How to Leave Your Emotional Baggage Behind

leave emotional baggage behindAt the end of the year, it’s easy to say you will leave the past 12 months—and all the experiences you had during that time—behind but not so simple to do. You might want to leave last year’s emotional “baggage” behind, but that feels hard. That’s why most of us carry our emotional baggage with us from year to year, allowing it to weigh us down and keep us mired in old memories, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.

The brain has a tendency to dwell on the negative. Thus, we don’t focus on positive memories and emotions as often. That means we bring fewer positive memories and emotions into the future and tote an ever-larger and heavier suitcase of negative ones with us instead.

Thus, the adage: Wherever you go, there you are.

Why? Because you bring the baggage with you.

You might change locations, relationships, jobs, health condition, or degree of wealth, but you didn’t change. You are still focused on those old experiences and emotions. As a result, you brought along the old emotional baggage, opened up the suitcase, unpacked, and surrounded yourself with all those thoughts and feelings once again.

To create change, you have to stop carrying around all that old emotional baggage from year to year. That’s how you achieve different results in the new year.

Symbolic Release

Every year on New Year’s Eve, I symbolically release what I don’t want to bring into the new year. I make a list, which might include things like:

  • anger (at [name] and in general)
  • Resentment toward [name or situation]
  • lack consciousness
  • my fear of [something]
  • all the memories and thought related to the incidents covered in the news from the past year
  • Back pain
  • Thyroid issues
  • Etc.

Then I place that piece of paper into the fireplace or set it on fire in a bowl or sink. I intentionally and energetically release these things I don’t want any longer. I ask a power greater than myself for help leaving them in the past.

The symbolic and energetic release is powerful, and I believe setting that intention is a powerful act. That’s what burning the paper represents—the intention to leave these things in the past. And I believe Source (God or Creator) responds to that intention. However, after mentally focusing on the items on that list for weeks, months, or years, and doing so with a lot of emotion, it sometimes takes more than one intentional action to see or feel a difference.

Do Something Different

For that reason, you often need to actively, consciously, intentionally commit to releasing the old baggage more than once. You have to consistently do something different. Specifically, you have to stop focusing on the past and feeling the emotions that correspond with those events and experiences.

That’s the challenging part of leaving your emotional baggage at the curb. You’ve trained your brain to think about past events and experiences. Those thoughts trigger emotions in your body. To change that, you must retrain your mind to focus on the positive aspects of your past, the present moment, or the future you desire.

Each time you move your thoughts from the past to the present—or even the future, you demonstrate your commitment to intentionally leave your baggage behind. If you do this often enough, the old memories and emotions become less pronounced and prevalent in your experience. Eventually, you won’t think about the incident or feel the emotion unless you choose to do so.

This process is about choice. You choose where to focus your attention and decide what thoughts to think. And that makes it possible to choose what you feel.

If you can do this, you begin eliminating past events or emotions from that suitcase you’ve been carrying around. You might even drop them in a dumpster or your garbage can.

5 Ways to Empty Your Emotional Baggage

As I said, it can feel challenging to drop emotional baggage. That’s why so many people take their suitcases filled with memories and emotions with them…no matter where they go. They get used to lugging those heavy bags through life.

Keeping those events and emotions close at hand feels safe and comfortable. Letting them go, like getting rid of a faded and loved pair of jeans, feels like a loss. Even if those jeans no longer fit, it’s hard to get rid of them. They are uncomfortable to wear, but you try to fit into them anyway because you’ve been wearing them for years.

But you don’t have to fit into those uncomfortable past events and emotions any longer. You don’t have to keep the mementos of painful events around as reminders any longer.

There are ways to empty your emotional baggage, so the load gets lighter and the bags smaller. You might, for instance, try one of the following strategies:

  1. Hire a therapist. This is the traditional way of dealing with emotional baggage. It requires speaking with a trained professional as you work to understand and release your past.
  2. Find a support group or group counseling program. Depending upon the baggage you are carrying, you might find a support group or group run by a counselor works well for lightening the load. These groups tend to revolve around one issue, like anger or grief. You could also try a “women’s or men’s group.”
  3. Try hypnosis. You can teach yourself to do self-hypnosis or hire a hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is a fabulous way to reprogram your subconscious mind, which can help you let go of and change old memories or associated emotional triggers and reactions.
  4. Visualize yourself living without emotional baggage. Visualization does a super job of reprogramming the mind as well. Imagine what you and your life will be like when you no longer have the emotional baggage.
  5. Act as if you are a person with no emotional baggage. Decide to be a person who has already emptied out the suitcase or thrown away it’s contents. If you had no emotional baggage, how would you behave? How would you act? Just do that now.

A Powerful Image

I’ve always loved the lyrics from Jackson Brown’s song, “The Late Show.” They speak to the idea of leaving your negative emotions behind and create a powerful image of doing so:


It’s like you’re standing in the window

Of a house nobody lives in

And I’m sitting in a car across the way

(Let’s just say)

It’s an early model Chevrolet

(Let’s just say)

It’s a warm and windy day

You go and pack your sorrow

The trash man comes tomorrow

Leave it at the curb, and we’ll just roll away

Imagine that you pack up your negative thoughts, experiences, and emotions and put them in black garbage bags. See yourself putting them by the curb and driving away unencumbered by any of that in the future.

Of course, you can keep those large suitcases that you used to carry your past forward with you. Now that they are empty, fill them with all the positive memories and emotions of your life. A bag like that will never feel heavy and is well worth carrying into the future.

Have you found a way to get rid of your emotional baggage—or are you struggling to do so? Leave me a comment below. And please share this post with your friends.

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Photo courtesy of Jed Owen .

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