I have had the extreme fortune of being able to have many kinds of relationships. Friendships, romantic, business, and familial relationships; and the one thing I have learned is that you have to know what your "stuff" is, other wise you will acquire other people's problems without even realizing it. There is some debate as to whether we are hardwired to be social. According to Aristotle, "Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human."
Regardless if being social comes easy or takes work, the regulation of social behavior is important. Many of us, if not all, live in families and communities because it is in our nature (or at least believed to be). And because we believe that seeking the company of others will bring us joy and fulfillment, we surround ourselves with others in order to produce the feeling of inclusion. What we don't often account for is the exposure to other people's proverbial "baggage." A term used to classify people's negative obligations, memories and emotions. Simply put, it is a mix of unresolved issues, resentments, fears and insecurities that people continue to carry as they move through life.
We all have baggage. Emotional baggage can have an impact on all areas of our life. For example, issues you may have with your parents can play out in your romantic or business relationships. Consciously or more often unconsciously, we are being exposed to other's emotional baggage that may have nothing to do with our own personal journey. This is not the same as not being empathetic toward another person's circumstance. Rather it is having the ability to distinguish the difference between what is a personal problem you have to deal with because it is attributed to your own journey and what is a sole issue for someone in your life like a coworker, parent, spouse, or friend.
We all fall victim to picking up other people's personal problems. As in the case of a child, who may pick up the emotional baggage from a parent. But how do we stop it? Here are some ways to make sure that every bag you pick up, is your own.
1. Examine your history. Your history says a lot about who you are. Although our past does not define us, it can give insight into why we are making our current decisions. Accepting your past, allows you to free yourself from events or people who have hurt you. It can also permit you to clearly see what issues you may have had in past relationships. You can then determine if you have healed the issues based on whether you are still allowing them to effect you in the present.
2. Discover Unresolved Issues. The awesome thing about taking a look at your past is that you can discover issues you have long swept under the rug. The best way to conquer something is to acknowledge it. So dust off that emotional baggage and face it head on. You will be surprised by how resilient you really are.
3. Release your burdens. It can be very therapeutic to share your story. Find a mentor, or friend you feel comfortable in confiding in. Talking through your problems can have a amazing impact on how you see them effect your life. You can find other safe ways to unload your burdens by writing, painting, or singing. Putting your feelings into words can help you mentally process your experiences so you may heal.
4. Practice forgiveness. One of the key ways to move on is to forgive. While easier said than done, forgiveness can have a tremendous effect on past traumas. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation between the person who hurt you or forgetting what you have experience. It simply means you will not allow those who have hurt you to have control over your feelings or energy. You deserve to let go of resentment in order to lead a more joyful and peaceful life. Forgiveness of yourself and others is one of the most powerful spiritual tools you could have.
5. Move On. You have identified your history, discovered unresolved issues, and released your burdens to practice forgiveness, now it is time to move on. Send love and light to the people who have hurt you. It shows tremendous strength to look past ourselves to grant positive feelings to someone who has done us wrong, but it's not for them so much as it is for you. People who engage in destructive behavior are often victims of it as well. The saying "hurt people, hurt people" is very true. Know that you can end the cycle of pain by no longer being controlled by it. Be grateful for what the experience taught you. Use that hurt in accordance with your life purpose in order to help someone else.
Your past does not define you and it does not control your future unless you let it. Making sure you know your personal baggage aids in your ability to heal it. It is normal that we may get confused by what is around us. But you cannot save others until you first save yourself.