Skip to main content

Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Stop Holding On To Emotional Baggage! 10 Ways You Can Leave It All Behind

Is it possible to stop holding on to emotional baggage? Yes! There is actually a tried-and-true process for leaving something behind resourcefully. Is it possible to stop holding on to emotional baggage? Yes! There is actually a tried-and-true process for leaving something behind resourcefully

Have you noticed how easy it is to hold on to negative life events? A “failed” relationship. A “stupid” decision. A judgmental comment. The list is endless. We’ve got them neatly packed away in our brains, so they can resurface and haunt us all over again. 

Because we share this common condition, I’ve been helping a lot of people lately with a process for letting it go and leaving it all behind. Let me share one of their stories to illustrate the baby steps you can use to stop holding on to emotional baggage and letting it go (with their permission and identity protected).

Leave something behind resourcefully — move forward with closure, wisdom, and gratitude.

Alicia had been my client for several months when she confided in me about a burden she couldn’t shake off. Despite her bright smile and confident demeanor, a weight was dragging her down, holding her back from truly embracing life’s opportunities.

As she explained it to me, her eyes glistened with unshed tears, betraying the pain she carried within. “I just can’t let it go,” she whispered, her voice trembling with emotion.

Alicia’s ‘baggage’, as she described it, stemmed from a failed relationship that had left her feeling shattered and defeated. Despite her best efforts to move on, the memories haunted her, casting a shadow over her present and clouding her future.

As we peeled back the layers of her pain, it became apparent that Alicia was holding on to her past not out of love or nostalgia, but out of fear – fear of letting go, fear of moving forward, and fear of facing the unknown.

Together, we explored different strategies and techniques to help Alicia release the grip of her past and embrace the promise of her future. It wasn’t easy, and there were moments when she faltered, but with each step forward, she grew stronger and more resilient.

Through our work together, Alicia learned the importance of honoring her past – not dwelling on it, but acknowledging its role in shaping the person she had become. She discovered the power of gratitude, finding solace in the lessons learned and the strength gained from her experiences.

At our last session, Alicia’s eyes shone with newfound clarity and purpose; I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride. She had come so far from the shattered person who had first walked through my door, and I knew that the best was yet to come.

10 Ways to Stop Holding On To Emotional Baggage 

Alicia learned how to “unpack her baggage” by tapping into her own resourcefulness. I believe we all have it within us; we just have to mindfully bring these dormant skills to life. When you break it down into baby steps, you can use the same skills that are working for Alicia and many more of my clients. 

Within the following list, I’ll refer to the thing you need to leave behind — painful baggage, past experiences, or hurt feelings — as “the thing” or “it”. Viewing it as an entity outside of yourself helps you put enough distance between yourself and “it” to detach and handle it objectively.

Learn how to let it go1. Honor what “the thing” provided you. It’s when you elevate “the thing” in your mind and heart that you remove shame and resentment, which lessens its hold on you. This practice also shifts you into a Receiving Mindset.

2. Reflect on the value received. When you look for lessons learned and how you’ve grown, you start turning “it” into an asset instead of a burden. 

3. Express gratitude for the opportunity and good experiences. Gratitude brings deep awareness, which opens the door to letting “it” go.

4. Celebrate your successes. Recognizing your achievements, progress made, and obstacles overcome will boost your self-esteem and confidence. The more positive experiences you wire into your brain, the more your brain forgets negative ones.

5. Take pride in your effort and strengths demonstrated. It’s necessary to shine the light on what you do to remind yourself that you’ve got this and can handle so much more.

6. Acknowledge the challenges. Objectively assessing difficulties, setbacks, and shortcomings alerts you to areas you can learn more about or strengthen.

7. Process negative emotions and make peace through acceptance (Acknowledge the stages of grief and loss). Suspend judgment. Enough said!

8. State why it’s time to leave. Articulating rational reasons why the situation no longer fits reinforces your commitment to moving forward. It also prioritizes your well-being.

9. Allow yourself to want more without judgment or shame. A mindset of abundance and self-compassion is healthy because it fosters emotional resilience.

10. Turn around and move forward. Perform a symbolic ritual to enact closure. Some ideas: 

    • Writing it all down in a letter and burning it; 
    • Visualizing it, drawing it into a deep breath, blowing it slowly out into space until it dissipates.
    • Stand centered and grounded. Visualize a door open to broad horizons. Take a step forward. Turn and close that visualized door with a farewell pat of gratitude on the door nob. Take a deep, cleansing breath, inhaling all of your possibilities. Take another step forward into your new reality.

Letting go is a process that takes time, patience, and compassion. So be kind and forgive yourself, because you won’t do things perfectly. And that’s very okay.

Your “Dream Big, Start Small” here’s the one thing you can do today.

Do you have a symbolic ritual for letting bothersome things go?

Identify a symbolic ritual that helps you feel closure. It must be something beyond just a mental exercise like visualizing. There must be a physical movement element to it, since “the thing” resides in your entire body, not just your mind. We are somatic beings. Burn it, blow it out, step away, wave goodbye, bury it in the ground, plant a flower on it… you get the picture right?

These 10 steps to letting go and leaving it behind empower you because they remind you of your resourcefulness. You’ll finally feel safe enough to stop holding on to emotional baggage. You know that if there’s a problem, you can work it out. It vanquishes self-doubt and you regain agency so you can focus your energy on the next chapter ahead. 

Over the years, I’ve been documenting the processes and systems that create the greatest impact. The main ones are collected into a road map for my Stepping Forward Program. I invite you to download an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program and see if you get as much benefit from it as so many of my clients are.

Stack of luggage photo by Belinda Fewings

emotions, Mental Health

Let's get started with 30 free minutes

I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.


How to Step Forward to a Future You've Created

Discover how to replace your old, self-limiting map with a new map full of possibilities for the future