Aug 212017 5 Responses

Emotional Baggage: Which Emotion is Dragging You Down

A lot of muscle and little fat. Most elite athletes would be described by these two phrases. With great effort and intentionality, they arrive at the most important moments of competition with a lean build. Because the competition is so stiff and the prize is so great, they refuse to carry around any extra weight which might slow them down.

While the technique is important and performance in the moment is vital, an elite athlete either trims their fat in training or they are guaranteed to lose no matter how well they swim or run in the moment. A lean body build is a prerequisite for success in many sports.

Emotional Fat

As an elite athlete approaches a race so we should approach our lives. We need to be emotionally lean. In order to perform in the most effective and efficient manner, we must trim the emotional fat from our lives.

Yet too often we ignore the emotional baggage we carry on a daily basis, deceiving ourselves into thinking it’s not taking a toll upon us. We carry old griefs, sorrows, and concerns not realizing that baggage is using important amounts of energy.

Exhaustion has many causes, but one of the most overlooked sources of our weariness is internal baggage. Imagine Michael Phelps stepping up on the block for an Olympic race and him having an extra twenty pounds of weight around his midsection. It would be foolish. The fat would create drag in the water not allowing him to perform at his peak level. That’s what it’s like for many of us. We are carrying baggage from past hurts, mistakes, and situations that we’ve endured. Sorrows lay hidden below the surface, creating a drag upon our lives, slowing us down, frustrating us, and exhausting our energy.

We need to be emotionally lean. In order to perform to the best of our abilities, we need to intentionally act in such a way to trim the emotional fat.

In the body, fat often expresses itself in two ways:

It makes us weary.

It prevents our clothes from fitting properly.

Emotional fat expresses itself in two ways:

It makes us weary.

It prevents our relationships from fitting properly.

7 Types of Emotional Baggage

Are you exhausted? Are relationships difficult for you? Is it because you are carrying around an extra 20 pounds of:

  1. Guilt
  2. Past mistakes
  3. Unresolved grief
  4. Unrealistic expectations
  5. The need to please everyone
  6. The need to be perfect
  7. Worry

We all experience these things, but not everyone carries them with them for the rest of their lives. Some properly process the situations, find a resolution, and get them in an emotionally settled place. While they may never be forgotten, the circumstances no longer have power over the person. Others, deny the pain, bury the grief, and never properly process what has happened. Instead of moving past the circumstances, they actually empower the negative experiences to have a lasting impact. Unseen, these situations become a hidden fat lurking under the skin sucking resources from our vital organs. In many scenarios, the only sign that they are present is an unexplained exhaustion which continually defines our lives.

While weariness is not a guarantee that we have a build up of emotional fat, an unexplained weariness is a likely sign that we have not properly dealt with things from our past. Grief can rob us of sleep. Guilt can emotionally drain us. Worry can create a mental drag every day. Emotional fat drains us of energy and makes it difficult to properly relate with others.

How to Get Emotionally Lean

Just as an elite athlete can’t suddenly cut 20 pounds of fat, we can’t simply make one decision and watch all our emotional baggage go away. It’s a process. It might begin with a decision, but it takes a great deal of effort and help to accomplish the goal.

First, you have to recognize its presence. Until we admit that hidden hurts are creating negative consequences in our lives, we have little hope of doing anything about it. It starts with recognition.

Second, we likely need to get outside help. Even if we don’t seek the help of a professional, we at least need a friend or pastor to assist us in processing what is going on below the surface.

Third, we need to embrace that it is a process which will include success and failure, trial and error. Long-hidden griefs cannot be solved in a moment. Embrace the journey.

While we likely can’t do this on our own, the good news is that we can learn new skills and become more adept at dealing with our emotions. As a professional helps us the first time we need to deal with a hidden hurt, they train us how to approach difficult issues on our own.

Emotional fat isn’t the only cause of weariness in our lives, but it is a commonly overlooked source. If you are struggling in relationships or feel a general malaise toward life, consider losing some emotional baggage.

5 Responses to Emotional Baggage: Which Emotion is Dragging You Down
  1. Sue Holte Reply

    this is excellent!!! spot on!!

  2. Niki Reply

    Thanks for another great article! I’m working my way there but is there any way to help someone else get “emotionally lean” when I know he won’t read this article even if I pass it along? I’ve been praying all over this individual but he’s so emotionally unhealthy and doesn’t see it. Since I live with him, I know better than anyone the state he’s in but any attempts to point it out are met with anger and resentment, never a desire to get better.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Generally, we can’t make other people become emotionally lean. They have to make that choice for themselves.

  3. Henry Reply

    Wow! Thank you….

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