Overcoming emotional baggage so you can love better

If you prefer to listen, here’s the Podcast version of this post.

This one’s for Lara from Spain – thanks for writing me girl!

Hi friends! I’ve been away for a bit because I got hitched! It was awesome and wonderful. And now I’m back!  This is for anyone who has conflicts with someone they care about and wants to figure out ways to get out of those conflicts more productively. It’s about our emotional baggage – specifically the unmet needs from our childhood, and how those block us from being able to recognize and receive a lot of love being given to us by people in our life, currently. I will focus on the moment we are in pain – and how to step back from it so we can move back into happiness and get more of what we want – which is love and affection.

I will present a set of tools to help you stay out of a trained in habit of blaming and resentment so that you can empower yourself to take productive actions. I will do the usual 3 parts: The What, The Why, The How, aka the tools. And to be clear – this is about all relationships that involve conflicts between the needs of others and your own. About relationships that involve needs of others and your own – and when those don’t match up.

The What

Our identity tells us we are in need of specific attention from others. We all on some level have these expectations, and also complimentary gifts – so often it works out that our needs are reciprocated by those we choose to be close with. When it comes to our most painful, old needs – those from childhood, when they overlay our present – these expectations we have of others and what they have to give will clash or won’t line up. It is in these triggered old pain-baggage moments that our ability to identify, receive, and give love is lost – and what takes over is the overwhelming and bottomless need – the child who cries, “Poor me!”

A lot of the pain and frustration in our conflicts with others comes from us believing others are not giving us what we need and deserve. Most of the time, this is simply our misinterpretation of what the other is thinking and feeling – our pain baggage doesn’t match theirs and therefore our receptors are different. Everyone’s language and baggage is always different – no two people live the same life. But in the moment of feeling we have not been given what we should be from someone, we BELIEVE wholeheartedly in the truth of the experience we have. So if we hear someone being heartless and mean to us – that in our minds, is the truth. And once we assume this truth, we assume the affiliated stance: victim-hood. It’s then that the broken record behavior begins to play – we cry, we feel valid in our pain – we look to others to validate how right we are to feel that pain, and we decide what it will take for the other to make it up to us.

The truth is, we get stuck in our pain – by our own blindness, we choose to savor it. It’s a bad habit that we cannot identify as just that – the desire to validate pain is an addiction to feeling our identity: Man, it feels good to be sooo right. Our ego/identity is built around external validation, so we unconsciously search for measures that show us how true and valid we are. Even if we aren’t right – we will search for proof that we are – even if it means staying in a place of unhappiness and negativity.

Being right and feeling vindicated by the external actually gets you the opposite of what you want. That gush of pride, the gratification you feel being when you know you are right is the addiction to an old pain-muscle-memory – but it is not getting you what you want in your higher truth: happiness, love, affection. Your job – in these moments, is to curb your bad habit and realign your actions with what will ultimately make you happy.

You can be happy and get what you want – or you can be right.

Meaning, your goal is not to be right – it’s to be happy and get more love from those who love you. You can live in a life where you are right all the time – but that life will not ultimately get you what you want. The good news is, it’s a bad unconscious habit and you can empower yourself to choose happiness. And once you make the switch, you will save yourself a whole lot of unnecessary pain and wasted time. This is about looking at your situation – outside of the pain you might feel – and becoming more objective so that you can move out of the habit and help yourself. It feels unnatural at first but it gets easier with time.


We all express love with different languages. They call it a love-map. Often, it’s set up by your parents: how they demonstrated love to each other, and also to you. It’s also created by your early childhood: which needs you had that were met and which needs you had that were never met. That will dictate what you crave and what you have in plentitude. So if you never got the validation you needed from a parent, you will search for it in others – and it will never be enough – like a bottomless pit lives inside your self-awareness. “Am I enough? Show me. Show me more. I can’t feel it.”

It’s not to say you can’t change your love map – you can with awareness and deliberate retraining and growth. But this cannot be done by someone else – it must be done by you. Only you can tell yourself and know that you are worth loving. No one else can give you that knowledge, so to expect them to is unfair and also unrealistic.

When we lack a pure sense of self-love, we look to others to give us what we crave. When they are unable to do so, we feel they are abandoning us, or not loving us enough. But that’s just because they are not fulfilling our unmet needs or speaking OUR love language. They express love and care in their own way. We have a habit of deciding what others SHOULD do if they loved us. That is where we lose. Whatever we think someone should be is not who they are in reality – and once we can see that, we open ourselves to their real gifts.

In order to get what you want in a relationship, you have to set the stage for love to flow between you and this other person: create the ideal climate for love. And that means remaining open, welcoming and able to hear what is being communicated. Often this means getting out of your comfort zone and learning another person’s language: giving what they need in the language they understand. If you want love from them in a particular language, ask for it – give them your answer key in a moment they can hear you: when you are both rational and calm and not in a defensive mode.

What is most important to remember in moments of pain and hurtness related to your needs:

Validating pain is not a solution.

A solution comes from you acting tactically: stepping back so that you can objectively identify the first step that needs to be taken to create positive change in your situation. It will be something big and simple. What is it? Something that affects the condition you are both in – a hurdle that needs to be removed to better your ability to communicate and give each other support to prevent future occurrences. A change that will up your ability to be loving. That’s why, right now your goal is to look at this situation from all sides: an outsider’s perspective and their perspective. You can understand a lot of the miscommunication if you ask yourself, “What is their side of this?” Assume their feelings are valid and their heart is good. That will give you clarity on what is misfiring.

Firstly, you must become aware when you are feeding your pain-baggage with wallowing and validation, and stop it in its tracks. Skip the length of it and choose to see this situation from afar. How? By remembering that it’s not in fact what you want or enjoy. And by beginning to wean yourself off of the pain-baggage that massages your victim identity. Basically, curb your need to be right and others to be wrong. This never helps anyone move anywhere positive. It keeps you focused on the negative. You don’t need the closure that results from talking it out, at all. You think you do because of habit – it’s a longstanding identity to feel hurt in this particular way. If you begin to rise above this habit, eventually it fades away – without living it out, it’s no longer a part of who you are. You can change someone else just by changing yourself. By ceasing your half of the behavior loop, the other person cannot continue to fulfill their part. They’ve got no partner to dance with.


Before I get to the tools, I want you to write down a statement of your highest truth – on your phone or in your journal. Your statement should reflect, at the highest level, what it is you want in your relationships. Think about the long term – when you are at the end of your life, what will you want to be the sum of your focus. I’m guessing it’s peace, love, support, affection, happiness. Let this be a guiding star for you to focus on when you’re in the foggy place of hurt and neediness. This is what is most important. Skip the rest of the crap and start walking toward this truth again.

  1. Tool: Compassion Meditation

Your greatest asset is to resume a position of love and care for others. If you come from love, nothing can touch you – not the meanest, lowest most terrible person. When it comes to conflicts in your relationships, always assume the best and if you’re struggling to cope with their ill treatment of you, remember that you do not know where the other person is coming from. Remember that all cruelty comes from suffering. Theirs is likely great.

This is harder to do in the moment so to train in this ability, practice this meditation exercise once a day or as often as possible. To be clear, this is not to do in the moment of a conflict with someone else. It’s to give yourself a greater ability to access your higher self when you’re in an emotionally bad spot. I like to do this in the car or at random times in public – when I see someone hurting, I send them love and support. Here is the meditation:

  1. Close your eyes. Now, think of someone you know who is struggling or suffering with pain, and wish them relief. Care for their feelings.
  2. Next, think of yourself and any bad feelings you have had about yourself. Now wish yourself relief from that pain. Send yourself love and care.
  3. Next think of a stranger you saw today. Imagine things they might be suffering with – now send them love and wish them relief.
  4. Now think of someone you don’t like – who causes you pain. Now imagine they are suffering – imagine what you think they could be suffering with in their life. What issues. Now send them love and wish them relief from their pain.

To hear more about it you can take a listen to All In the Mind – it’s a brain podcast.

  1. Tool: Be a Professional. Not an Emotional.

We often assume pain positions when we feel fearful or attacked. Try to recall that you and your friend/significant other possess different pain-positions in conflicts – which means you are misunderstanding their actions and they are misunderstanding yours. This is a visualization process to help you remember this fact by reframing your pain in the moment of conflict. It’s a way to change your patterned reactions.

Visualize yourself in a black power suit. With shoulder pads! As soon as you assume your pain position, step back and begin to treat the situation like a job: imagine you’re dealing with a challenging issue in a business situation. When you’re in your old baggage, you feel like an unloved, betrayed kid – to change that perspective, imagine yourself as a powerful, working professional. This is to basically stop and step back into a more tactical, objective mindset. To take actions in favor of resolution, you need to approach this PRAGMATICALLY and TACTICALLY which requires you are objective and step back from your pain. Focus on feeding the solution – not the pain. For the truest solution, you need to attack what needs to change first. The answer is NOT that THEY CHANGE to what YOU WANT THEM TO BE. The solution is NOT talking about your pain and complaining about WHAT’S WRONG. The solution is changing the next biggest contributing factor in your dilemma.

For example – let’s say your parent is refusing to be sensitive to you and be nice to you. Your feeling is that they should see your pain and apologize – and that might be TOTALLY true. However, when you stay in that feeling of betrayal and loss, you cut them off and stay in your hurt. You get nothing you want: none of the love and care you crave. However, if you choose to skip the pain and let go of your need in favor of figuring out the proper conditions you can set to receive love, you will likely get it. Once you let go of needing them to give you love and instead approach them with love, you can see them plain as day. You’ll likely see how they are suffering and trapped in a loop of behavior and it is from this vantage point that you can love them. You can then open yourself up to future gifts that you would otherwise take away from yourself if you were stuck in the hurt part of this.
My pain-baggage relates to a need to be seen and understood, and in the past that was a loop I played out again and again in relationships. It overlayed the reality of them – I brought that layer when it wasn’t a part of a relationship conflict. Not recognizing it prevented me from seeing how others were feeling and made it impossible for me to see that they were coming from their own pain baggage. In other words, I couldn’t understand them and their actions but they felt like they were revolving around me. With the awareness of the pain baggage, I could recognize when it popped up and instead of playing out the need – step back and instead listen. Remain open. Seek to understand. In one situation I was able to see that the other person had pain baggage that put them into a fighting defensive position – pushing people away and acting mean was how they dealt with fear and vulnerability. So, for me to get what I ultimately want (love) I have to let go of “poor me” and step back so that I can see the other person’s pain-position. Then I understand them and I can navigate.

One of the most powerful propagators of negativity and discontent is talking to others about what is wrong with our spouse or friend or family member. The need to validate what’s wrong and seek out the validation from others makes the issue exist. Without the focus, it’s not there. If you’re thinking – but what about my unaddressed needs? Am I not to have those met? Yes! You of course should have them met. That’s not what this is about. This is about unconscious loops that play out unrelated to your current reality. You can and should communicate your needs to others when they are capable of understanding you. When you’re stuck in old pain baggage, your ultimate needs are not being helped. Pain baggage disables us from being present and rational – It disables you from giving and receiving love. It blinds you and colors your present – it’s not that your needs are not valid, it’s that they are unrelated to your current life.

In the moment, to heal your pain, your solution is rational decision making. To heal your old issues you’ve got to look at where it comes from – go deep with a therapist and basically work through confronting each one so you can let them go. You can also grow self-love and a positive outlook in yourself by choosing to focus solely on how to give love to others. By looking at how they are suffering, their cruelty cannot hurt you.

  1. Mantra: A Case of the “It’s Not About Me’s”

This is a great tool for situations in which a person is responding with severe levels of meanness and basically treating you in a way that is totally hurtful and out of scale to what you would expect. This mantra is a way for you to step back and let it go immediately.  If a person you love has a severe or potent negative reaction to you, they are likely experiencing pain unrelated to current reality. If it feels kind of overwhelming and shocking – this is a surefire sign that this is their old pain trigger speaking – and it’s got nothing to do with you. In that moment of sting, your first step in talking yourself down from this reaction is to step back and say, “Oh yeah! It’s not about me.”

Childhood pain is blunt. It’s bigger and meaner than grownup pain – and it comes out at you like that. Regardless of where it comes from, when someone passes on their negativity to you, you can always step back and let go. It has nothing to do with you and therefore you don’t have to be affected by it. It’s always your option to stay present, smile, and welcome them back to sanity when they’re good and ready. You don’t have to “talk about it” or hear their apology. That part just continues things on longer. You should absolutely protect yourself and not engage the negativity – but you don’t have to make it important to you. You can feel for them and stay “you” – good and loving. In doing so, you will get a lot more love than you expect. When you’re ready and willing to let the bad go, people come back more readily. It’s always in your best interests to invite love and peace back into your relationship. In other words, set up the best conditions for getting your “what it is I want” statement.

In closing…

Aspire to love yourself the most and never rely on others to be happy. When we lack self-love, we search for that void to be filled by others – constantly, and when they don’t reach our standards, we feel injured by them. If you are looking to others for validation and love – needing that from outside of yourself, that’s an unfair expectation to put on someone else. It’s not their job to make you know you are loved – you should know that already. It’s their job to love you, and be themselves. Everyone’s language of love is valid, yours is not right and another person’s is not wrong. You cannot tell someone how they should be loving you, because that’s not helpful or loving to either of you.

Always invite love and give love freely. It will get you more of what you want more often and speak louder than all the baggage and miscommunication that can fog up a relationship. Be grateful for those you love always, and appreciate the ways they do show you love. Even the expressions that are imperfect, lazy or crude –treasure them. Those are tiny embers – that if you blow on them with appreciation and focus – will glow and spread throughout your life. Allow those you love to be exactly as they are and you will be more able to see what there is to love about them. Because you will see them as an individual, and not just how they measure up to you.

Focus on what you want and never what you don’t. Strive to understand others first, and assume they are coming from a good place. Try hard and never stop trying. Because I will bet you those you love will be coming from a very good place, always. One possibly hurt or scared or damaged, but sincere and loving. Once you can actually see that, your heart will blossom and you will feel more love for them and from them. When you love someone and they love you back, you will both always be coming from that place. Sometimes it just takes a beat to remember that fact – and once you do, it’s plain as day.

I hope you enjoyed this – and if you did, please share it. Smile friends! xox

Featured image via Flickr

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