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Is Emotional Baggage Blocking your Life Transformation?

Last week my post was about transforming your life. I think that is an exciting topic and one that can trump the negative emotions brought on by fear, anxiety and depression. Transformation suggests great change and many of us could use some inspiration and hope for a rewarding life right now. Just having hope that things can improve is sometimes reason enough to get out of bed and face the day.

Transformation can also be scary, especially if you don’t trust yourself to make choices that are rewarding. That can be scarier than staying where you are right now. Some of this material is from an older post I wrote based on poor decision making due to a dysfunctional past, I thought it was a good time to bring it out.

A key factor in life transformation is starting that process with decisions that are based on what you would like and where you would like to end up. This sounds quite simple but these basic decisions can be hindered by a dysfunctional past and faulty thought patterns.

Have you ever made a bad or impulsive decision and later wondered, “What on earth was I thinking?”  Have you made these time and again and have they had detrimental effects on your life? If so, you may be making what I call baggage based decisions.

These are decisions that you make stemming from dysfunctional thought patterns you most likely learned in childhood or as a young adult. They are decisions based on poor or faulty information that you have taken in, processed and then applied to your overall view of the yourself in the world. They may be decisions that are keeping you depressed, anxious or angry. They may be feeding a poor self esteem as you perceive them as further evidence that something is wrong with you.

One example of this poor or faulty information includes believing that you are not smart enough to make good decisions and that you need to rely on others to make them for you. Another example may be that you want to please others in fear of being disliked or unloved so you allow them to control things and make your decisions. You may be operating out of fear of the unknown or fear of failure so you always take the “safe route” or the less challenging path, not allowing yourself to grow to your full potential. Or there is the belief that your thoughts or desires are not important and you should just “go along”.

You can see the negative pattern evolving when these thoughts are the ones behind your life planning. You may believe that these only occur once in a while in times of major decisions, but in reality they may be dictating your day to day life and actually setting the entire course of your existence!

Think how silly it would be for someone to tell you it is raining out or going to rain when it is not. If you go along with their thought you may alter your outdoor plans for the day, cancel something you were going to do, dress differently than you originally wanted to and alter your planned mode of transportation. In other words, your whole day is now different based on faulty information that you took in and applied to your outing.

The above is a simplistic example but now apply that concept to your life. You may have been told or come to believe you are not smart enough to make your own decisions.  When it came time to choose a college or a vocation you may have let a parent or guidance counselor choose for you. You may still be doing some form of that career and hate every minute of it. You may have married the first person who asked as you feared you couldn’t get by in life without someone to care for you. Usually when you have these fears you end up marrying someone who is controlling as they are drawn to those who will allow them to control and make all the decisions.  Your parenting may be governed by what others tell you is the “right way”.

These are major life decisions being formed out of faulty information and dysfunctional thought patterns!

When working with clients who I believe are repeatedly making baggage based decisions I have them ask themselves these questions:

  • What decisions have I made lately? (small and large ones)
  • Did they cause me a great deal of distress?
  • Were they similar to ones I have made in the past in that the outcome didn’t really make me feel great?
  • What was I thinking when I made these decisions?
  • Did I end up letting someone else basically make the decision for me?
  • Did I feel out of control?

You can usually find a pattern if you examine your decision making.

What I then ask them to do is to allow themselves to feel all the emotions that surround the process and the decision to be made but not to act on it. That is the great thing about emotions, we have them but we don’t have to act on them. We are able to understand that those current emotions may be coming from a dysfunctional place in our lives. Examine them like specimens on a microscope slide.

Now list more realistic thoughts you could have. One could be, “I am just as smart as the average person or I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am.” Another could be, “If I make a mistake I can correct it, it is not the end of the world.” Feel the emotions surrounding those. Those are most likely going to be the emotions that feel good, put you in control of your life and able to grow. There will still be some fear, everyone has that.

Your goal is to start making decisions based in reality, not dysfunctional fiction. Make decisions based on your own thoughts, desires and needs. You will start to feel better right away.  You can, however, expect some pushback from those around you if they are currently making your decisions for you. They are going to fear that the new model you is not going to want them anymore, remember they have baggage too!

To start your desired transformation right now, make a decision to improve your life in one small way, one that will bring you some joy. Add something rewarding or make a commitment to eliminate something toxic or destructive. Either one is a great place to start. Feel the difference that one change makes and how in control you start to feel. Then do it again in another area where you would like change.  If you do this a bit at a time it is not overwhelming and you will get where you want to go before you know it.

And remember that transformation does not have to end. It is an ongoing life process as we grow and change.

If you think you may be going through life making baggage based decisions, visit the website below in the bio section and use my free resources on breaking dysfunctional life patterns.

Feel Good For Life!!


Photo by scottnj

Is Emotional Baggage Blocking your Life Transformation?

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. (2020). Is Emotional Baggage Blocking your Life Transformation?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 May 2020
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