Thursday, August 1, 2013

Emotional Baggage

Everyone has emotional baggage.  Behaviors that are slowly developed over time as a means of surviving whatever was the context of our family lives. The baggage is full of behaviors we carry with us based on our childhood experiences. Those experiences make us who we are and who we are not as adults and as parents.

Making myself "valuable" to anyone and everyone, always helping to fill someone else's needs, these were my way of attaching myself to others in the hopes of making connections that would fill the emotional deficits left by a chaotic family life.

When I became a young person, (looking for answers to this inner malaise) most of the time my selections in the emotional department were not the best.  I was reminded of this recently when I watched a coming-of-age film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and heard this little gem: "We accept the love we think we deserve."  I was reminded that trying to fill those emotional voids led me 
to make plenty of poor choices back in the day.

A wonderful therapist I had many moons ago explained
that as children we develop ways of surviving that become a second skin.  Then, long after we're no longer in that situation we're still behaving the same old way.  We continue to drag around all this unnecessary baggage because it's stuck in our hands, melded to us like a second skin.

I've spent decades trying to get rid of my baggage. I've done everything I know to work through changing the behaviors that I developed as protective armor when I was a child, an adolescent, and a young adult.  You'd think that all these decades later — married, kids, home, friends — I'd think the emotional deficits would long be gone.

Why is it so tough to get past my past? 

Maybe the past is always with us.

Television was and is my companion. I 
latched on to TV as a means of getting the family I wished I had.  As I got older, I found solace watching FamilythirtysomethingMy So-Called Lifeparty of five  I loved these shows (still do) because I felt part of those families.  They were there, week in and week out, with great regularity and great dependability  and in the most comforting way, they became my family.  From those shows I learned how successful families interact, in spite of their challenges, despite their ups and downs and disappointments.

So forgive me if I share another little piece of wisdom I garnered from more fictional
media, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower: "We can't choose where we come from — but we can choose where we're going."

Maya Angelou asks us to ask ourselves:

"Am I making you proud? Am I doing all that I can be doing?"

I know I'm not. Time to get crackin'


  1. This was indeed a beautiful and powerful piece, Denise. Thanks.


  2. Thank you Jorge...I appreciate that.

  3. I so agree with what you've said in this piece. It's inspiring to me. Also, thanks for reminding me to watch PERKS.

  4. Thank you for sharing...and while Perks is good, a new coming-of-age film out now is great---The Way, Way Back..see that as well!

  5. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I especially appreciate 'we accept the love we think we deserve' - woo, alot in that.

    1. Thank you Teri...I'm still pondering that one!