What Is Family Baggage?
Family baggage is the accumulation of family history stories, pain, and traumas we carry. We all have it. It’s normal and natural and exploring it is a gateway to healing. We hold family history deep within our bones, our hearts, and our psyches. Family baggage can be passed on for generations from years before we even knew our ancestors. It could be from our cultures and our family dynamics, the marriage between our mom and dads and their families coming together. Family baggage doesn’t only show up in the form of anger and resentment. It can show up in a way that we’ve adopted specific roles and responsibilities as well. Unconscious agreements that we don’t even realize that we’ve made since the time we were children. All of this can be family baggage.
Examples of Family Baggage
Examples of family baggage are: accumulated physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Abandonment. An lack of physical, emotional, and psychological safety. If your parents were abusive, if a family member abused you, that wasn’t your parents, and your parents refused to hold them accountable or told you that you were lying or took your uncle’s side instead of yours. When there is that lack of responsibility and ownership, that leaves us with the burden to carry as our own. We carry that shit in so many ways and don’t even realize it.
Why Should I Address Family Baggage?
Family baggage can be carried consciously and unconsciously. We may actively feel resentful and angry, and we may also unconsciously repeat roles and allow limiting beliefs to play out. We may hold on to roles and responsibilities that do not serve us. For the longest time, I felt a lot of burden and baggage, and I put a lot of stress on myself because my mom, for so many years, ingrained in me, that all she wants from me is a child, and she cries about and then I just feel guilty. I grappled with that for so many years, and being able to let go of that responsibility, being able to let go of that baggage, that burden, it’s set me free on so many levels, and it’s allowed me to make more impact in my life.
What is the Victim Triangle?
So, in my family, that “victim triangle” played out every which way and every combination possible. In the “Victim triangle” the roles are “the victim”, “the rescuer”, and “the persecutor”. In my situation, my dad was the “persecutor,” and mom was the “rescuer.” There was always some kind of “victim triangle” playing out. We may not even realize we end up playing that shit out in our own lives, getting into relationships where we’re the “victim.” We’re the “rescuer.” We’re the “persecutor.” So if you find yourself being a “fixer,” or a “rescuer,” that is you participating in a “victim triangle.” If you find yourself being a “victim” all the time, obviously that too. And then if you also find yourself being the one that’s always “persecuting,” same shit, you’re participating in that “drama trauma.”
How Does Family Baggage Play Out?
- Resentment, Anger, and Avoidance
- Struggles within intimate relationships
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Feeling responsible for other people’s well being
- Being the caretaker or playing adult roles as a child
- Chronic avoidance
- Being afraid to show up and speak up
- People pleasing
- Compromising of boundaries or inability to say no
- Participating in conversations or events against our will
How Do I Heal My Family Baggage?
Anger is poison. Resentment is death. Acknowledge what needs resolution, what still feels painful, and what still needs healing. Write letters, burn letters. I know some of these steps almost seem like they’re too simple, but they’re not. This is what gets it out and can help us move through. I’ve written so many letters. To exes, unhealthy relationships, my parents. I’ve written them, and I’ve burned them almost like a ritual of letting go. “This no longer serves me. I don’t wanna hold onto this anger anymore. It doesn’t serve me. I don’t want that shit.” I’m trying to live a long, healthy, prosperous life. So if I wanna live that long, healthy, rich life, I’m not gonna let anger and resentment get in the way of that.