10 Hidden Sources of Emotional Baggage You Should Know About
As experts understand, emotional baggage is any unaddressed or unfinished emotional stressors and wounds that take up space in our hearts and minds, causing distress in our present – either intentionally or unintentionally. Over the years, the term “emotional baggage” has come to be associated with negative implications that have a direct influence on our lives.
Here’s an example of emotional baggage or trauma and how it affects us; If someone has been neglected or emotionally abused as a child by a parental figure, say for example a father, then they may develop “daddy issues”, making it harder for them to trust older men.
However, this is a very obvious cause and type of emotional baggage that affects our life, and particularly, our relationships. The emotional baggage that most of us cart along with us is tied to unresolved trauma. Childhood neglect, abuse, trauma, or other negative experiences that are unaddressed and unresolved still are just the most obvious ones.
Some sources of emotional baggage go beyond these obvious ones and that’s what we’re exploring in this article. Let’s take a look at the 10 hidden sources of emotional baggage and how to get rid of them.
Hidden Sources of Emotional Baggage
1. Childhood Emotional Manipulation
Childhood abuse is not just physical or verbal, but can also be emotional. Emotional manipulation is subtle and the damage this abuse causes is not even realized until adulthood. You might have a great relationship with your parents, but still can’t understand where the anxiety and anger come from.
For example; if you’ve been raised on constant criticism, then you constantly think that you’re not good enough. Or if you were upset as a child, then you were not encouraged to express your emotions freely and now you repress your emotions.
Just like what we think about abuse, we think about discrimination and microaggression. Microaggressions are very subtle and can stick to our subconscious mind well into our adulthood. Examples of microaggression can include;
- Being questioned about your experiences
- Having your ideas and opinions dismissed without reason
- Facing subtle discrimination, racism, and stigma
These kinds of microaggressions can eventually pile up and take home in your mind, causing your emotional baggage to get heavy.
3. Being a Victim/Witness of a Crime
Yes, even when you witness or are a victim of a crime, it can add to your emotional wounds and stressors. Here’s an example; if you’ve ever experienced Breaking and Entering, then you might not feel safe in your home. Just like that, if you’ve ever been scammed or betrayed, then you might develop trust issues and feel wary of developing new relationships as you feel emotionally unsafe.
In a physical brawl, you can be interrupted by another, right? To stop things from escalating? But what if you’re not? What if you’re hit badly? Well, in that situation, you’re likely to remember the trauma of it, days and weeks after the fact.
Now, imagine an emotional conflict. In an emotional conflict, if the conflict is unresolved, what will happen? The mistreatment can wear on you and if not resolved, can become a source of emotional baggage.
5. Fear or Threat to Well-Being
The fear or threat to your well-being can also be another overlooked source of emotional baggage. Maybe you’ve had to deal with a chronic illness or a life-threatening illness for some time. That’s bound to leave some emotional wounds, right?
Maybe after being optimistic about things, you lost a loved one to an illness. This can cause a sort of paranoia in some people, adding to the weight of their emotional baggage.
Negative words spoken by yourself or others can also cause emotional wounds, hard to erase. Constant criticism as a child can bleed into adulthood and haunt you for the rest of your life if not addressed.
For example; as a child, you had braces and were made fun of by your family and friends for having crooked teeth. This kind of mockery, even as an adult with a perfect set of teeth, can cause self-criticism and worry.
7. Fear of The Unknown
When you feel insecure about your future, it can cause anxiety and emotional instability. The fear of the unknown is another hidden source of emotional baggage that we’ve failed to understand and recognize. Some people are afraid of the effects of climate change, natural disasters, etc., and have become paranoid or anxious about it. This fear can also influence the way you live your life.
8. Living on Others’ Expectations
Another overlooked source of emotional baggage you should know about is; expectations. Not just yours but others’ expectations. While it’s easy to see how social media has allowed us to stay in touch with others, it has also encouraged us to set expectations and live on others’ expectations.
You may feel that you’re unloved because you don’t fit the cultural or societal norms. Or feel alienated because you like different things. This kind of expectation can eventually weigh you down and add to your emotional wounds more, causing depression, anxiety, social disorders, etc.
9. Guilt And Regrets
Sometimes the weight we carry around has nothing to do with what others have done to us but what we have done to others. Guilt and regrets can be the causes of emotional baggage too. For example; you may have unintentionally or intentionally manipulated your previous partner because you were upset and now it’s the guilt of doing something wrong that’s eating you.
This kind of regret can play on a loop in your mind and add to your distress. While it’s not possible to go back and change things, you still have an opportunity to change, so take it while you can.
Some people use their victimhood as an honorable thing to elevate sympathy and pity in others. For example; At some point, you may have experienced something upsetting in life and you’ve decided that that experience has scarred you for life.
This makes you want to receive sympathy and pity from others. You may also believe that you have a right to be pitied because of all your bad experiences. You may not realize this, but at some point, you may stop caring about others’ experiences and suffering because “it can’t be greater than yours”.
This is just another example of emotional baggage. This victimhood can stop you from living as your true self and can eventually affect your life and relationships. After all, who wants a partner who complains all the time?
Just like any other baggage, it’s easier to haul around your emotional baggage than empty it to make space for uncomfortable emotions. However, just like any other baggage, you don’t have to carry your emotional baggage around forever. With time and patience, learn to resolve your unaddressed trauma and emotional stressors to feel lighter. Trust me, once you learn to empty your emotional baggage, you’ll feel light-hearted, instantly.
One of the most important ways of letting emotional baggage go is by identifying the sources of emotional baggage, noticing its influence on your relationships, and slowly letting go of unresolved emotions. If you need it, then you can ask for help from a mental health professional. It’s OK to reach out for help!
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