One summer when my children were younger, we spent a week or so at the beach. It was one of our favorite vacation destinations.
When we first arrived we were excited to hit the ocean and play in the sand. The first thing we did was get our rafts, surf boards and gear so we could hit the waves. We had a blast.
As evening approached I was tired from driving, swimming and the heat of the sun. My body was running out of fuel. It was time to head to shore.
As I began to swim to make my way in, I realized the undertow was dragging me further out and to the side. The harder I tried to get to where the family was, the more I struggled.
Fortunately, I remembered what a lifeguard had told me about how to get out the current. As I navigated to one side, I eventually made my want to shore.
Undercurrents are powerful. They pull in directions you don’t want to go.
Emotional and mental baggage is like that. It is a undercurrent that drags you out to sea.
Things look one way on the surface, but underneath there is a strong pull that drags your thoughts, beliefs and feelings in a direction you do not want to go.
Dealing With Past Baggage Series Part 2
- 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
In the first part of this series we laid the foundation for how to deal with emotional baggage that damages our relationships.
We covered two main points:
The 7 Different Types of Baggage that Has to Go
The First Step on How to Deal With Baggage: Acknowledge It
In this article we will cover the next three steps in getting rid of the garbage that pollutes our life and hurts our relationships. In the final article we will close out with the last two steps.
After acknowledging our baggage it’s time to move on to Step Two:
Talk About It
A caution before we explore this:
By talking about the things on our list – the baggage we’ve discovered – I’m not referring to constantly rehearsing how bad you feel, how disappointed you are, or how ‘wrong’ life is for you.
Not. At. All.
This is self-defeating and negative.
We talk about our baggage in a way that strips it of power.
We bring it to light, so to speak, so we can understand it, and beat it.
Think About A Cockroach
I like this illustration. It’s a little wacky but stay with me.
I was remodeling a house one time (that has never been my giftset, but it had to be done). It was an older home and it had roaches.
Sometimes we would work late in the evenings. When we arrived, we would flip on the lights and roaches would scatter across the floor.
As soon as the light came on, they ran for hiding. They didn’t like the light.
I think baggage is the same way. Once we expose the junk, it leaves.
One of the best ways to get rid of pain, hurt, disappointment and rejection is to shine the light on it.
It’s as if our confession (acknowledgment) is a powerful light that chases all that stuff away.One of the best ways to get rid of pain, hurt, disappointment and rejection is to shine the light on it. It's as if our confession (acknowledgment) is a powerful light that chases all that stuff away. Click To Tweet
Again, I’m not suggesting rehearsing your problems for the sake of pity or self-loathing. Instead, we talk about it so we can have power over it.
In business, what gets measured gets improved.
In relationships (and emotional health), what gets confessed, acknowledged and pinpointed gets healed.
Refuse To Run
At this point in the journey many people bolt. Run. Abandon the process.
When you start talking about your deepest hurts, it’s easy to want to give up and resort back to your old ways.
Facing your baggage is painful for several reasons:
1. You relive the hurt.
Talking about our past can bring up vivid memories of events that wounded us. It’s necessary to expose them, but painful.
2. You have to do something about it.
Once you know the truth, you need to do something about it. At least if you want to move forward and break out of the cycle of control those events have on you.
3. You must take responsibility (not for the event but for your response).
You are not responsible for what happened to you. But you are responsible if you let that event own you.
That’s a hard statement to read. It’s difficult to write. But it’s true.
The longer you allow that event to control you, the deeper your pain will go.
Many people think because they don’t think about the pain it doesn’t affect them. Yet their lives are controlled by forces they don’t even recognize.
The pain controls them from a point so deep they think it’s just the way they are. The pain has shaped their belief and behavior.
4. You have to change. It’s always easier to do what you’ve always done.
My wife and I have a friend who is in a bad marriage. I don’t say that lightly. It’s dysfunctional and often affects his life in bad ways.
We’ve talked with him many times.
At one point Michelle said, ‘I don’t know why he doesn’t see the problem.’
As we talked about it, we both realized he didn’t WANT to see the problem because then he would have to do something about it. It was easier to simply pretend like it would get better on its own.
To move forward, make a decision to face your issues and not run.
The next step: Let It Go
Let It Go
This is the most difficult step. Letting that stuff go.
How do you let go?
You make a decision.
Don’t discount this just because it sounds naïve. It’s not.
I like what Chris Hart says about letting go.
It’s as easy as deciding not to feel harmed. However, making that decision is impossibly hard. Choosing not to feel harmed is difficult. Choosing not to be a victim is hard. Choosing not to harbor negative emotions is incredibly difficult because it interferes with our identity. If someone wrongs us, if tragedy strikes us then we always have an out to the situation. We can say: I was the victim. I was not responsible. Accepting the event. Choosing not to be the victim is incredibly difficult. It puts the responsibility on our shoulders. It makes it so we have a role to play.
Making a decision to let go is where your power is.
As long as you believe you can’t do anything about it, you will tolerate it and allow it to control you.
Once you accept that you can make a choice to let it go, you seize back that power and can control your life again.As long as you believe you can't do anything about it, you will tolerate it and allow it to control you. Once you accept that you can make a choice to let it go, you seize back that power and can control your life again. Click To Tweet
What Is Letting Go
Letting go is not forgetting. It’s not dismissing the action.
It is choosing to not allow your past to determine your future and claim your present.
It’s a lot like forgiving someone who hurt you.
You forgive even though you don’t forget.
Forgiving (like letting go) is making a choice to control your own life rather than allowing the past to control it.
It’s refusing to hold on to that offense or hurt.
It really comes down to a decision.
Yet this is where most people fail. And why they give up.
They do not believe they have the power to choose. Maybe they expect the past to change. It won’t. It can’t. The past is there. But it does not have to own you.
You have the power to choose your own destiny, life, and experience.
No. You cannot control what happens TO you. That is not what I mean. You can, however, control HOW you experience those events.
You CAN choose to not allow them access to your inner soul.
I hope you will not dismiss this simple fact. You possess the power of choice. So choose freedom. Not bondage.
How To Let Go
Now that you understand your power of choice, how do you do it? How do you let go?
The starting point and perhaps the most effective way to let go is to verbalize it.
You say it. Make your words validate your choice.
Learning To Let Go With My Mentor
I mentioned my mentor earlier. During the roughest time of my life, he gave me a sheet of paper with an affirmation on it.
One of the statements of the page was: I let [name the issue] go because it’s out of my control.
I smile as I recall those words because he would make me put my hands out in front of me as if I was literally letting go of something. Every time I said those words I had to do the hand movements.
He believed this action embedded the intent within my heart. It reinforced my commitment to those words.
I said those words hundreds (if not thousands) of times during many painful months as I went through a divorce.
In time, that verbal affirmation helped me find freedom and release from past baggage.
To this day, when I have issues, I want to let go, I say something like this:
“I refuse to allow ________________ to control my thoughts, feelings and behavior. I have the power to choose how I experience that event, so I choose to use it to be better rather than it controlling me.”
Other times thoughts have come to my mind and I simply speak:
There is something empowering and powerful when we verbalize (say) our intention. Words seem to be the language of the spirit, not just the material world.
I encourage you to work through these steps and speak your freedom. Let go by saying so.
What happens when you lose motivation? You focus on the next step: We will cover that in Part three.
Wrapping It Up
Emotional baggage is like the undercurrent in the ocean. It drags you in a direction that you don’t want to go. You find yourself helpless and powerless to manage your own feelings and behavior.
There is a path that takes us to a place of freedom and liberty from our past. These six steps are not always easy, but they are effective.
In this article we discovered three more steps to get rid of the baggage in our life.
Here’s a recap.
- Talk About It
- Refuse To Run
- Let It Go
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.