Dealing With Past Baggage Series
Is your past baggage ruining your relationships?
Do you find yourself overreacting when things go wrong?
Ever do something (or say something) and wonder ‘where did that come from’?
If so, your past is probably controlling your future.
Cila grew up with a verbally abusive, critical father.
When he had something to say, it usually came out as criticism.
The end result was that she never felt accepted, good enough, or worthy of love.
This spill over into adulthood.
She would avoid talking about her feelings. Instead, she deflected by joking about disappointments.
She was defensive and closed in her relationships. She now calls it her ‘fortress.’ That place where she would go internally to keep everyone else out.
You can imagine how this affected her marriage.
Reflecting back she says:
As I struggled with my desire to cling to hurtful memories and self-defeating behaviors, it dawned on me that I was afraid to let go because defensiveness was part of my identity.
The problem wasn’t that I had baggage—everyone has baggage—but that it had come to define me. I didn’t know who I would be without it. At that point it hit me: I had to dig deep, discover the person I wanted to be, and then act on it.
Cila did deal with her past. She discovered how to face it, forgive it,, and move forward.
This is a three part series called ‘Dealing With Past Baggage’
- How to Deal with Past Baggage to Keep Your Marriage Safe
- Letting Go of Baggage in Your Life and Marriage
- Freedom from Past Baggage that Destroys Your Relationship
Types of Baggage
Before we delve into the steps for dealing with our baggage, let’s talk about the types of baggage we often let stay in our closet.
1. Emotional Baggage
These are the negative emotions we allow to dominate our life.
They may not be wanted, but they are tolerated. This gives them permission to hang around and cause problems.
Emotions are the feelings we possess.
Emotions are good. Even necessary.
The problem comes when we define our lives by how we feel.
Someone says, ‘What’s going on?’
We respond, ‘I feel good (or bad).’
We think of life in terms of what we feel.
But we are more than our emotions.
I like to put it this way. Emotions are things.
They are ‘items’ we possess. But we are not merely those items. We are more.
When we allow emotions to define us, to determine our lives, we run the risk of living far beneath our potential.When we allow emotions to define us, to determine our lives, we run the risk of living far beneath our potential. Click To Tweet
Emotions are good for some things; they are terrible at running our lives.
2. Past Wounds, Hurts and Disappointments
Past wounds come from things that happen to us when we are in our developmental years.
For Cila, her absentee, abusive father produced a wound in her soul. One she didn’t even realize was there until a friend helped her identify it.
We all have some of these wounds.
It’s the big ones that usually jack up our life.
3. Past Failures
These are the things we do to ourselves.
I’ve failed on many occasions. Bad purchasing decisions among other things.
Just this week my wife and I talked about a big purchase we made (a truck) and how we regret it. Within the first 5 weeks it was in shop 3 times.
The dealer took care of the problems each time. That wasn’t my regret. I regretted buying something that needed such work right out of the gate.
Those things happen in life. Those decisions a nuisance. They irritate your life.
I have also made some decisions that impacted my life on a larger scale. In a negative way.
Those decisions cut deep. It took time to deal with them and find healing. Some I’m still working on.
4. Unresolved Anger
This probably piggybacks off the previous items but I’ll give it’s own segment here.
Unresolved anger is not ‘getting mad because something went wrong.’ It’s deeper. Rooted in your identity because of something in the past.
It often comes out of rejection.
If you’ve experienced physical abuse, many times you will act out in anger because of it.
Anger issues (wherever they come from) will wreck your marriage.
ALSO READ: Anger Series
I don’t like spiders. I’m a grown man and it’s hard to admit, but I don’t. Snakes, not problem. Spiders? Another story.
However, if I see a spider it doesn’t ‘freak me out.’ I don’t lose it and run the other way. It doesn’t wreck my life.
There are ‘baggage fears’ that can destroy your ability to function in a healthy way. Especially in your marriage.
If you are constantly worried about being rejected, afraid your spouse will cheat on you, or fearful of not being loved, it will hinder your ability to receive the thing you desire most – acceptance.
It’s a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. The thing you are afraid of will keep you from the experiencing what you deeply want in life.
A pessimistic mindset will ruin your life and relationships.
No one wants to stay with someone that constantly thinks, sees and believes negatively.
Sure, life can be tough. But it can be good too. A negative person only (or mostly) sees the bad.
Most of the time you get what you see, think and believe.
7. Family Dysfunction
I often refer to this as relational dysfunction.
How you were raised plays a big role in how you face life.
Think back to Cila’s story. Her father’s attitude shaped how she dealt with problems in life. It impacted how she related to her world, including her spouse and friends.
Now that we have identified the types of baggage that clutter our lives, it’s time to discover how to deal with that junk.
Here is the first of 6 Steps To Getting Rid Of Your Baggage. This is Part One. You will find the other two parts here (Part 2) (Part 3).
The first step is to recognize you have baggage.
Sometimes we simply need to get our head out of the sand and face the fact that garbage from the past is affecting our life.
This requires truth. Telling our self the truth must become a priority if we are to get rid of the junk that is making our life miserable.
Below are eight steps to take if you want to get rid of your baggage.
I’ll give you a heads up: This isn’t easy. But it is necessary if you want to finally throw out the junk in your head and heart that is keeping your relationship frozen.
1. Be honest
Progress can’t be made as long as you live in a fantasy world.
Harsh? Maybe. But the truth is until you get honest with yourself about your life, you will not make progress.
It’s unfortunate that many people choose the path of fantasy because it’s painful to look at life in the face and deal with the hurts, wounds, regrets, and failures.It's unfortunate that many people choose the path of fantasy because it's painful to look at life in the face and deal with the hurts, wounds, regrets and failures. Click To Tweet
Facing the facts is the initial step you must take in acknowledging your baggage.
2. Make a list of the behaviors you want to change.
Write them down. Don’t just think about them, put them on paper.
Something happens when we write stuff down. So put those ugly issues down on paper.
3. Make a list of the negative attitudes you have that keep you from the life you want.
Behaviors are not the real issue. It’s the thoughts and attitudes we have that make us DO the bad behaviors.
So it’s good to list the behavior, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper.
And yes, write these little buggers down. Get them out of your head and into your journal (or notebook) so you can take a good hard look at them.
4. Keep track of the negative thoughts that pop up in your mind.
I know you might be thinking, ‘Not again,’ but you need to write these thoughts down.
Any time you have a negative, self-sabotaging thought, make a note of it.
What did that inner voice just say to you?
What language did it use?
We will deal with these thoughts later.
5. List the big, major events in your life where you were hurt, wounded, and disappointed.
These should be the ‘big’ things. We all experience daily disappointments. I’m not talking about how the pipes under the sink leaked water onto the floor. Or how the laundry is piling up.
No. List those big, hairy hurts that make you think and respond the way you do in situations.
This requires you to get in touch with your true self.
If you were violated sexually as a child, write it down.
If your boyfriend cheated on you and it makes you not trust men in your life, write it down.
If you father abandoned you, write it down.
I call these ‘life altering events.’ Write them all down.
A Word Of Warning:
I want to caution you about something. This exercise is not meant to be a pity party. In fact, we want to do the opposite.
We are not doing this to empower those events, but to strip them of their power.
If you get this wrong (if you approach this as an opportunity to feel sorry for yourself) you will add injury to injury.
I’m a big believer in using the power God gave us (our minds, heart, and spirit) to change how those events affect us. It begins with understanding the purpose of documenting those events.
Please get this right.
6. Reflect on the things you’ve written down.
It’s time to take a look at the things on our list (journal, notebook).
Study them. Contemplate how those things have impacted your life.
Remove yourself from the emotions of the events and see them for what they are – events.
7. Accept that those things (the ugly events) happened to you.
This doesn’t mean we give in to their power. Rather we acknowledge those things so we can deflate them.
Chris Hart says:
Acceptance is taking the emotion out of the events around us and seeing them for what they are. Acceptance can be thought of as removing the positive and the negative of the event and seeing it from a pragmatic perspective. When you accept something, you are no longer attached or clouded by the emotion.
8. Realize you are more than the events in your life.
You must cultivate this thought. You are more than what happened to you.
Bad stuff happens to everyone. That doesn’t minimize what happened to you. But it should put in perspective.
Once we acknowledge our baggage it’s time to move on the next step: Talk About It
We will cover that and more in Part 2.
Wrapping It Up
Past baggage controls us in a lot of ways.
Sometimes we say things then wonder where those thoughts and words came from.
At times we feel fear, hurt and disappointment yet cannot put our finger on it.
Maybe our relationship is suffering because we can’t seem to trust our spouse even though we have no reason not to.
Past baggage manifests in many ways.
But it always affects our life and marriage in negative ways.
Learning how to deal with the past is crucial if you want a healthy marriage.
In this article we covered several types of baggage we bring to relationships and the first step in dealing with those issues – Acknowledge it. This series will cover 6 steps to deal with the baggage in your life that is affecting your life and marriage.
Here’s a quick review:
- Types of Baggage
- Acknowledge It
- 1. Be honest
- 2. Make a list of the behaviors you want to change.
- 3. Make a list of the negative attitudes you have that keep you from the life you want.
- 4. Keep track of the negative thoughts that pop up in your mind.
- 5. List the big, major events in your life where you were hurt, wounded, and disappointed.
- 6. Reflect on the things you’ve written down.
- 7. Accept that those things (the ugly events) happened to you.
- 8. Realize you are more than the events in your life.
Resources for this Article
For more help, ideas and tools on this topic. Check out these resources:
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
If you want specific help for your marriage, or you want to know your healthy marriage score, take the marriage quiz. You’ll get immediate access with suggestions on how to improve your relationship.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System’ by Lee Baucom.