New Castle News

July 2, 2012

Lisa Madras: Traveling light? Or would you like to check your ‘bags?’

Lisa Madras
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Are you holding on to something that you need to let go of?

The common metaphor used for those of us who carry our burdens around is baggage, as in "Boy, does she have a lot of baggage."

Yeah, that's me for sure.

We have to remember that every single person we encounter has arrived on the scene with suitcases full of past experiences. We tend to think of those with emotional baggage being as obvious as the old American Tourister commercial, where the gorilla smashes and bashes a suitcase around its cage. It's apparent that this unhinged primate has a problem with his baggage, just like it's obvious that a drug addict or alcoholic has problems with his.

The rest of us are just banging our suitcases around inside our heads.

Most of us trudge along through our days hauling our bags of pain and rejection and disappointment without even fully realizing the burden it puts on us, and on those around us. We drop a little mistrust here, a little animosity there, as though even our imaginary tote bag can no longer handle the weight of the load and just has to let something fall by the wayside. (Think "path of destruction" here, not "improvement.")

It's this sneaky sort of baggage, the one that we've been carrying so long that it's become a part of us, that really pulls us down, stifles us, eats away at who we are. Sometimes it manifests itself as an addiction of some sort — to drugs or alcohol, to food, to certain destructive behaviors.

Always, it manifests itself in how we perceive ourselves, and in how we relate to others. Often, it keeps us from ever reaching our full potential in life.

Over the course of the years, we take our emotional pain and attempt to bury it out of sight where we think it can no longer hurt us. What we're really doing, though, is basically tossing it into a backpack — right alongside the hurt before that, and the hurt before that. It isn't hard to see how quickly it can all pile up and become too much to handle.

I'm not going to try and play amateur psychologist on this one. It's really too far out of my reach to help anyone figure out what's weighing down their souls, especially when I'm not even sure what all is down in the dark, dirty bottom of my own backpack. All I know for sure is that we're all walking around schlepping along some carry-ons that might be better checked at the gate — and sent in the OPPOSITE direction of our destinations.

We have to first understand that all of this stems from negative emotions connected to a past experience. Is the emotion based on fact or belief? How much has changed since you formed that response? Does the evidence you've gathered in subsequent experiences support your continued reaction, or are you simply reacting to the story you keep replaying inside your head? (Hint: the answer to that is probably "B.")

Like a good friend pointing out the broccoli in your teeth, I thought it would be nice of me to ask: Where the heck do you think you're going with all those bags?

It's your job to open them up and see if there's anything you're willing to let go of.