Types Of Emotional Baggage, Its Signs, And How To Deal With Them. 

Types Of Emotional Baggage

Emotional baggage can be problematic when we do not resolve it promptly. We have been through a dynamic event that left us sad, anxious, or in immense pain. It is not a great feeling; I can vouch for that.

There are several reasons why we hold onto that feeling- I believe when we are still not ready to let go of the emotional baggage, it is due to the memories. Be it a romantic relationship or a spiritual one, relations where we are emotionally involved leave an impression.

So much so that we may have come to the point of incorporating their mannerisms into our lives.

From the way they talk to the way they might prefer their coffee, you remember it all. You may find yourself thinking of the past while it still hurts, but the smile it puts on your face keeps you hooked.

The following sections provide a complete rundown on the heavy baggage of the emotional kind.

What Is Emotional Baggage  

Before we unpack the types of emotional baggage and how to deal with them, let’s identify what it is. Urban Dictionary defines emotional baggage as “Painful memories, mistrust and hurt” carried from previous relations, especially from emotional rejection.

These are usually unprocessed, often negative emotions that have stayed on from past experiences.

This unprocessed ‘wound’ can impact the current relations and cause issues due to the hurt and doubt that may still exist. Negative connotations relate to emotional baggage, leading to poor connections.

This has led to a stigma around this trauma.

The term emotional baggage is hurtful and disrespectful to the individual experiencing it. Thus, the article will use the word sparingly, using a synonym such as unresolved trauma wherever possible.

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Types Of Emotional Baggage

Unresolved trauma can take different forms. There are seven main types of emotional trauma:

Fear  

The most common example of emotional baggage is fear. The fear of something terrible happening has come to mind at least once when you are emotionally invested in a relationship. It was so severe that I struggled to fall asleep well.

There are several reasons a person could feel this way. However, the primary cause of fear in a relationship is an experience of a parent’s absence or an abusive relationship. The possibility of it repeating scares a person, leading to issues.

Guilt  

Mistreating your partner in a previous relationship or cheating on your last partner can give rise to guilt. This can make you feel as if you do not deserve to be in a happy relationship.

If you give yourself that time, you must recognize that this comes from fear and lack of control over the situation. The current relationship does not deserve it from you, nor must you remain guilty about the situation.

Regret  

If you have never experienced this type of trauma, let me tell you, it is pretty bad. No matter what you do. There will be days when there will be ways you can overcome this trauma and enjoy your new relationship.

PTSD  

Some people may have had such an experience that they develop signs of a mental condition. PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the severest of the emotional baggage that a person can experience.

This usually occurs when an individual has been through an abusive relationship where they may have experienced assault- either sexually, mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Someone with PTSD may constantly feel unsafe in their current relationship, which can lead to inhibitions about the same.

Self-criticism   

We’re all our worst critics, which is healthy to an extent when we better ourselves wherever there is scope. However, when someone has been constantly criticized in their past relations (platonic, parental/romantic), it can directly affect the current connections.

Especially how one views themselves in it.

This is another form of trauma born when someone in their previous relationship was constantly made to feel ‘small’ or not worthy of their partner’s attention. This is usually a projection of self-doubt that can make a person criticize.

What Causes This Unresolved Trauma?  

Unresolved trauma can stem from several experiences. There isn’t one that can be pinpointed. Not addressing one’s trauma can result in these negative emotions piling up to form a mountain of unresolved trauma.

The hindrance some of us create for ourselves can further delay the healing process. When we prevent ourselves from experiencing the emotions, we set ourselves up to develop unresolved trauma.

Common causes are:

  • Poor relationship with partner or parents
  • Abusive family relationships
  • Betrayal in either platonic or romantic relations
  • Compromise on trust.

These are some of the common reasons why a person may develop unresolved trauma. However, you can also go through this when you are

Signs You Have Unresolved Trauma  

If you have emotional baggage, you should know the signs to recognize them. These may help you cope with it and develop a better response. The following are the signs:

Easily Triggered  

When viewing your current relationships from the lens of your trauma, you are bound to be at the edge. The primary issue with it is that you will be easily triggered by anything that reminds you of the previous relationship.

You may have noticed yourself feeling agitated or irked by the mannerisms demonstrated by a person in your present relationship. This is a sign that you see a reflection of your previous relationship in this one.

Thinking About Past Relations   

I recognized this sign when I was unprepared to address my unresolved trauma. In retrospect, I realized that I would often think of my past relationships and let my thoughts go awry.

It would then affect my mood, and I would develop a negative outlook until I shifted my thoughts. My therapist’s explanation made my jaw drop; the closure that I did not get from my previous relationships affected my thoughts and made me think of it constantly.

Controlling Behavior  

When you recognize you have become controlling in your relationship, you should recognize the signs of unresolved trauma. This can be seen as controlling who your partner interacts with, spends their time with, or the activities they indulge in.

This control stems from previous experiences where you lacked loyalty, which can jeopardize the situation. The following video can help recognize what is categorized as controlling behavior.

Codependence   

The idea of ‘fixing’ someone is prominent in these types of relations. In a codependent relationship, one can feel responsible for caring for the other person’s needs. You can feel this way when past connections have made you feel responsible for the other’s needs.

You can have low self-esteem due to the lack of self-priority or unmet needs that can affect your relationship with the person.

Intrusive Thoughts Or Nightmares  

There are a lot of ways through which intrusive thoughts become a trauma response. When you recognize a thought being different from the usual thoughts you are prone to. These thoughts are usually found to interrupt daily activities, which is how you acknowledge your unresolved trauma.

Similarly, if you have experienced a traumatic relationship, you may have nightmares about those moments. A friend recently started seeing a therapist for her unresolved trauma, which she told me about.

She had shared that she was experiencing “weird dreams” that woke her up to realize she was terrified of people going away.

Being Easily Startled And On-Guard  

This one is a personal discovery that I experienced recently. I became easily startled and remained on guard for most of my relations. When I shared this with my therapist, she suggested it may be due to a traumatic childhood.

Also, a sign of PTSD connects to anxiety that you may have. A study demonstrated that someone with PTSD may release stress hormones even if they are no longer in danger. This makes them extremely alert and prone to being startled easily.

Self-Isolation And Withdrawal   

Another sign of having unresolved trauma is cutting off social ties and isolating oneself from such settings. This comes when you have been abandoned in the past or were constantly misunderstood- you develop this as a response.

Alternatively, the fear of rejection can also drive us to self-isolate, which can be due to self-esteem issues. In the first session with my therapist, I wasn’t aware I would discover that my preference for solitude was a trauma response.  

Disordered Eating Or Addictions  

When you see a disorder in your eating habits that necessarily does not benefit you, it is a trauma response. Usually, internalized criticism gives rise to eating disorders that may even result in addictions.

It was also found that people with unresolved trauma may develop signs of addiction to alcohol or other substances. One study reported unresolved trauma was a significant issue in people unable to overcome their substance addiction.

Trust Issues  

Trust issues are another sign of unresolved trauma due to past betrayals, which can interfere with current relations. The experience of traumatic events can significantly influence one’s ability to trust someone again. People with adverse childhood experiences or a history of abuse are prone to develop trust issues.

Trust issues can delay the time one invests fully in a relationship. This can also relate to intimacy issues with their romantic partner or affect opening up to a platonic relationship.

Intimacy Issues  

Interrelated to trust issues, intimacy issues can be another sign of trauma. When someone has been through traumatic experiences in the past- usually related to abuse, they tend to face this issue. This hinders their ability to trust fully.

When our body is in survival mode, we can face emotional and physical intimacy issues. This requires the nervous system to return to normal, which is impossible when there is a deep-set wound.

Stigma Surrounding Unresolved Trauma  

The impact of these unprocessed emotions on the present relations has led to a stigma around it. You must have heard people around you joke about it, while some don’t believe in its existence.

It is pretty hurtful for the person going through it; they are forced to bear the emotions. While also having to carry the stigma around their trauma. Emotional baggage in a relationship is a mix of insecurities and inhibitions resulting from unresolved trauma.

As described above, these relationships are not limited to romantic ones but also include platonic ones.

How To Deal With Emotional Baggage?   

Now comes the most challenging part of emotional baggage- resolving the trauma. The best way to ‘let go’ of emotional baggage is through professional help. They help us permanently move on from the past in a healthy manner.

As resolving a conflict requires directly addressing the issue, resolving emotional baggage requires methodically unfolding the trauma. This helps identify the areas that cause problems and impede building relations.

Other tried methods of resolving emotional baggage include-

  • Seeing the world with a positive outlook
  • investing in self-care activities,
  • Sitting with your emotions
  • Identifying the origin of your pain
  • Identifying the solution
  • Learning to let go

I tried these steps and found them to be helpful. Even though experiences differ for everyone, I tested these steps after thorough research. It is foremost beneficial to allow yourself the time to overcome your trauma.

This includes the time you have recognized the signs of trauma and when you decide to resolve it. Dealing with anxiety, among the other trauma symptoms, requires patience, compassion, and trust in yourself.

With time, I noticed it was easier to let go, and the triggers did not affect me.

Conclusion  

I hope this article helped you clarify the trauma you may have been avoiding. The best thing to do when (and if) you recognize the signs of unresolved trauma in you is to seek professional help. The triggers you may relate to from the article can help you resolve the issue immediately.

Resolving emotional baggage requires patience, professional help and an understanding of ourselves so that we can best help ourselves.

If you or someone you know is experiencing unresolved trauma or any signs of it, The National Mental Health Hotline provides professional support at 866-903-3787.

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