Broken hearts, traumatic experiences, and toxic relationships are things we cannot avoid in life.
However, if we don’t deal with the pain we experience, it begins to pile up until it becomes a heavy suitcase full of demons we drag around with us…
If you’re wondering whether you’ve really let go of your emotional pain or if it’s still attached to you, you’re in the right place.
As someone who carried a lot of emotional baggage for several years and then finally did the work to let it go (yay!) I’ve developed quite an eye for spotting unresolved trauma.
Here are 8 things you may unknowingly do if your emotional baggage exceeds the weight limit!
1) You push others away
Emotionally wounded people struggle to develop close connections with others due to fear of getting hurt. So they keep everyone at arm’s distance.
As a result, their relationship never gets past the superficial level.
If the other person attempts to get closer to them, they will likely react by unconsciously pushing them away and may even end the relationship altogether.
This is why people with emotional baggage are often seen as people who are afraid of commitment.
But here’s the truth:
They are not afraid to commit; in fact, what they want more than anything is a loving, committed relationship.
However, their unresolved trauma causes them to create a protective barrier around their heart.
If you struggle to commit to someone, even if you like them a lot, this is a huge sign that you’re carrying around unresolved emotional baggage.
The problem with this is while you cannot get emotionally close to someone, you also hate being alone, which results in the following…
2) You jump from relationship to relationship
Many different types of emotional baggage can create a fear of being alone. This could be due to childhood abandonment or a series of past rejections.
These things significantly lower your self-worth and affect your self-image, making it challenging to enjoy alone time.
When you are alone, you have to face your demons, which is damn right painful. So the easiest way to avoid this is to (constantly) seek out the company of others.
This is why one typical behavior of people carrying emotional baggage is serial dating.
You’ve probably come across these people multiple times. They are never single, but they are also never in a long-term relationship.
They often pretend they enjoy this lifestyle; each time you see them, they may boast about their latest fling. However, deep inside, they are seriously hurting and are not proud of their promiscuity at all.
3) You always expect the worst
Another thing that prevents emotionally wounded people from having successful relationships is an inner paranoia that everything will go wrong.
This often shows up as fearing your partner will leave you or cheat on you, especially if your emotional baggage is due to this happening in the past.
Here’s a personal example:
When I had unresolved emotional baggage, I feared my partner would leave me after every minor disagreement. This is because I couldn’t understand that disagreements in relationships are totally normal, and one argument does not mean it is over.
Because I had this belief, I would avoid conflict at all costs, which is another common thing people with emotional baggage do…
4) You avoid confrontation
If your instinct is to run away whenever a problem arises in your relationship, you likely have some emotional baggage.
Healthy relationships involve honest communication; if one person is unhappy about something, they will approach the other to let them know. Both partners will then work to solve the issue.
If you have emotional baggage, it never goes this way.
If your partner does something to annoy or hurt you, you just ignore it and brush it under the carpet, creating resentment further down the line.
And if your partner raises an issue with you, you will tell them what you think they want to hear to prevent it from turning into an argument.
For example, you will likely say something like, “I’m sorry, you’re right. I won’t do that again,” rather than discussing what happened and why.
This brings me to the next behavior…
5) You over-apologize
For emotionally wounded people, over-apologizing is a way to keep the peace. A dysfunctional family set-up during childhood is one type of emotional baggage that causes this.
Let me explain:
Imagine when you were young, your parents constantly blamed you for their problems or abused you (physically or verbally) whenever you made a mistake.
After a few times, you realized the best way to respond and not escalate the situation was to apologize, even if you did nothing wrong.
Over-apologizing then quickly becomes a habit that you carry over into adulthood.
As an adult, you unconsciously apologize in EVERY situation, including when the other person is in the wrong. For example, if someone knocks into you and spills their coffee down your top, you will likely say sorry.
We often like to see over-apologizing as just being polite.
But that’s not the truth…
In reality, we do it because we learned that this word can prevent displeasing others or causing trouble.
And talking about displeasing…
6) You constantly try to please others
In relationships, you might constantly fear that you will disappoint your partner, which could come from a past rejection or guilt from an emotional wound.
So to compensate, you continuously try to please them by putting their needs and wants above your own.
People pleasing can also appear in other areas of your life, such as work. For example, if you worry about getting fired, you will likely go above and beyond to keep your boss happy, even if that means working late every day and sacrificing your personal time.
People-pleasing stems from low self-esteem and is more than just a negative personality trait or weakness.
Many experts, including Pete Walker, a licensed psychologist and an expert in complex trauma, believe it is the “fawning” trauma response. In his research paper, The 4Fs, Pete explains that fawning is a trauma response where a person seeks safety by meeting the wishes, needs, and demands of others.
The problem with people-pleasing is that most people with this tendency want to please everyone, which is simply not possible.
As a result, they put all their time and effort into doing things for others and neglect their own well-being.
This can lead to health issues, exhaustion, and even burnout.
7) You hold yourself back
While carrying around emotional baggage often impacts your relationships, it can affect all areas of your life.
Carrying a heavy burden on your shoulders can cause many challenging emotions, including:
This lowers your self-image, so you may not think you are worthy of happiness, love, success, etc.
As a result, people with emotional baggage tend to self-sabotage, which can show up in many forms, such as:
- Not going for a promotion at work
- Staying in a job you hate
- Canceling on your dream date
If you often make excuses not to go after what you want, such as “I would do that but…” this could be a sign that you have emotional baggage holding you back.
8) You struggle with addiction
Finally, scientific research shows that trauma, especially during childhood, is linked to addictive behaviors such as substance abuse.
For example, a 2021 study in Am J Mens Health interviewed seven men who had experienced childhood trauma and had a history of drug abuse. They found significant evidence to suggest the participants turned to drugs as a coping mechanism due to their unresolved trauma.
However, it is not just drug and alcohol addiction that can occur due to emotional baggage.
For me, it was food…
I would “keep it together” by eating healthy during the week, then on the weekend, when I didn’t have the distraction of work, I would find myself binge eating.
Many people with addictions like to tell themselves what they are doing is not a problem and that they are in control of it.
I sure did.
I would tell myself that I deserved to treat myself after a stressful week and ignore the truth that the quantity of food I consumed was unhealthy.
Only once you accept and deal with your emotional baggage can you see these harmful habits and behaviors for what they are and begin the process of changing them.
If you see yourself in any of the above habits, don’t beat yourself up. Chances are you’ve already done enough of this!
But don’t ignore it either.
Instead, you must face it head-on by revisiting your past and fighting those demons.
The thought is terrifying, I know. But if you want to experience true happiness and love, you can no longer avoid this.
You’ve got this!