How To Let Go Of Emotional Baggage

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again. The time when all the gyms fill up, the credit card bills come in and the world begrudgingly grinds back to life. It’s the time of year when most of us think about new beginnings. We prioritize what we want to accomplish and we build elaborate life and business plans. With renewed vigour, we stoically march into battle, ready for whatever challenges and triumphs the upcoming year has in store for us.

But is it really that simple?

Most of us already know what we’d like to accomplish. Scribbling it down into an organized structure helps to clarify things for sure. But this really amounts to documenting the obvious. And yet, for many of us, certain goals prove stubbornly elusive year after year.

Why is that?

The Human Condition of More

Humans are instinctively conditioned to want more – more stuff, more status, more comfort, more happiness. If this condition wasn’t so deeply ingrained, we’d all still be as hairy as George “the animal” Steele, huddled around a fire in a cave. However, “Nirvana” (the Buddhist word for enlightenment), literally means extinguishing the flames of desire. “More” keeps us in a constant state of wanting. The only reason you feel good when you buy that new pair of shoes is because of the temporary respite from desire. The shoes themselves don’t matter much…well they do to Jimmy Choo!

Who Do You Want To Become?

Instead of thinking traditionally about how to attain our personal versions of “What?” (car, cottage, happiness, love), this year it might make sense to think more about “Who?”. Specifically, who do you want to become? The answers tend to arrive much more fluidly when we ask the right questions.

A Confession

The holidays are always a difficult time for me emotionally. And though I’m not yet at the age to be concerned about early onset dementia, every year I seem to forget this important fact.   The slower pace of the holidays always allows the pain to bubble up in me. And though I don’t like it, I believe this to be a very good thing. The best shrink I ever had once told me “the clues to healing are always in the pain”. This past week has provided me with several such “clues”. And while it’s important to feel the pain and grieve losses, healing is ultimately about letting go…letting go of past failures, painful experiences and unrewarding relationships.

True Closure

Letting go is really about freedom. Freedom is not about getting or achieving more. It’s about finding joy and fulfillment with less. In the immortal words of Janice Joplin, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. The only way new beginnings can truly gain traction is if we let go of the guilt and shame associated with emotional baggage. “More” simply adds weight.

It’s one thing to understand logically the need for an emotional purge. It’s many magnitudes harder to actually do so. You’re not alone if you know quite clearly what you need to purge, but have so far been unable to free yourself from the burden of your pain. The question on everyone’s minds usually spins to “How?”. How can we achieve freedom from past pains?

A Simple, NOT Easy Process

First, identify the source of your pains. What painful experiences, past failures or even energy-draining people would significantly lighten your load and permit you a greater sense of freedom if you could let them go?

Second, access your pain. It needs to be felt one last time. Losses require grief to transform into perspective. It’s going to suck, but it’s the only way.

Third, recognize that you have the power to change your mindset. Admittedly, this is where the going gets tough and many people simply never quite get here. Or worse, they think they have but they can’t figure out why the pain is still there. Step 4 is simply inaccessible without this mindset shift.

Fourth, make a deliberate choice. Do you want to be free of the pain or not? Many of us cling to pain like a magnet to a fridge. Ultimately we have to decide whether to play the victim or whether to rise above. Is it simple? Yup! Is it easy? No way. Don’t expect it to be…but it’s on all of us to make the choice. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t make the choice and become positively perplexed when the pain doesn’t go away.

This Year’s Resolution

Instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, almost all of which could be categorized as clamouring for something “more”, perhaps 2020 is the year to experiment with a new approach. If “becoming” is truly important to you, consider making this year’s resolution about lightening your load by letting something or someone go. And then f$%king do it!

Friends, this isn’t a huge email list. If you haven’t already unsubscribed, that tells me you’re at least getting something from these posts. My personal definition of “becoming” is quite simply to help others “become”, paid or unpaid. So I mean it sincerely when I say this…If you could use a little guidance with any of the above, just call me and I will do everything in my power to help.

Make 2020 your best year ever! 


30 Minutes

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Brent C. Wagner