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Is Emotional Baggage Holding You Back?

Updated: Apr 7

The term “emotional baggage” refers to unprocessed emotional issues, stressors, and difficulties we’ve experienced that continue to impact our lives and affect our relationships. 

To some degree, everyone carries unprocessed emotions from past experiences or relationships. For example, when a person is in a relationship where the other person is unfaithful, they may go into future relationships with trust issues and fear. “While carrying past experiences (and the emotions that came with them) may help us better navigate future experiences, they also take a toll on our health (”

Part of our mission at Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries is to provide education to help individuals better understand themselves so they can move forward in faith. We want to help you uncover if emotional baggage is holding you back from love and joy. 

Symptoms of Unprocessed Emotions 

According to William Gibson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Marriage Family Therapy Program Director at Brandman University, “We seek to learn from our past experiences, which is a healthy behavioral pattern. This, however, includes carrying forward threatening and unhealthy ‘baggage.’ It is a component of human development to carry our personal perception of our past experience with us.”

Often, the people experiencing these emotions are unaware that they are engaging in these behaviors. Some of the signs and symptoms of unresolved relationship trauma can include: 

  • Lack of trust

  • Fear and paranoia 

  • Anger and frustration

  • Guilt and regret 

Of course, “emotional baggage” can look different for everybody. And when a person doesn’t recognize or acknowledge their emotions, the unhealthy patterns continue.

Impact of Unprocessed Emotions 

One study found that “emotional baggage” can impact a person’s ability to make healthy lifestyle changes like exercising more, eating healthier, or quitting smoking. In addition, these emotions can impact a person’s ability to maintain healthy relationships. “For example, if you have been betrayed in a relationship but never process the betrayal’s feelings, you will continue to suffer from fear and anxiety (”

How to Move Forward

The first step is to identify the “emotional baggage” you’re carrying, and the impact it's having on you and those around you. The reality is everyone has been hurt or experienced pain in the past. The distinction is what you do with those experiences.

“People with unresolved trauma tend to have their feet planted in two worlds–one in their past experiences and one in their current life. It’s important to recognize when you’re responding to the current world through the lens of the past and bring yourself back into the present (”

We’re Here for You

If you’re recognizing unhealthy patterns in your relationships, it’s important to take steps to address them, so they don't continue to impact your present. Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries works with individuals to help them work through their experiences, and find hope and purpose in their faith. Contact us to learn more.


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