Seven Types of Emotional Baggage: Which Kind Are You Carrying?

Do you feel dissatisfied in some way? Do you feel that, wherever you go, there are certain burdens you're carrying that prevent you from being happy? Unresolved emotional issues can act as a huge drag on you. So, knowing how to identify them could be useful.
Seven Types of Emotional Baggage: Which Kind Are You Carrying?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 23 February, 2023

There are some goals at which you repeatedly fail. For instance, the relationships that disappoint you and don’t last. The realization that you don’t really know what you’re doing with your life. Or, feeling like you’re on a roller coaster, with the ups of hope and the downs of stress and restlessness. Do you identify with any of these experiences?

Many of these kinds of heartaches are linked to unresolved emotional issues. Indeed, in this dimension, there are infinite kinds of experiences, ranging from difficult childhoods to unresolved breakups. The future attacks us in various ways and we don’t always have the skills to face every situation.

In effect, yesterday’s injuries weigh heavily. They might even change your personality. You could become more insecure, withdrawn, and suspicious due to the fear that the pain will reappear. In fact, when emotional baggage isn’t fully unpacked and sanitized, suffering is always present.

It’s only when you start to identify the type of baggage that you’re carrying, that you’ll be able to tackle it and lighten your load.

Fear, shame, insecurity, chronic stress… Emotional baggage is made up of many heavy ‘stones’ that you end up carrying around instead of learning how to get rid of them.

Sad man sitting on the bed thinking about his emotional baggage types
Every day, you may be increasing your emotional load by shaping thoughts that feed your own suffering.

Types of emotional baggage that may be affecting you

Emotional baggage consists of a combination of problems that accumulate because you haven’t yet learned adequate coping strategies. What kind of ‘porter’ do you think you are? We say this because, in a certain way, we all carry some kind of extra weight with us. It vetoes, frustrates, and restricts our abilities to lead full lives.

Most of these emotional difficulties originate in childhood. This explains the difficulty in dealing with the kind of complex realities that prevent us from authentically flourishing as adults. A study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology highlights how this type of burden leaves people trapped in bad habits from which they don’t know how to escape.

It’s almost always dysfunctional families and their exhausting dynamics that are the epicenters that distort us emotionally. As children, we metaphorically carry a series of ‘psychological stones’ that add an unbearable weight to our ability to feel good about ourselves. Therefore, learning to differentiate the various types of emotional baggage is useful.

Resentment is the most frequent kind of emotional baggage. It occurs due to betrayals and disappointments, and ‘what could’ve been’.

1. The baggage of shame

Behind this emotion lie really harmful experiences, perceptions, and thoughts. Shame is the self-perception that you’re defective and that you aren’t worthy or good enough for whatever you set out to do.

Dolezal and Gibson from the University of Exeter (UK) wrote an article regarding the relationship of shame with trauma. They claim that the experience of a series of adverse events leaves behind an imprint of shame. It’s a weight that restricts, suffocates, and limits everything.

2. Losses that haven’t been overcome

Some pain becomes chronic and transforms into voids that don’t allow you to live your life. Losing a loved one is one of the most common and painful types of emotional baggage.

For example, the death of a parent in childhood, of a partner in adulthood, or the experience of the loss of a child creates a deep pain that isn’t always resolved.

3. Fears, silent monsters

Some adaptive fears become ever-present giants. They prevent you from moving forward in any way, from loving, working toward your dreams, relating to others, and developing your potential. In fact, fears come in many forms, but most of them are completely irrational and impractical.

4. The resentment of a broken heart

One of the most frequent types of emotional baggage is resentment. We’ve all experienced disappointment at some time in our lives. However, some of us don’t treat those wounds and make them bigger, feeding them with negative thoughts, frustrations, and even hatred.

The idea of what could’ve been but wasn’t is always painful and betrayals sometimes become traumas. Especially if the wounds come from those you love. Indeed, living with a grudge and without being able to forgive or simply accept and let go is a really frequent type of suffering.

Traumas configure internal wounds that, like weights, crush and condition everything. The weight of these kinds of realities prevent us from achieving goals and being in charge of our lives.

5. Chronic stress that accumulates over time

Sometimes, the demands that come from outside exceed your resources and everything overwhelms you. What’s more, it may be the case that your excessive demand is leading you to a state of constant stress that you don’t even realize. In fact, much of your emotional baggage comes from those realities that you don’t solve and that you tend to leave on automatic pilot.

Therefore, it’s essential to become aware of this silent stress that’s persistently vetoing your well-being.

Tired woman suffering in her emotional baggage types
Emotional baggage is linked to our early experiences with caregivers.

6. Negative internal dialogue

One kind of emotional baggage you also tend not to notice involves the way you talk to yourself. Negative self-dialogue is that annoying and damaging tenant in your mind who loves to put you down, kill your self-esteem, and blur your dreams. Moreover, the way you speak to yourself is connected to how others speak to you. This is something you need to be aware of in order to correct it.

7. Guilt

Guilt is like a malevolent goblin sitting on your shoulder who reminds you every day of that bad thing you did in the past. Not a day goes by when you don’t feel that weight and painful shackle that evokes the damage you caused someone. If you don’t face and resolve this situation, it can remain forever in your mind. This isn’t right.

Learn to let go

What can you do with your emotional baggage full of unresolved grief, grudges, fears, and those stones of guilt or fear? Well, just like one day you packed that bag, now it’s time to unpack it and remove what’s been in there for far too long.

You must take out what’s inside, accept it, and understand that you no longer need to carry it around with you. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional help if you need it. While it’s true that you’ll have to find the strength to carry out such a task, carrying it out will change your life. Indeed, your emotional baggage consists of wounds, problems, and gaps that you must attend to as soon as possible.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dolezal, L., Gibson, M. Beyond a trauma-informed approach and towards shame-sensitive practice. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 9, 214 (2022).
  • Følling, I.S., Solbjør, M. & Helvik, AS. Previous experiences and emotional baggage as barriers to lifestyle change – a qualitative study of Norwegian Healthy Life Centre participants. BMC Fam Pract 16, 73 (2015).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.