Letting go can be heart wrenching. Sometimes we have to let go of objects. It might be a favorite chair, beaten up and worn out, but with lots of memories attached to it.
I had a collection of cassette tapes—not originals, just mix tapes—that I’d kept for years. A friend digitized them for me onto my computer, backed them up, and…well, what was I to do with the tapes themselves?
They were worn out, and I was frankly tired of hauling them from place to place when I changed houses. Same with the chair above. It was heavy and I couldn’t always afford movers to get my things from one place to another.
I got tired of lugging it up and down stairs, and its weight literally became too heavy for me to carry anymore. We hold onto things like totems, anchors to the memories of the past. We do the same way with some kinds of worry, anxiety, and many negative feelings.
Some objects we don’t have to give up. If we can shoulder carrying them with us without the present suffering, well and good.
If what we carry with us helps us feel happy, serene and balanced, that’s fine. But let’s talk about the other kind of baggage.
Memories are wonderful and precious. They help anchor us in all sorts of situations. Even memories of bad times, horrible times can be profoundly useful when we think on how we survived those times, that we endured such pain, and came out as survivors, as victors.
Like everything else, memories are subject to interpretation in the present. If our remembrance of something causes us anxiety, fear, stress, then we need to process those memories.
It’s a great opportunity to work with a professional therapist to see what attachment those painful memories still have on us. Having a professional to talk with helps us develop the skill of introspection.
With introspection we can work on cutting the ties unpleasant memories have on us in the present. In other words, sometimes we need help “to lay down our burdens”.
I don’t mean we should stuff down memories, or erase them, or even suppress them. That causes far more problems. However, memories can evoke strong emotions.
If memories are, by their ties to us in the present, provoking strong, negative feelings like stress and worry, we need to sever those ties.
I’ve often heard survivors of domestic violence talk about feeling obligated to remember the pain they suffered, in a way, as a tribute to their survival, and if that remembrance led to strength and higher self-esteem, we wouldn’t seek to cut that tie.
But all too often, memories that still control our emotions too powerfully drag us away from the here and now, and make mindful awareness a challenge. What about you? What baggage have you laid down in your life? What were the results?