Unpacking the baggage

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It is amazing how much baggage we all carry. By that I mean how many beliefs we have that we aren’t even aware of. The beliefs that we have spent a lifetime accumulating, many that we just accepted without consideration, and that drive our every thought and action. The way to start uncovering those beliefs is to start with situations that stimulate strong emotions, any kind of emotion. Believe me, there are many during any day.

For example, let’s talk about people being “fat”. I think this is a word that stimulates something in everyone in our culture, no matter what your size. We can’t help it. We have been raised in a culture focused on the size of people and judging what is a good size and what isn’t. This came up for me when I read an article someone had written about the fact that she had written about marriage and included a wedding photo of herself in the article. She had so many comments about how “fat” she was in the photo. She does a wonderful job of exploring her personal fears and judgment about that photo.

I know I have my own self-judgment about whether or not I’m fat. And I struggle with judging others on their size. This is a red flag that I need to starting digging and unpacking this concept. One of the things I love about non-violent communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg is you learn tools to help you start unpacking this baggage. Tools that are non-judgmental, because the last thing I need to do is not only judge myself about my own size, but judge myself about how I think about size.

In using these tools the first thing you do is identify what you are feeling about this. This can be an exercise in itself for many people. Believe it or not, many of us have learned over our lives not to feel; to ignore feelings. If you are struggling to identify emotions, start with actual physical feelings in your body. They are a great place to lead you to emotions. For example, maybe you feel a fluttering in your stomach, perhaps that is actually anxiousness. Or maybe you feel a tightness in your throat, that could be fear or anger.

So start with these feelings. Then identify what unmet needs are attached to these feelings. Again, say I feel a flutter in my stomach when I think about people being “fat”, and I decide yes, that is anxiousness. Ok, what am I needing regarding that anxiousness. Maybe acceptance. Well what thought is causing me not to have acceptance? Maybe I think unless I’m the “right size” I won’t be accepted. Now I’m getting somewhere. I can look at that belief and start to really explore it. How did I get that belief? What does it mean to me? You may have some really strong feelings with this exploration. Go ahead and experience them.

Or I may realize I’m feeling frustration about people being “fat”. Have a conversation with yourself about this. What need(s) are not met regarding this? You are telling yourself these people aren’t healthy. They are going to have a heart attack. So bring that back to yourself. What does that mean for you? Maybe you are telling yourself that someone is going to have to take care of them when that happens. Maybe you are telling yourself that you have to take care of them and you want some choice in that decision. It could be many things, but your reaction to their “fatness” isn’t about them, it’s about you. Again, with NCV, you can start to unpack that baggage.

Why would you want to unpack the baggage? Because, the baggage is what keeps you from being present in the moment fully. The baggage is the story you tell yourself that pulls you from the moment. The baggage is what keeps you from connecting to that person in an empathic way. Believe me, you want to unpack the baggage so you can go out and enjoy the present moment! I’m wishing everyone a wonderful year of unpacking baggage!