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February 23, 2024

Causes of Emotional Pain and Baggage

Have you ever felt weighed down by emotional pain and baggage? It’s truly like carrying around heavy luggage wherever you go. Even a lighter load of luggage will wear you down if you carry it long enough.  Emotional baggage can come from a variety of sources, including unresolved anger, deep-seated fear, overwhelming shame, lingering guilt, and persistent regret. These negative emotions can take a toll on your mental health, your marriage, and all of your relationships.  Therefore, it is vital to your happiness in your everyday life that you heal from these detrimental emotions and dump the emotional weight that they carry.


Key Takeaways

  • Emotional pain and baggage are increasing.

  • Recognizing the signs of emotional baggage is the first step in healing from it.

  • By being proactive about healing from our emotional baggage, our marriage can be better than ever!


Why is There so Much Emotional Baggage These Days?

Why is there so much emotional baggage these days? It seems that there is increasing baggage in relationships. Life just keeps getting more complicated and stressful. What are some of the factors that create more emotional baggage in our daily lives?

 • Increased job-related pressures

The demands of work are ever-increasing, and it is stressful to try to keep up. Job security is a thing of the past, and with cell phones and laptops, a person may work every waking hour.

 • The angst created by social media

We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us how we should dress, how we can sculpt the perfect body, what we should eat, how we can become a success, where we should go for the perfect vacation, etc. All of this can lead to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and self-doubt.

 • Unresolved trauma from the past

Unfortunately, a growing number of people have experienced emotional trauma, physical trauma, or psychological trauma growing up. When this happens, we have traumatic memories that continue to set the trajectory of our lives and our future. It is also common for us not to have learned healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions. These unresolved issues can add to the emotional baggage that weighs them down in our current lives.

 • The fast-paced nature of modern society

There seems to be no time to slow down or stop and process our emotions. With the pressure to be productive and move at a fast pace, there is little time for self-reflection and healing. Many of us have unprocessed trauma and unprocessed emotions. So, as we experience new hurts and offenses, the emotional pain that we carry continues to grow heavier and heavier.  We carry this baggage wherever we go and whomever we are with, especially our spouse.


What are 13 Signs of Emotional Baggage?

To help you identify the causes of emotional pain and baggage in your life, here are some common signs and symptoms of emotional baggage:

 1. Blame

When we can never admit to our mistakes and when everything has to be someone else’s fault, we are dealing with insecurity and emotional baggage. We are more concerned with fixing the blame than we are with fixing the problem or issue. Something or someone has made us feel that we will be rejected if we are not perfect. Often, this behavior has its roots in relationships with parents. One or both of them may have been a demanding parent that could never be pleased. This is taxing on any relationship or marriage.

 2. Addiction

Addictive behaviors are ways that we use to numb the pain of past trauma and painful memories. Addictions seek to avoid negative feelings, painful feelings, or simply unpleasant feelings. Unresolved pain from former relationships can drive addictive behavior, whether it is workaholism, sexual addiction, shopping “therapy”, or substances to name a few. Our current situation with our current partner is sabotaged and undermined by our addiction(s).

 3. Affairs

In an attempt to deal with painful emotions caused by life experiences, we reach out to someone else.  Because we may experience emotional invalidation at home, we look for someone who will validate us, someone who “gets” us.  That person makes us feel important and a priority like our spouse did in earlier years. This can create a cycle for those of us who are addicted to romance, falling in love but not being able to maintain a real relationship.  If the pain is not healed, I can go from person to person all my adult life, seeking a new romantic partner every few years and causing pain and betrayal.

 4. Stuffing my feelings

Because I don’t have the time or the opportunity to deal with my emotions, I just stuff them down inside myself as deeply as I can.  I am now dealing with repressed emotions. This is like finding termites in my living room and driving them down into the basement of my house.  It could be that I have anxiety about processing my feelings, so I choose to avoid therapy of any kind. When I do this, the result could be explosive anger, depression, or codependency.

 5. Codependency 

Often called an “addiction to approval,” codependency is when someone else’s life flashes before my eyes as I am drowning.  I cannot define myself apart from someone else, usually my spouse. Rather than form healthy relationships, I will enable others to continue in unhealthy behaviors.  I will attempt to fix others to get my sense of self-worth and to avoid working on my own baggage. Often in marriage, this creates a codependent relationship.

 6. No purpose in my adult life

Understandably, as a teen or young adult, we struggle to define who we are and find our place in this world.  When I still don’t know who I am or where I fit as an adult, it could be that my baggage is blocking that.  The more healed I am and the more baggage that I dump, the more free and clear I become about my purpose.

 7. Low self-esteem

What messages do you send to yourself?  What do you tell yourself about you? Negative self-talk creates self-doubt and unpleasant emotions that hinder your ability to live your life and love others. No baby is born feeling that they are worthless and unimportant.  Those messages are sent to us by others.  Negative experiences and relationships can add to feelings of self-loathing.

 8. Emotional distance:

If I have experienced emotional abuse, then I may find it difficult to connect with others on an emotional level.  I may have a fear of failure if I don’t know how to connect or if I have had a previous relationship with painful emotional experiences. I may have a fear of intimacy.  I may simply not know how to open up and be vulnerable because it hasn’t been modeled for me.  Whatever the reason, emotional distance can lead me to feel lonely and isolated.

 9. Commitment Issues

Okay, let’s talk about commitment issues. You know, those feelings of fear or anxiety when it comes to fully investing in a relationship or making long-term plans with someone. It’s like you want to run for the hills at the mere mention of settling down or making a serious commitment. Commitment issues can stem from past emotional issues in romantic relationships. These could be experiences of betrayal, abandonment, or even just a general fear of getting hurt.

 10. Paranoia

Paranoia is that feeling of constant worry or fear that something bad is going to happen. It can be exhausting and cause a mental health condition. Paranoia can stem from traumatic experiences such as betrayal, abuse, or even just a general lack of trust in others. If I am paranoid, I will constantly question the motives of others and worry about being hurt or betrayed. This behavior can sabotage and undermine my current relationship and cause my spouse to feel defeated because they are not trusted even though they have done nothing wrong.

 11. Projection onto our partner

If. you have found yourself blaming your partner for your own insecurity or issues, or if you have assumed that their issues are the same as yours, you are guilty of projection. When we project our issues onto our partner, we can cause unnecessary conflict and strain on the relationship. This can lead to resentment and pushback from our spouse as we are not taking responsibility for our own emotions and actions.

 12. Comparison

A sure sign that I haven’t healed is when I constantly compare my spouse and our relationship to my former spouse and relationship; I have some healing to do.  It is so unfair to my spouse to make these comparisons.  It can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

 13. Avoidance of uncomfortable emotions

An indication of emotional baggage is the reaction to shut down uncomfortable emotions in an attempt to avoid them.  This shuts out our spouse, who would most likely walk us through the emotion, even if it is painful at the time. Creating a safe space to share uncomfortable emotions is crucial for both spouses.

By recognizing these signs in yourself, you can begin tackling the root causes of your emotional pain and baggage and begin healing from within. It is entirely possible that your physical health will improve as well!  Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need support in addressing these issues and moving forward in a healthy way. If you are dealing with a traumatic event, unresolved emotions, or unprocessed emotions, we can help.  Love Recon offers hope, health, and healing through our workshops, retreats, and coaching.  It’s what we do!



About the author 

Cliff Poe

Cliff Poe is Founder and Lead Coach for Recon Coaching. He and his wife, Jeani, are Master Coaches and their passion is to help individuals and couples form healthy, lasting and satisfying relationships. Cliff has a M.Div. in pastoral counseling and ministry. He enjoys writing and coaching as well as his family which includes 2 adult kids and their spouses, 6 grandchildren and a fur family composed of a Golden Retriever and a Mackerel Tabby.

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