*cues Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”*
I have been working on a self-care activity for my coaching clients called “the emotional suitcase.” I was first introduced to this concept by Alex Elle and decided to adapt it not only for my clients, but also for myself.
If you were unaware, I am here to tell you: life can be challenging. As we journey through our own personal experiences, trauma and emotions tend to follow. We start to carry “things” around with us that shape who we are, how we feel, and how we navigate being. These emotions get stuffed into our emotional suitcase and start to take up room. Unless we intentionally unpack and evaluate what we are carrying around, we end up not having room for other emotions that we may need to carry. Before you know it, your suitcase is full. Maybe you have added another suitcase, and another suitcase, and now you are carrying around all this “stuff.”
Think of this concept like this–when you travel, you pack items according to where you are going and maybe who you are going with. When you return from your trip, you unpack so your suitcase is ready for the next adventure. So why not unpack emotions the same way? In order to live life as the best version of yourself, you have to consistently unpack & pack the suitcase.
While working on this activity and reflecting on my own suitcase, I realized that sometimes other people try to pack my suitcase for me. This is not healthy, by the way. If you let someone else pack for you before you go on a trip, is it not likely that they will forget something you need or pack the wrong items altogether?
In life, when other people try to pack your suitcase for you this often looks like someone trying to influence how you feel. They may try to explicitly tell you how you should feel or express how they feel so much that now their energy has spilled over into yours.
For example, there may be a shared experience that I am not stressed or worried about, but after talking to a person about the same experience, I am now stressed and worried just because they are. They have now packed an emotion in my suitcase, and I am stuck carrying it.
Moment of transparency: I have opened my emotional suitcase and am looking at all the emotions I have been carrying around. The biggest, and heaviest, is resentment. Resentment is defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Now, do not get me wrong, I am not a bitter person; however, I do recognize that there are some bitter feelings regarding some of the relationships in my life. This prevents me from moving forward with people at times, despite having worked through whatever issues we had previously faced. It also makes it hard for me to see them in a different light, because I am reminded of how I was treated. I recognize that I need to work on this, though, because I do not want anyone harboring resentment against me. But more importantly, I do not want to be bitter in any form or fashion.
Not every emotion in your suitcase has to be negative. There are positive emotions that can be packed, and it is imperative that you make room for these as well. That is why the consistent unpacking process is so valuable. Once you unpack everything you need to be able to pack emotions that will better serve you.
Personally, peace is an example of a positive emotion that has been tucked away in my suitcase. I say tucked away because it is not something that I have always packed and it took me time to recognize that it was even there. Even though I still experience anxiety and stress, it is a lot easier for me to have peace because I am making an effort to remain calm. Things always work out according to God’s plan in the end, so it does help the journey if I am not as worried or fearful.
What is in your emotional suitcase? Stress, anxiety, grief, or anger may be taking up space. You might be surprised and find love, joy, and understanding in there too. If this concept is new to you, it is time to do some work. Set some time in your schedule so that you can truly pay attention to this activity. You owe it to yourself. Life will always have ups and downs, but if you pack what you need, you will always be prepared for the ride.
“Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that…One day, all them bags gon’ get in your way.” x Erykah Badu