I am not a therapist.
However, as a licensed health professional I spend a great deal of time talking to people about their lives and lifestyles.
As there are so many people suffering with chronic stress, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and the list goes on, what is not often discussed enough I feel is how our style of connecting with ourselves and others’ affects our physical health.
Within the last week, I’ve given the “only be responsible for your own suitcase” speech several times and so it must be shared.
The metaphor of a suitcase is often discussed in therapy circles, or groups of mindfulness providers, as the “stuff” we all have with us. This “stuff” includes our past and present issues and concerns, our emotional memories (good and bad), our decisions, and our coping mechanisms. Basically, whatever stuff makes you who you are (again, not really good or bad, just your stuff).
Some of us have a lot of “stuff” (or many suitcases) that we carry around with us each day, and some of us don’t. I’m sure you have an idea of what I mean; all of us know at least one person in our lives that has many suitcases with them, lots of trauma or sadness, or anger or anxiety. It can be a hard thing to be in their presence, despite the fact that we might love them dearly.
The fun begins when we start to carry one another’s suitcases.
It’s hard to avoid as so many of us are compassionate and just want to help one another out. We answer the phone 10 times to our adult child and listen to their woes, despite the fact that they are 32 and are capable of finding their own resources to deal with their concerns. We continue to hangout with one of our work colleagues even though they are angry and attack us at every opportunity, knowing they don’t mean it, but putting up with it anyway. And so forth.
Why do we continue to do this? And what implications of carrying extra suitcases arise? Is it that big a deal?
As it turns out, it is. Many of us are suffering from thyroid disorders, hypo (under)-functioning adrenal glands (our hormone glands that support us during stress), exhaustion, depression, chronic anxiety, obesity, insomnia…all because we’re carrying too many darn suitcases.
The answer my friends, is very simple.
You put down those darn suitcases that are not yours, and you give them back.
You stop answering the phone. The minute you feel guilty or stressed about not helping this person in your life, you ask yourself what you need. What do you need?
Could you use a nap? Could you do with going to the gym? Would you like a healthy snack? Do you need more water?
The more you nourish yourself, the more you have to give to the world and, this is a very important point, sometimes carrying someone else’s load is not your job and is actually doing someone a disservice. You may be preventing them from growing up or moving on or acknowledging who they really are as well.
Kind of wild, right? Bet you never thought about it that way.
In the process of being responsible for your own suitcase, you are taking care of yourself and your health as well as theirs.
Let that sink in.
Your better emotional self could be as close to you as learning to say no (kindly) and sticking with that.
After all, don’t you have enough to deal with your own heavy suitcases? Wouldn’t it be nice to work on those and go through that for yourself?
Food for your emotional thoughts…