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5 Ways to Tell if You Are Carrying Emotional Baggage


We hear the word “baggage” all the time in relation to our emotional selves. What does that mean specifically, to be carrying around emotional baggage? Where does this “baggage” come from?

“Baggage” refers to all the dysfunctional thinking and behavioral patterns we may be carrying around due to adverse conditions or relationships in childhood, negative relationship experiences, trauma or anything else that has happened that has stuck in our brain and has an adverse effect on our current life. We don’t do this on purpose, we sometimes just learn things, they stick and then we recreate them in new situations because it is familiar. We have been programmed or trained to interpret things a certain way.

Our brain has experienced something, processed it for us, dealt with the environment around us in what it believed to be the best way and continues to use that information to guide us. That works well for the most part, in fact that is one of the brain’s jobs.

But what happens when the brain is fed poor or misguided information or even harmful information? It still does the best it can but by using bad information things go askew. These things that go askew are what create the baggage that can tint the rest of our lives.

So, how do you know if you are carrying emotional baggage?

  1. You are chronically unhappy. You may not have learned how to enjoy your life or even to create one that works for you. You may see each day as a struggle and dread your work. Sometimes work keeps you busy and distracted and it is the weekends that you dread more. You feel unfulfilled and maybe without purpose or direction.
  2. You have a history of bad relationships. You may be divorced multiple times or in an unhealthy relationship now. You may have friends who take advantage of you or intrude on your boundaries. Chances are you have not learned the skills associated with healthy relationship building. If this is the case it is very hard to enjoy the people around you and you may feel very alone.
  3. You are not living up to your potential. Underachieving is a classic sign that you are carrying around emotional baggage that is holding you back. You may have friends with whom you really have nothing in common or be engaging in activities and behaviors that are getting you nowhere.
  4. You may be having a hard time bonding with or raising your own children. Dysfunctional patterns that we pick up in life are often carried over to the next generation. You may find parenting a chore and be afraid of how your children are going to turn out. You may be trying to be a friend to your child instead of a parent. These boundaries may feel confusing to you.
  5. You may be suffering from depression, anxiety, anger or a combination of all of these. Emotional baggage, not genetics, is the number one reason people suffer from these conditions and medication is often not the answer. You may have been to multiple doctors and received multiple diagnoses. You may have tried many medications already without great results. You may be losing hope that you will ever feel OK.


All of these things can be worked on and corrected, the key is understanding the big picture and how all the pieces fit together. Addressing one symptom, say depression, is not enough. You need an entire roadmap. Understanding what went wrong starts you on your way to feeling better. It instills hope to know where some of your problems started and that you can make changes that bring about more life satisfaction. It also instills hope to know there is nothing wrong with your brain. It is behaving just as it was designed to!

You may be thinking that this process of overcoming baggage and dysfunction will take forever to produce the results that change your life. Not so. You can learn the skills associated with rethinking things and using your brain to bring happiness and success and implement them immediately. Your brain is your friend and is willing to work with you.

This blog will be dedicated to providing the information and tools that you can use to start to eliminate dysfunctional patterns and emotional baggage for good. Please comment, ask questions and share your own knowledge and experiences.

Feel Good For Life!!

5 Ways to Tell if You Are Carrying Emotional Baggage

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Sherman is a licensed psychologist, coach and the author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. Her expertise is in defining, describing and transforming dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns learned in childhood or beyond that keep you anxious, depressed, angry, stuck in unhappy and unproductive relationships, jobs and more. Dr. Sherman developed the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and other free resources to help you determine the effects of these on your life. She works with individuals, conducts live and online workshops and trains others in her programs. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, you can visit her website.

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APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2016). 5 Ways to Tell if You Are Carrying Emotional Baggage. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 May 2016
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.