Emotional Baggage: What to do when the suitcase gets too heavy…

baggage

When I am trav­el­ling to work on the Lon­don Under­ground, one of my favour­ite things to do whil­st stood inert on the escal­at­or is to look at all the people passing me on the oth­er side (espe­cially at Water­loo and Hol­born Sta­tion!). The real­isa­tion that all these people have their own stor­ies; dreams, struggles, his­tory and have at least once con­sidered what their pur­pose is here on Earth, always awes me. I most prob­ably won’t see these people again, our paths are crossed and for that moment we find ourselves in the same place, yet we do not know each oth­er, we do not talk, they aren’t ‘Human-ised’ – they remain a stranger to my world: silent. What I do know how­ever, is that all these people have a suit­case on their head – a suit­case filled with their memor­ies, learned beha­vi­our, par­ent­al expect­a­tions, pain­ful child­hood exper­i­ences, hopes and dreams, ideals of the Self and hap­pi­ness, basic­ally everything that makes up a per­son is in this suit­case, care­fully bal­anced on the base of their head, some­times sup­por­ted by the hands if weight and imbal­ance neces­sit­ate.

As you’re walk­ing on your path, head­ing in your dir­ec­tion, per­haps stum­bling around, run­ning fast, reach­ing a fork in the road, whatever you’re doing on your path, you have your suit­case on your head. In this suit­case you accu­mu­late everything, the mind unless trained in ‘let­ting go’ becomes a sort of hoarder of exist­ence. The brain itself has the capa­city to store almost unlim­ited amounts of inform­a­tion indef­in­itely, so everything you’ve exper­i­enced, even if you can­not recall it at a moment’s notice, it is still in your suit­case, just because you aren’t con­scious of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Even if you think you have for­got­ten some­thing on the basis that that memory no longer exists, sci­ence has found for­get­ting is more akin to a tem­por­ary or per­man­ent inab­il­ity to retrieve a piece of inform­a­tion, rather than a loss of it.[1] If this suit­case becomes cluttered, heavy, full of things that no longer serve you, you stop liv­ing in the Now. You could develop anxi­et­ies for the future, depres­sions from the past, or per­haps become so con­cerned with this bal­an­cing act, pre­tend­ing that the suit­case sits just fine so that you can fit in, that the strain on your head and shoulders can be tem­por­ar­ily numbed with some med­ic­a­tion or a new purse, that you end up for­get­ting to be alive.

I had not real­ised that my suit­case had become extremely and dan­ger­ously heavy. I was not con­scious, or per­haps chose not to be con­scious of the repressed memor­ies and emo­tions, espe­cially from my child­hood – the fear of fail­ing, the messy divor­ce of my par­ents, the need to aca­dem­ic­ally be the best in order to have any self-esteem. I had exter­n­al­ised my value and self-worth onto man-made con­structs, to the point that I nev­er actu­ally felt proud of my achieve­ments, even when they placed me in the top glob­al per­cent­ile, I was not happy. I could boast about it, rely on some illu­sion of ima­gined superi­or­ity, but when it came down to basics, no amount of A*’s can ever com­pare to your real value – this is immeas­ur­able. If self-worth does not come from the core being, from You, you will nev­er be sat­is­fied.

The decep­tion of my strong found­a­tion all came crash­ing down when I found myself in a very stress­ful peri­od of my life, and I felt I could handle it, but I wasn’t aware that I was even car­ry­ing this suit­case on my head. I didn’t know I had to factor it into my sur­viv­al. I col­lapsed. This is that part of the story where you here about the life-change that happened dur­ing that break­down, you always find that people dis­cov­er a new sense of Self and who they are when they hit rock bot­tom; when they have to stand-up by them­selves, that’s nor­mally when we real­ise that hold on, I haven’t actu­ally ever done any­thing solely for myself (not out of ego, but self-com­pas­sion). This becomes an issue of sur­viv­al – not just phys­ic­al, but men­tally. From any great mis­for­tune can come the most beau­ti­ful blos­som­ing – here’s the catch, it doesn’t hap­pen by itself, it requires your con­scious and con­tinu­ous tend­ing to. That point where You change, does not need to be caused by some mag­ni­fi­cently dra­mat­ic event, there are stor­ies of people com­ing face to face with sui­cide, or per­haps ven­tur­ing out into the unknowns of the Amazon or Him­alay­as, these are all in them­selves beau­ti­ful, but your moment could be as sim­ple as sit­ting in Hyde Park feel­ing the wind, hear­ing the birds and smelling sum­mer.

What I learnt from my time at the bot­tom and going for­ward, is that there will be points in your life when you really have to stop and con­sider the weight of this suit­case. You have to have enough love and com­pas­sion for your­self to find the time and way, per­haps even help, to just get that suit­case on the ground, open it up and see what no longer serves you. See what is hid­ing in the corners, get rid of dirty laun­dry, get rid of oth­er people’s dirty laun­dry! Really con­front your suit­case, inspect it like Lon­don Heath­row does with flights from the Middle East!

If you’re brave enough, invite a pro­fes­sion­al over to help you go through what’s in your suit­case. They can be that guid­ing light, per­haps gently draw­ing your atten­tion to mater­i­al which per­haps you missed or didn’t want to see (and there’s noth­ing wrong with that – no judge­ment!). The thing with ther­apy I have found, and I have for­tu­nately had an excel­lent exper­i­ence thus far, is that it neces­sit­ates you sit­ting down with you (espe­cially if you choose psy­cho­ther­apy). I always felt I knew my Self quite well, hav­ing stud­ied psy­cho­logy and philo­sophy, I felt com­fort­able but with the Self that I had cre­ated, not with who I actu­ally was. If you’re not com­fort­able with ther­apy yet, per­haps you have a trus­ted fam­ily mem­ber or friend that feels deeply and could guide you, or next best option: books! I’ve been digest­ing these and shall post a list of self-growth books I have found par­tic­u­larly help­ful.

The suit­case ana­logy came to me when I was try­ing to explain and jus­ti­fy really the con­cept and nature of ther­apy to fam­ily mem­bers, who just really for lack of edu­ca­tion and aware­ness, weren’t famil­i­ar with ther­apy. I have found this rings par­tic­u­larly true with non-West­ern cul­tures (grant me this broad and flawed gen­er­al­isa­tion for the point of argu­ment), but dis­cuss­ing ther­apy with the Middle East­ern-side of my fam­ily was like telling them I am now leav­ing soci­ety to be tied up in a small, white, pad­ded room, that said how­ever, I am also Por­tuguese and the same lack of under­stand­ing was found on that side. Even though the men­tal-health taboo is still present in our Brit­ish soci­ety, with the rising levels of stress, anxi­ety and depres­sion repor­ted by the NHS to go up to 1 in 3 report­ing men­tal-health prob­lems by 2030, I can guar­an­tee you, mil­lions of more people are going to have to take some pauses and open that suit­case up, not just you.

Our world has led to so many of us exist­ing in a sin­gu­lar plane, that we no longer are able to con­nect with our souls (if you don’t like the con­cept soul, per­haps take it more as the ‘auto­nom­ic self’ or your ‘inner being). We spend a lot of time doing things that fail to nour­ish us, that fail to chal­lenge us, how pos­sibly could we become attuned with our minds when we are busy meet­ing pro­ject tar­gets or avoid­ing a hor­rible boss? Those of you who have the cour­age, com­pas­sion and auda­city to open your own suit­case, well that is what strength is made of. The struggle with the world is hard and exhaust­ing, but the know­ing and mas­ter­ing of one’s own mind? Well, that’s as rare as a red dia­mond.

[1] http://www.human-memory.net/processes_storage.html

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NADIA MARQUES DE CARVALHO
Through exper­i­ence Nadia explores ways to help oth­ers har­ness the power of their mind, their body and their fem­in­in­ity. Read more at nomadicwanderer.com
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About NADIA MARQUES DE CARVALHO

NADIA MARQUES DE CARVALHO
Through experience Nadia explores ways to help others harness the power of their mind, their body and their femininity. Read more at nomadicwanderer.com