Is Your Emotional Baggage a Ticking Time Bomb?

Unpack your pain before your suitcase explodes in the holding area

A woman with a large suitcase.
Photo by milad sefidfard on Unsplash

Not all relationships are smooth sailing. But the individuals involved aren’t necessarily bad guys by choice. They act as triggers for hidden issues. Inner work can help you diffuse those time bombs in your heart and stop them from igniting.

“This was one of those moments when I realized that my emotional baggage, once a few neatly packed pieces, was now like the Joads’ truck, stacked high with old clothes, half a rocking chair, a mule, all barely secured with twine.” — Amy Cohen

When relationships trigger old pain

You don’t always notice anger, sadness, abandonment, or intimacy trigger a deep-seated memory of pain until someone steps into your path and pushes your buttons.

When they are on the brink of leaving you, loving you, or doing something else that worries you, your fears rise like firecrackers and pop.

The relationship might be bad for you, and it’s wise to break free. Or, your circumstances may offer an opportunity to work through old difficulties that seek an outlet. If so, you’ll emerge as a more balanced, joyful person as you take that journey. Then similar future relationships will not light the fire of anxiety.

When are relationships toxic?

Toxicity arises when a relationship takes far more positivity from you than it gives back. Someone may seem charming, yet put you down, drain your finances and energy, or be aggressive.

These are unhealthy alliances. They stunt your development rather than offer growth, so you have nothing to gain from them.

Such relationships harm you because they stimulate agony, not happiness. But you can let them highlight what not to do so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

After falling down a well, you know to walk around similar holes in the ground when you come across them. The same goes for toxic relationships. You can let them help you recognize alliances with similar traits, for instance, and avoid them.

When hard relationships bring personal development

“Baggage is just the lies you tell yourself about the way things are. Those lies clutter up and obscure a clear perception of the world and other people.” — Annette Vaillancourt

Caring relationships aren’t always easy. They differ from the toxic variety but sometimes present challenges. Underneath them, however, lives compassion.

For instance, a friend might challenge your behavior if they believe what you’re doing could hurt you. Their interference could seem overbearing and unwanted. Yet, love propels it, and a lesson is in the offing.

At other times relationships are challenging because they cause unresolved issues to rise from your psyche. A new partner flirts harmlessly with a colleague, meaning nothing by the interaction, and it fans the flames of fear of abandonment in you.

Or a friend forgets to call you when you expect them to and ignites your fear of rejection. They are distracted by something or swept away in a tide of happiness while they potter in the garden. Their memory lapse doesn’t signal they love you less than yesterday and prefer their flowerbeds.

Recognize the chance to grow

“In our unpacking process, we must own it before we can disown it!” EL — Evinda Lepins

When a loyal friend seems critical or a new love’s behavior, although not intrinsically outrageous, bothers you, stop. Pause long enough to ask yourself where your feelings began.

Are old emotions reigniting? Did they start long ago when you were afraid of being left? Or when you didn’t get what you needed to thrive as a child? And perhaps your present circumstances gave them a new life?

Once you recognize triggers and note where they first arose, you can re-imagine the old painful experiences that dwell at their source. The idea isn’t to deepen injury and suffering but to process unfinished business so it can’t overwhelm you.

When painful memories leave traces in your mind and body, it hurts. They stick because they are unfinished business you need to manage. The life lessons beneath them are yet to be uncovered and provide wisdom.

People manage challenging experiences best when they uncover constructive meaning. They realize how difficulties made them more sage-like or kind. Or how the past taught them to survive in tough times or know what to avoid later.

The bottom line is meaningless pain sticks until you transform it. Model it into a tool for growth, and it will cease to be a dragon snapping at your heels. Make it a slain monster that strengthens your resolve.

Some relationships fan the flames of unfinished business and raw hidden emotions. Recognize when to ditch a hurtful union or make the most of the lessons offered, and you’ll avoid conflict and diffuse those deep-rooted time bombs.

Bridget Webber is a writer and nature lover, often found in the woodland, meadow, and other wild places. She writes poetry and stories and pens psychology articles; her love of discovering what rests inside the thicket and the brain compels her to delve deep. She’s appeared in many leading publications and ghostwrites for professionals who can’t spare the time to pen compositions.

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✨ Bridget Webber

✨ Bridget Webber

5.4K Followers

Writer, former counselor, author, and avid tea drinker learning how to live well.