The important topics of conversation can sometimes be the most difficult to talk about. Peaceful World Foundation hosted a breakfast conversation Thursday, May 4th, around the topic of emotional baggage. The topic read as follows:
“Often times we only pay attention to the material stuff we accumulate over the course of the year. How about our emotional baggage? What tools can we practice to help us tidy up our emotional attachments?”
We welcomed friends from The Pachamama Alliance and United Religious Incentive to our breakfast table. We opened the conversation with an ice breaker, “Describe one place in the world where you are at peace.” Many participants bonded over interacting with natural bodies of water and others had their own unique interpretations of the question such as working on a puzzle and listening to NPR in the morning.
After pitching the topic of conversation, the table was initially resistant to the idea of “emotional baggage”. We discussed the negative connotations of emotional baggage and found ourselves questioning what “good emotional baggage” looks like. Good emotional baggage could be a fond memory of someone, a compliment, or even a joke that makes you laugh. What about emotional inheritance, can emotions be passed down through generations? The emotional habits of our guardians and family members can be passed down to us, such as frustration, depression, lamenting, grief, etc.
We went on to discuss what can add to our emotional baggage. One participant described an experience where she was admiring an old friend’s life through social media photos. She found herself comparing her life to her friend’s life and was feeling a bit envious. After taking a moment to reflect on her own life, she soon realized her own life was full of exciting new opportunities. In this example, social media helped add to this participant’s emotional baggage. Many other influences affect our emotional baggage such as the weather, politics, relationships, family and life experiences. The list can go on and anything that stimulates an emotional response can add to one’s emotional baggage.
I generated an analogy to lead the way into discussing our emotional processes. When I go to the emotional airport and my baggage cart is full, what do I do? Do I try to sort through my baggage myself, do I ask for assistance from an emotional stewardess or do I just wait for the airline to deal with it?
A handful of participants expressed the idea of sitting and allowing one’s self to feel the emotions. One attendant shared, “If an emotion surfaces while I am working and I know I don’t have the capacity to deal with it right then, I use it as a signal to find time for it later. It serves as a reminder to make space and time to deal with it when I have alone time.” Someone else explained that although sitting with emotions seems like the most practical practice, it can be more difficult than it seems. She went on to say what she finds most helpful is relying on her “baggage network” to participate in a sort of baggage exchange. “I will gladly help you with your emotional baggage, if you help me with mine.”
One participant expressed that this topic was not easy for her to talk about. She said she has a hard time with emotional baggage; doing things to distract herself until her baggage is overflowing. When she gets emotionally overwhelmed she finds that the process of writing is most helpful in organizing her thoughts. She uses this organizational practice to prepare herself for a meaningful conversation with a friend about her baggage. Shortly after, a member shared his experience with the cycle of grief. We have all experienced those moments that affect us in such a way that we are left with a memory that replays over and over in our minds. We discussed the amount of energy and time that is dispersed within the cycle of grief. A member explained that recognizing how much time and energy was wasted on one scenario is what helps him let it go and begin to appreciate what else his life has to offer.
Emotional baggage is a complex topic, including various methods to process and utilize our emotional experiences. We all carry emotional baggage and here are a few practices of emotional release we discovered through this week’s conversation:
- Sitting in front of my emotional baggage
- Allowing my emotions to express themselves
- Relying on a network of friends to unload
- Writing and reflecting
- The process of grief
- Share and reflect on our life journeys
- A time to replenish, recharge, and renew
- Grow in self-knowledge, ask meaningful questions, and co-create new possibilities together.