The Many Faces of Addiction

The journey to healing and recovery

Your Life's Baggage Part 3: Are you using a cart?

Does your life baggage require a cart?

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog you had the opportunity to identify the exterior shell of your bags and how that is a metaphor for what life has been like for you, and what beliefs, feelings and skills you may be carrying.

While it is not true for everyone, the more you come from a history of childhood trauma and loss, fueling unresolved painful feelings, limited skills and negative beliefs, the more likely it is that your bags will continue to grow as you move through adulthood.

New bags may come as a result of divorce, being passed over for a promotion at work, being arrested, a financial setback, inability to stop smoking, and/or the pain that comes with compulsions or addiction. The negative beliefs you have only become heavier and your feelings become overwhelming as your tools are less and less effective. This is a process that takes time and you probably don't even realize it is happening.

You develop a tolerance for emotional pain and are able to maintain that for a period of time and then, through no fault of your own, your tolerance lessens and you feel an unbearable heaviness. You need help to carry your baggage, so you seek out a baggage cart of some sort to help you continue to carry everything.

These carts are often addiction related. It could be you've dumped all your beliefs, feelings and skills into a bottle, a pill, or a syringe. Or perhaps you've a gambling addiction, sexual or spending addiction; or an eating disorder and you've put your bags into a vat of chocolate, sugars or starches. It could be your cart is depression or anxiety where all of your feelings have accumulated into despair and hopelessness.

These carts do make things seem better for a while. You don't seem to feel the weight as you once did. But if you think about it, a cart just allows you to pile on more and more baggage. The load gets heavier and heavier and eventually you need a bigger and bigger cart!

Do you think you are using a cart?
If you are, you need to address the cart as this is the first step in letting go of excess baggage.

You've had a chance to identify your beliefs, feelings, and tools; to look at whether or not you have a cart, and now you can begin to look at what you want to carry with you on your life journey.

The fear of feelings may have you immobilized and pushing around an out of control cart. It is the accumulation of feelings that leads to trouble. There are safe people and places in which to explore feelings. Nothing bad has to happen as you learn healthy ways in which to express feelings.

What feelings would you prefer to be carrying with you?

To be able to let go of unneeded, unwanted baggage, it's necessary to challenge the beliefs you operate from.

  • Are your beliefs hurtful or helpful?
  • Do they support the way you want to live?
  • What are new beliefs that would be of greater support to you?
  • What tools are you carrying that are useful to keep?
  • Do you need to acquire some new tools you have never had before?

Remember to periodically stop and take a look at what you are carrying. As you take on more responsibility for your emotional self, as you develop more positive beliefs, it is easier to recognize the skills you have acquired along the way, and/or to go in search of a greater variety of skills.

Claudia Black, M.S.W., Ph.D., works in the fields of addiction, codependency, and recovery.

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