takes time. Some of us may choose to confront our baggage and seek to resolve matters quickly. Others choose to sit with issues and figure things out for themselves.

It is important to do something though. There are the most amazing ways to resolve baggage these days: we may choose to write a journal or letters to people with whom we have unfinished business. I would strongly suggest though, that you think carefully about actually sending the letter. Few parents or caregivers are strong enough to handle negative feedback! Writing is an exceptionally powerful healing tool. Write until you have nothing more to add and then burn or tear up the letter.

See a therapist. Spend time in nature with the specific intent of releasing emotions or beliefs that hold you back. Any repetitive exercise puts our mind in a somewhat “trance” state, where we process issues at a very deep level. Any right brain activity such as painting, pottery, dancing, movement, etc. helps us process issues in a more fluid, free flowing manner.

Every one of us has emotional baggage of some kind. Instead of allowing our baggage to hold us back in life, we can learn to reframe what has happened and take out the positive lessons.

If your emotional baggage is affecting your well-being consider seeing a psychologist.

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Posted in Emotional Intelligence, Self mastery.