My family just got back from a trip to New York
We were meeting my family for a 5-day trip to explore the city, take in the sites, and reconnect. Before leaving each of us packed our bags for the trip. My two boys and husband filled their bags about 3/4 full, while I filled my suitcase to the brim.
As a woman, my “travel needs” are definitely greater than my children, who feel they only require the basics: a couple of shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes (I would argue that they also need a toothbrush, but I digress).
I packed four kinds of shoes. I had clothes for the theatre, Times Square, the gym, biking and the possibility of a trip to the pool. My makeup, blow dryer, and toiletries were not negotiable. Neither were the laptop, Ipad, cell phone, waterproof iPod, and all the necessary chargers. I also brought books and magazines in case we got stuck somewhere without electricity (does that even happen?). Obviously, I ran out of room in my luggage. So I put the rest of my overflow into my son’s suitcase and carry-on.
The morning of the trip, I let my husband load the car (It was easier for him to lift my bag). When we got to the airport, I watched my 10-year-old haul an overloaded back-pack full of my snack items and extra reading materials. He was hunched over and walking slowly. He complained that his back hurt. The rest of us were attempting to hurry him up to make sure we didn’t miss our flight, but his load was too heavy.
My extra baggage was weighing him down.
Oftentimes in life, we carry items that we don’t need with us. Concerns of jealousy or lovability. Overreactions based on fear. “Control issues.” Projections of pain from earlier, unmet needs. Cynicism stemming from previous relationships and personal experiences that have nothing to do with our current partners or friends. And we often ask our loved-ones to carry that extra emotional baggage.
Some of the items in our bags are necessary. I wouldn’t want to leave my running shoes or cell phone out of my vacation bag. But if you are carrying additional, unneeded items with you or putting them in a loved one’s bag, you run the very real risks of causing damage or missing the “trip”.
Become A Discerning Packer
There were several things that I could have removed from my bags. Coming back from vacation, I realized that I never used the waterproof iPod or laptop. I had over-estimated the time I had available for reading and could have easily left magazines and a book at home. Rather than trying to prepare for every occasion, I could have packed more conservatively, like the rest of my family.
Almost everyone carries emotional baggage from the past. It’s part of being human. But if you struggle with overpacking, it’s time to become a discerning packer. In fact, it’s necessary for having healthy relationships.
I don’t want her to go through what I went through”
Let me give an example: I often meet with concerned mothers who fear for their daughter’s emotional stability as they move into high school. The conversation with me often reveals that the mother had her own struggles in high school, be it grades, social pressures, or rebellion. I often hear, “I don’t want her to go through what I went through” or “I don’t want her to make the same mistakes that I made.” The mother is concerned that her daughter will meet the same fate. So she creates restrictions that seem “unreasonable” to the daughter or shows a lack of trust in the daughter despite a history of honesty. The daughter feels angry and hurt because she hasn’t done anything to warrant the level of suspicion from her mother. This can be damaging to a relationship. Mom may need to unload her baggage so that her daughter doesn’t have to carry the burden of her high school experiences.
Break Free Of Emotional Baggage
If you see that you are packing unnecessary items, good job. It’s a good indication that you are ready to unburden yourself of some emotional baggage and move on with your life.
- Accept Responsibility For Your Past: Recognize it for what it was and how it impacted you. Make peace with your role in the interactions and recognize how you’ve grown from the experiences.
- Respond To Red Flags Only When You See Them: Red Flags are red so they can be spotted. If similar, unhealthy patterns in your new relationships are obvious, then, by all means, respond to them. But if they aren’t there, don’t operate as if they are (and if you find yourself struggling to get out of the cycle of unhealthy relationships, reach out for professional help).
- Differentiate The New From The Old: When we carry old baggage, we are assuming that the new relationship plays by the old rules. Your new relationship is not with your mom, dad, frenemy from high school or ex. Actively look for ways that your new relationship is different.
- Enjoy The Trip: There are no guarantees in life. It’s impossible to protect yourself from hurt and heartbreak. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth creating strong connections with family, friends and romantic partners. The fact that life is unpredictable, with twists and turns, makes each moment together that much more valuable. Focus on the present and enjoy the trip!