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The Cost of Carrying Baggage & How to Lighten Up

She’s filled with rage but expressing only that she’s “pissed off.”  People think that rage is merely anger on steroids. It’s so much more than that. It’s pain, shame, fear, sadness, disappointment, loneliness, feeling insignificant, violated, betrayed, and hopeless all in the same moment. Rage is compressed energy that burns within us, fueled by resentments past and present.

I let her rant, vent, and spew. Everything is venomous hate and discontent. I envision the energy she hurls toward me blowing right past me. Nothing internalized, I’m just a voluntary target. I wait until she can’t go on anymore and then I ask, “What happens now?”

“Now I have to find something to do, someone to take care of or some place to go.” I ask what happens is she doesn’t? Her face suggests she’s getting in touch with an old memory. “Then the pain comes.” Right. I ask her if she can tolerate one minute of it? She asks why the hell she should want to do that? “Because you get to carry everything you refuse to release.”

She sits silently and at first she’s perfectly still. She begins to shake, quiver, and then doubles over in pain. It’s like watching someone who is going to vomit. She doesn’t make a sound as the tears begin to flow. She stops breathing. I ask her to let go. She cries out like a child who is completely lost, alone, and terrified.  Gut wrenching sobs. I don’t internalize this either, but I remember making those sounds and I am filled with empathy.

It lasts about two minutes. She looks relieved. I ask her to consider if it’s worth what she does to avoid this? She says she’s not sure but she does feel, “lighter.” Yeah. It’s like that.

He’s a beautiful and horribly sad young man. We’ve spent six months together talking about relatively minor things and “managing” his depression. I’m waiting for him to trust me. He’s got a lot of rage. He raised himself and feels completely disconnected and insignificant. He’s afraid to express the anger he feels. I confronted him about this – that if he lets go of even a little – that he’ll get in touch with every bit of pain that lies beneath.

Why would anyone want to feel pain, emptiness, despair, insignificance? Because we already carry it and the only way out of it is through it. I asked him if he wanted to get right? He tells me, “someday.” So I asked if he wanted to get right for one minute? He nodded so I told him to stand up. I grabbed him and hugged him hard and didn’t let go for a full minute. He soaked my shirt.

He left lighter too. This is how we become free. Cycles have to be broken – resolve has to be attained and release is paramount to both of these. It’s always the same three suspects – fear, pain, and shame.

Fear is an all encompassing category. It ranges from discomfort, self consciousness, nervousness, worry, anxiety, phobias, and panic, to terror. It’s everything from stage fright to paranoia and it leaves us with few options – mostly fight, flight, or hiding. Our biggest mistake is that we deal with it alone.

Pain is everything we couldn’t deal with. It’s sadness, loss, emptiness, disappointments, and loneliness. For most of us, “depression” is simply the result of repressed emotions and unsatisfying lives.

We make the mistake of experiencing pain alone and this is suffering – we recycle pain over and over because we don’t know how to let go. Grieving involves sharing our pain with others and making the choice to release it.

Shame is the belief that we are not enough. We are broken, crazy, and disposable to others (and ourselves if we’re honest). Shame is blaming ourselves for what was done to us.  It’s debilitating shit and it’s primarily the accumulation of labels (some from the shrink and some from the playground) and guilt.

Most of us are afraid to tap into this shit. Understandably so. This is our “baggage.” These are the scars that don’t show and the daily struggle to be okay in spite of everything.

So maybe we do two minutes at a time. Set a f@cking egg timer if you need to. Write it out (burn it when you’re done if you need to). Sing it, scream it, and break some shit over it. Just don’t go on believing that you have to continue compensating for what you’ve been through. The only good thing to do with fear, pain, and shame is to break the ties that bind us.

If we don’t break this shit down we can’t release it and if we can’t release it then we get to live with it. It took me years to understand this adage:

“The best revenge is living well.”

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