5 Strategies For Leaving Emotional Baggage Behind

“Dear Orna and Matthew,

I want your help leaving my emotional baggage behind! I’ve had lots of issues around relationships and I feel like I can’t help but bring that baggage into my current relationship.

I’m almost 50 and I’m not even sure I want to be married. My boyfriend and I really enjoy each other’s company there are a lot of great things in this relationship.

He’s never been engaged or married, and I’ve been engaged a couple of times in the past but never walked down the aisle. I know I have a lot of energy around marriage and weddings… most of it not so great.

This is my stuff and I explain that to my boyfriend, however, he seems to think that it’s about him – that I don’t want to marry him. I just don’t think it makes sense to get married.

It seems that both of us are struggling to find our way through this. I truly believe he and I want the same things out of life.

How do I release the charge I have around marriage? I don’t even know how my parents got married in the first place, it seemed for my entire life that they hated each other. The majority of my friends have been married more than once, a few even three times!

How do I separate how I feel about marriage, in general, to discover if that is what I want with my beloved? I really love him and I’d like to leave my baggage in the past and decide from a clean slate what it is I truly want.”


Hi Jessica,

Thank you for reaching out and asking us about leaving emotional baggage behind. We all carry baggage from our past and the older we are the more likely it is that there is stuff we just haven’t dealt with yet.

Perhaps its Murphy’s Law, it always seems that whatever is left to be dealt with always rears its head the longer we’re in a relationship. There is always healing to be done, and deep healing through a loving partnership is certainly worthwhile.

Leaving emotional baggage behind will free you to make a choice about your current circumstance without the charge from past events coloring your mindset and your behavior.

What do we mean by leaving emotional baggage behind?

As human beings, we are wired to survive and not necessarily to thrive. This means that negative experiences are often highlighted and stick in our memory like Velcro, and positive experiences slide off our memory like Teflon.

Every negative experience you’ve had in your intimate relationships (and in your familial relationships) has left its mark on you. Some marks are minor and easy to let go of, while others shape your behavior and belief system in profound ways.

Leaving emotional baggage behind is all about releasing the emotional story that you created from the experience. The circumstances of your past don’t have to determine your future results, but in order to create change, you must be willing to release the attachment to the meaning you’ve assigned to past events.

We don’t mean to diminish what happened to you by calling it a “story.” These accounts are powerful and shape our lives. However, when these emotional stories get in the way of you creating the life you want it’s time to reexamine them and release what is no longer serving you.

Your subconscious mind likes to group experiences together and categorizes them as similar – “This is like that.” This can be a very useful tool. It allows you to quickly determine whether something is safe or unsafe, good or bad, useful or worthless.

Clumping experiences together frees up your brain’s capacity to do other things. Since you don’t have to constantly evaluate new information with your conscious mind, your tried and true strategies run on autopilot allowing you to spend time evaluating, debating, and judging.

The problem is when you have a strong emotional story that affects your behavior and keeps you from having what you want. For example: easily getting triggered and letting your emotions take over when it doesn’t serve you.

We had a client several years ago whose parents raised her in a very unstructured environment. They were easy-going hippies and wanted their children to have the freedom to explore and experience life.

Children (particularly small children) need structure in order to feel safe, and our client grew up not being able to trust her parents to take care of her. She learned that she had to be the responsible one. She only felt safe evaluating a situation and seeing how to solve a problem and taking care of things herself. She never learned to count on someone else to be capable.

As an adult, she was only attracted to men who weren’t very successful and couldn’t take care of themselves. Our client only felt safe when she was the responsible one, which meant that she had to date irresponsible men in order to feel safe in a relationship.

Plus she loved her parents, so her habitual pattern for giving love was to be the responsible caretaker and that is the role she played in her intimate relationships too. Only by healing her emotional story around being the responsible one has she learned how to receive love and support from a capable man.

You can dramatically change your relationship dynamics by leaving emotional baggage behind and creating from your true heart’s desire.

5 strategies for leaving emotional baggage behind.

  1. Identify your different types of emotional baggage.

Emotional baggage comes in many shapes and sizes. Your parents, traumatic experiences, your siblings, and your past relationships are all part of the baggage you’re carrying around.

The first step is to identify your emotional baggage. Some of it is obvious to you. You’ve probably spent hours talking to your therapist or your closest friends about it. Some of your baggage is hidden from you. It is such a part of your identity or your belief systems that you are not even aware of how it is affecting you.

Take some time and write down your beliefs about love and relationship. We suggest that you free-write (meaning you set a timer and write continuously until the timer goes off). Don’t edit yourself.

After you have created a list of your beliefs about love and relationship, go back and mark all the ones that are negative or limiting beliefs. See if you can identify the negative emotion associated with that belief. This will reveal a very important mental/emotional pattern.

  1. Take responsibility for the meaning you’ve assigned to past events.

At no time were you forced you to think a certain way, or to feel a certain way. You assigned a meaning to all of your past experiences and these shaped your view of yourself and the world around you.

These meanings then determined your belief systems. What you are capable of, your place in the world around you, and the world itself. What you decided is true about you then shaped your experiences. Ultimately, it is your inner world that creates your outer world.

Taking responsibility for the meaning you assigned and the creation of your beliefs is the doorway to create change. If you assigned meaning as a little girl, you can certainly create new meaning as a grown woman to the very same events that have kept you stuck allowing you to find the freedom of choice.

You can look at the past and decide that it is still useful for you to believe what you believe, or you can make a decision to create new meaning for those past events.

Perhaps you were raised to believe in Santa Claus or some other type of fantastical character. At some point, you discovered that Santa Claus was not real and were probably upset at this discovery.

Are you still upset that Santa Claus isn’t real?

You can change your beliefs about your circumstances but you first have to take responsibility for the meaning you gave those events.

  1. Forgive yourself, forgive your parents, and forgive your exes.

Forgiveness is for you because stepping into forgiveness frees you from the past.

As long as you are holding onto anger and resentment about the past, you are giving that person or that experience the power to control how you feel. It is only through forgiveness that you can let go of the past and make a new choice – one that serves your present intention and lifestyle.

The truth is all of us are doing the best we can with the resources we have. Some people are more resourceful than others. When we are triggered our conscious mind goes offline and we are in the reactive reptilian brain.

Leaving emotional baggage behind reduces your trigger points allowing you to remain calm and resourceful.

  1. Find the learning from the past.

Imagine that life is like a game board and every experience you have can either move you forward or backward in the game. The way that your experiences move you forward on the game board of life is that you find the reason or the learning in those events.

Everything that happens to you has the opportunity to teach you something about yourself.

Your experiences can show you where you need to grow. They can reveal your habits and behaviors that no longer serve you. These experiences can allow you to open your heart and expand your capacity to love.

Embracing the idea that everything is happening for you (and not to you) allows you to grow toward your highest and best self even when faced with huge adversities and challenges.

The plot points of your past can shape you in many ways, and when you find the learning in those experiences you are making a selection as to HOW those events will either inspire you to greatness or keep you stuck wishing and hoping for different circumstances.

  1. Focus on what brings you joy.

The majority of people are so busy trying to avoid pain and heartbreak that they miss the opportunity for more joy and happiness. You get to choose what you focus on and remember, what you focus on G-R-O-W-S!


Look for ways to expand joy in a moment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Stopping to smell a flower.
  • Going for a walk in nature.
  • Smiling at a stranger.
  • Take a news fast.
  • Eating a meal on your best china.

We live in a world of polarity with good/bad, left/right, up/down, etc. Focus on joy and you’ll experience more joy in your everyday life.

If you find this too difficult because your brain is hard-wired to look for problems you may need a little extra help. Realizing that your patterns and habits are no longer serving you is the first step toward creating change. To speed up the process of leaving emotional baggage behind you’ll need to access the part of your brain that is really running the show.

Join us for a Your Love Imprint Session and you’ll discover the hidden program that keeps you stuck repeating the same frustrating relationship issues over and over again.

About the authors

Love Coaches Orna and Matthew Walters

Orna and Matthew Walters are soulmate coaches and prolific writers about love. Finding love, keeping love, healing from heartbreak, bringing in your beloved and more. They have been published on MSN, Yahoo!, YourTango, Redbook, and have been featured guest experts on BRAVO’s THE MILLIONAIRE MATCHMAKER with Patti Stanger, and as guests with Esther Perel speaking about love and intimacy.

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