Sunday, March 27, 2011

Baggage from Past , Shed it Fast !

Updated on 5th Dec 2014

It is not possible to go through life unscathed by emotional traumas, set-backs,misfortune, adversity or grief. With time , set-backs can turn into success & adversity could transform into prosperity, but sometimes this does not automatically translate into a cheerful mindset. 
Memories of past emotional / sexual trauma,tragedy or loss are stored in the unconscious mind & they mould our personality,thinking & behavior.This is known as emotional baggage.It colors the current reality in consonance with our past experiences,thereby killing an opportunity to savor beneficial changes and grow with them.Things change for the better but we continue to  flounder in a quamire of fear,doubt,suspicion,rage,hostility and pessimism.
This can result in extreme reticence,asocial or antisocial behavior,violent outbursts or an inability to form meaningful relationships.It impedes rational thinking,& thereby causes problems which can be avoided.

 Painful times impact us deeply.Many prejudices & biases take  root in our hearts.They shape our thinking. All this has the effect of casting the shadow of old sorrows onto our present times. Even when our life-conditions improve we could continue to behave in the same old fashion. At such times it helps to remember that our attitudes , coping mechanisms & general views about life & people were formed when we were undergoing a crisis & they should be modified suitably now that circumstances have changed. 

Question arises , as to why we cling to the past when the present is offering us better prospects? The answer is not hard to find. Since this strategy helped us to tide over difficult times, we tend to have faith in it & don't like to relinquish it. We value it as a lame man would value a crutch.We are scared of changing over to a new mode of behavior because we feel in control while using our tested tactics. But this inability to change with the times can be detrimental to our growth, success & happiness. Here are the reasons--

1)We carry a burden that is no longer needed
Imagine a scenario where we have reached our destination but continue to carry our back-pack on our shoulders. Is it wise? Will we not tire ourselves unnecessarily ? Had we off-loaded the burden we would have felt light & care-free! But since we do not do so we feel tired, over-worked & miserable.If such a practice is continued for a long time it can even lead to mental disorders & physical ailments.

2)We invite unwanted conflict, criticism & opposition
Whatever happened in the past is known only to us.Our present-day relatives, companions & co-workers may find our behavior a bit puzzling to say the least. They will wonder why we carry a chip on our shoulder & why we cannot be more pleasing, accommodating & amicable. 
Take the case of Amit. He was betrayed by his partner when his business was in the fledgling stage. He had to suffer losses & vowed never to trust anyone again. Now his venture is well established & he has many employees working under him. But he just cannot trust them & is for ever spying on them, accusing them or doubting their integrity. This has made him highly unpopular & a sort of social outcast.He has taken so much upon himself ,that he suffers from the mental & physical effects of a burn-out.

3)Old coping strategies can be counter-productive
What clicked in one situation may actually turn out to be harmful in another. Nita had a very domineering mother. Till she became independent she had no other option but to fall in with her wishes. Then she left home & started her career. Even in this new phase of her life, she was always looking for ways to please & be as unobtrusive as possible. Soon everybody came to know her weakness & she was saddled with all sorts of thankless jobs. When the time for promotions came she was again too timid to ask for her just dues. She had no more importance than a door-mat or a fly on the wall .All this because she did not rethink her strategy when she left her mother behind.

Lessons learned in the past sometimes need to be re-evaluated.It is essential that when circumstances change our responses too, should change accordingly. The behavior patterns which we consciously adopted as mature individuals are relatively easier to discard. But what about the lessons which we were forced to learn when we were mere toddlers-at the mercy of an adult world ?It is certainly difficult to modify such behavior.If a child's basic need to be loved & looked after is thwarted he is bound to feel anger & resentment against his caretakers.There is a conflict between his hatred for his caretakers & the need to hide this feeling from them in order to survive. This conflict is pushed down into his unconscious but it does color his behavior for a long, long time. He finds it difficult to form affectionate relations & is sometimes prone to neurotic behavior.

Here i am reminded of Nitin whom i have known since he was a kid. His childhood was spent under the strict control of his father. He had no option but to obey him but deep within, he nursed a hatred for him. This came upon surface when he started his career. Despite ideal qualifications he could not advance much because he was always at logger-heads with his boss.He had substituted his father with his boss & he felt a strange aversion to carrying out his orders. It pleased him to speak rudely to him. He failed to realize that the poor fellow had done nothing to deserve his ire & he was only damaging his career in this way. His past was clearly jeopardizing his future.

Obviously, behavior that does not give desired results needs to be changed. Here's how it can be done--
1)The root cause
Let us start at the beginning. Go back to the situation which necessitated the given behavior. If this was a thought-out strategy then it will not be difficult to do so. Now revert to the present scene. You may find that the problems which you face today are different from those which confronted you at that time. So how can the same strategy work today ? This requires some rethinking & adjustments.

But a lot more needs to be done if your behavior stems from the experiences of your childhood. You shall have to re-live those experiences, go through that pain,fear & trauma once again. You will find that even in your infancy you had managed to chalk out a plan of action which probably saved you from worse trouble. That was a remarkable achievement. A small kid had adapted to the inexorable forces that surrounded him.Come back to the present. You are not a kid anymore , nor is the situation life-threatening. As you realize this truth you shall feel much more at peace. Now you can plan how to reshape your behavior for the future. You are the master of your destiny--do not be a slave of your past.

After giving up your stereotypical behavior you need to put something else in it's place. Analyse carefully the present situation, it's demands, your own goals & the obstacles which you need to overcome.Evolve a new plan of action accordingly. Let it be a mix of lessons learnt in the past plus common sense. You don't have to chuck out all that served you till now but you do need to harmonize it with the present situation. Whether it was extreme submission or aggression; just prune it to a more acceptable level. Channelize it to achieve your goals; keeping in mind societal norms & niceties at the same time. Do you have feelings of bitterness,anger & revenge ? Avoid them like poison &supplant with a new awareness of others' rights and their &compulsions. Look at things from their point of view also.Throw out the negativity which is lurking in your mind in the form of fears & prejudices.

Talking of negativity in the past, i am reminded of Rita who grew up in a dysfunctional home.Her father was for ever picking faults in her mother who kept quiet to maintain peace in the home. One day he left home never to return. Her mother had to rear & educate three daughters all by herself. Taking a lesson from this Rita decided to not take things lying down & fight for her rights. She married Ram a very congenial & easy going man. True to her resolve Rita started hen-pecking him no end. She thought that she would bind him to herself in this way but the opposite happened & they had to see a marriage counselor. Rita failed to realize that Ram & her father were two different individuals & what might have worked for the latter would not work for Ram. She should have substituted her prejudice with a fresh appraisal of  Ram. 

3) Forgive
Forgive whoever hurt you back then.You can find more about this over here .

4)Have faith
A) That the world is just & you are no more a victim than any one else.

B) That difficulties in life serve the purpose of teaching you lessons. They should make you better, not bitter.

C) That your luck has changed for the better.

D) That you have the ability to deal with whatever may come your way.

E) That a benign presence sees to the interests of all.

 Some more tips on this very topic are available here
Lastly, what better way to wind up than in the words of Osho--
"Suffering is not holding you.You are holding suffering. When you become good at the art of letting suffering go, then you will come to realize how unnecessary it was for you to drag those burdens around with you ."


  1. beautifully written. it was a delightful read. and u covered the aspect of 'lessons learnt from the past' which i was looking for, or may be i misconstrued that part. as always feeling good after reading ur post. will come back and go through those links :)

    1. In this ever-changing world ;so many things come up for re-evaluation--likewise our coping strategies.
      Did i tell you Deb-you certainly know how to make the other person feel GOOD !

  2. How we cling to past hurt and let it gnaw away our insides!
    We nurture hurt.

    Always a delight to read your inspirational posts. Will share your link on Facebook.

  3. Thanks Purba...this is a mutual delight !

  4. extremely well illustd are the fears and the coping mechs of humans.Your remedial measures suggd speak of great understanding...thx is a small word

  5. What a pleasant surprise!the very first comment by my daughter-thank you my dear!!!!!

  6. Good sense !!!Nicely used the words to make it a delightful read !

  7. Rahul,comments such as yours keep me going,thank you .


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