If a past relationship of yours ended on a bad note then you might notice that you still feel weighed down by the sadness that it didn't work out, or that you're still reliving the negative memories. That's what's known as relationship baggage, and it can carry quite the emotional weight.
Without even realizing it, you might be carrying around emotional baggage — even if it's been years since your breakup. So it's important to not only recognize that you're having difficulties letting go, but it's also a good idea to learn how to move past it so that it no longer weighs you down.
"Having emotional baggage definitely affects the way we behave in future relationships if we don’t get rid of it," life coach Tiffany Toombs tells Bustle. And, it can make you feel bad about yourself, even if you aren't looking to be in another relationship any time soon.
"Emotional baggage affects our energy levels (the more baggage we have the more fatigued we feel), our beliefs about ourselves (the most common beliefs being that one isn’t good enough or worthy of love), and how we show our love for others (are we needy? withdrawn?)," Toombs says. "To show up as our best selves ... we need to let it go." Here are some surefire ways to do just that, that experts swear by.
1. Stay Mindful & Focus On Your Present Self
Relationship baggage roots your brain in the past — way back there with your ex, where it doesn't need to be. So try to bring your thoughts forward to the present by focusing on your current self, and by using a few mindfulness techniques.
In doing so, you can focus on and appreciate who you are right now, instead of who used to be, especially if that baggage is bleeding over into a new relationship. "It’s important to remember that the person you are with now is not the person you were with before, and even more importantly, who you are now is also not who you were before," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Every experience shapes you and helps you to grow, no matter how small it seems. So whatever happened in the past, its OK to leave it there."
Focus on your current reality instead by staying mindful, and you will give yourself a better shot at moving on.
2. Look For The Lesson
If you're still hanging onto your past relationship, or feeling bogged down by trauma or bad memories, looking for the lesson in it all can help lighten your load.
"What lesson do you need to learn to move on? Each emotional obstacle presents itself to teach a lesson, and we’ll continue to stay stuck in a pattern until we learn that lesson," says Toombs. "The most common lessons I see that my clients need to learn are: to set boundaries, to learn how to say no, to love themselves, and to be their own, individual person."
If any of those sound like lessons you need to learn, go ahead and let 'em sink in. Once you do — and once you start putting what you've learned into practice — it'll be easier to move forward.
3. Get "Unstuck" From Your Ex's Energy
If you feel heavy, sad, and stuck after a breakup, that's because you kind of are. "We become energetically linked to people, especially when we’ve been intimate with them," says Toombs. "If we don’t sever these ties in some form, our ex partners can continue to suck energy from us, which affects our ability to move forward fully." By working with an energy healer, life coach, or therapist, you can dislodge your ex's energy from your body, and leave it all behind.
4. Acknowledge Any Part You Had To Play In The Breakup
"Often times in a breakup it’s easier to place blame on the other person, but ultimately it takes two to tango," Toombs says. "If we ever hope to move past the emotional baggage we have, we need to see the reality of the situation. That means seeing and owning our role in the problems."
While it may not be fun, by acknowledging your contribution to the breakup — even if it was a small one — you can feel more in control. "Whether it was a lack of boundaries, needing validation, rescuing the person and wanting to fix them, we played a role in problems and emotional mess," she says. "The sooner self awareness is gained about what our role is, the sooner we can fix it and let it go.
5. Have An Imaginary Convo With Your Ex
Emotional baggage can stick around when you feel like there are things you'd still like to stay, or things you wish you'd have done differently. And that's why it can help to say it all out loud, either to yourself or to a trusted friend.
If you go the friend route, sit down with them and say aloud what you'd love to have said to your ex. "Tell them that you have enjoyed your time together, and all other things you wanted to tell them, then finally, tell them that you are ready to move on with your life and that they are to leave your life for good," accredited life coach Nick Hatter tells Bustle. "Tell them to leave firmly, and then have your trusted person open the door and shut it loudly to symbolize this."
It may sound dramatic, but it really does work. "This a process inspired by trauma and shame reduction therapy; a tried-and-tested approach for releasing carried emotions from the past," Hatter says. So go ahead and give it a go.
6. Say Everything You've Ever Wanted To Say In A Letter
If you don't want to say your thoughts out loud, consider writing them down in letter form instead. "Get it all out of your head onto paper," Hatter says. "Then afterwards, put it in a stamped envelope and [mail] it off, knowing that this act is you accepting and letting go of the past, and that you are handing this over to the universe; you are no longer carrying this emotional burden on your own."
Also, feel free to leave the address blank, if you don't want your ex to actually read it. You can also tear up the letter, or burn it. "Burning it is ... another way to symbolize the surrendering and letting go," Hatter says.
Whatever you choose to do, all that matters is that it's on paper now, and out of your head.
7. Follow A 12-Step Recovery Protocol
Grab a piece of paper and create three lists. Label the first one "partners you are resentful towards," the second "partners you have hurt," and the third "relationship fears."
"In each case, look at the cause of the resentment, harm, or fear, and consider how it has affected you," Hatter says. "For each resentment, harm and fear, write down where you have been selfish, dishonest, or frightened. Then with a trusted person, read out this list. Take as much time as you need, do not rush this process. Let out feelings if they came up. Afterwards, with regards to partners you have hurt, make direct amends to them (unless to do so would injure them or others). Then move on."
Here's why it works: "This is a powerful process ... taken from 12-Step Recovery programs; a tried-and-tested approach to overcoming a variety of addictions and dysfunctional behaviors, including sex addiction and love addiction," says Hatter. It can help dislodge unhelpful behaviors from your brain, which — when it comes to moving on from an ex, and letting go of baggage — is exactly what you need to do.