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janbb's avatar

What are the biggest "suitcases" you carry from your childhood?

Asked by janbb (44012 points ) April 17th, 2014

In other words, what’s your emotional baggage? Mine is a craving for safety which is unrealistic as I have recently learned and a desire to be attached to one other which may or may not happen. Because of a brother who died young, a family member who abused me and a narcissistic unpredictable mother, I am sensitive to feelings of abandonment. I used to have poor self-esteem but that is something I am overcoming. What about you? What holds you back potentially from commitment and intimacy – or just contentment?

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31 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Constantly moving from one school to another. Make friends…leave, make friends…..leave. mak…nah, not worth it. To this day making and discarding friends is no big deal. Starting over from scratch is no big deal either. My suitcase is more like a small bag though. I had great parents and siblings. Still do.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Contentment is the big one. And I don’t know if it’s fair to categorize this as childhood baggage, but I resent the fact that so much of my life has been devoted to chasing after the dollar. Now I’ve finally come to realize that since THIS fact alone is my big gripe, I have led a very fortunate life indeed. Gotta go now. Time to check my lottery ticket.

Seek's avatar

My mother never wanted me. She blames me for ruining her life. My father was not allowed by her to contact us. He finally fell off the face of the earth in late 2001 – we got a letter from him after 9/11 that magically disappeared before we could write back, so he probably thinks we didn’t want to hear from him. Literally no one has seen him since.

If you ever want to feel inadequate, like no matter how hard you try you’ll never be good enough, spend a few years with my stepfamily. They’ll let you know there’s no point in trying anything because you’ll either be awful at it and no one cares, or you’ll be a prideful sinner who thinks they’re better than everyone if you happen to be good at something.

Oh, and no matter what, you’ll never accomplish anything on your own. Ever. It’s your own fault you don’t have any friends. You’re too fat, you’re too weird. You’re too snobby, you’re too loud, you think you’re smarter than everyone else but you’re not.

I was accused of narcissism for so long and so consistently that most of the time I hate myself. I’m afraid of talking about anything I’m interested in because I don’t know enough about it anyway and I’ll sound stupid. I don’t want to show anyone anything I’ve made because it’s not good enough. No matter how hard I work no one will pay me for my skills because someone can do it better.

I better stop now. I can’t see the screen.

janbb's avatar

@Seek Sending a virtual hug. This is a tough topic.

Coloma's avatar

Zero childhood baggage and zero marital baggage, did all that work years ago. I don’t have any baggage but I am triggered by certain peoples behaviors, but am self aware enough to catch it pretty damn quickly these days.
My only issue is resentment at the state of my financial/work affairs from the economic collapse. Not even angry, just sad and concerned about going into my later middle age/old age in a state of extreme uncertainty after being solvent and debt free for years.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Seek I’m really sorry to hear this. Huggs for sure. I remember the kids who grew up in strict religious families had it pretty tough. I can’t even begin to imagine. On the bright side you are probably a terrific mother.

@Coloma Fresh starts are not such a bad thing even if uncertain. Secure and peachy is a little monotonous IMO.

GloPro's avatar

I wish airlines could lose emotional baggage.

Coloma's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Oh, plenty of fresh starts and reinventions here. This is the 2nd time in 11 years I am starting over. I enjoy change and challenge as long as it is by choice not forced upon you. My current situation was forced, my last was by choice. makes all the difference.

JLeslie's avatar

Since childhood I have had great sadness with the ways the world can let us down. The unfairness. Having trouble with this affects my life and relationships in many ways. One way is I tend to have low expectations of people, which is good and bad. Ironically, I felt safe with my parents. They always showed up when they said they would, I always felt like they told me the truth, and I still feel that way. Then when I met up with people not like that I was blindsided. I didn’t know how to deal with it.

My parents were bad at making big decisions, and I have more than I would like prolems with the same thing. Too much time spend rumenating about things, too worried about making a mistake. Fear can be paralyzing and lead to many regrets. It also interferes with my marriage because the rumenating is annoying to the people around you.

With all that, I don’t feel I have a ton of emotional baggage from childhood. I just feel like I need to work on some things, and I think of it more in terms of it being my personality rather than someone being culpable for the things I need to work on.

Symbeline's avatar

Sometimes I wonder if my pillow obsession might not be related to the fact that my mom didn’t like me. It was suggested to me that since my mother never gave me any love or comfort, as a kid I may have transferred that need to things like pillows and blankets. Like some very simple and primitive way to feel a type of comfort through pillows. (some people here might think the pillow thing is a ’‘joke’’ I do, but it really isn’t)
Some kind of psychological thing? As an adult today, I still love pillows, it has never left. As a teen I thought it eventually would, but at this point I’m pretty sure it won’t.
I’ve tried to look up stuff about obsessions, or at least strong attachments to inanimate objects to see where this pillow thing comes from, but I can’t really find anything. And I can’t find anything about pillows or blankets, specifically. Even asked a question about this on here before.
Anyways it may or may not be that. My mom was a butt, but my dad more than made up for her. Could be something else.
Guess I didn’t really answer, but I feel it’s relevant anyways.

ucme's avatar

I have no emotional baggage, the one traumatic event of my past I turned into a huge positive.
My parents divorced when I was just six, leaving my mother to bring up three very energetic boys of a similar age. Inspired, in part by my mother’s sterling efforts & the pathetic nature of my father, I promised myself that i’d be the best dad that I could possibly be when I grew up.
The relationship I have with my kids, tells me I succeeded…big time!

jtvoar16's avatar

My baggage I carry with me?
Self-Destructive tendencies (I’d like to point out that I hate that word, “tendencies,” in regards to my problem. It is far from that).
In second grade a teacher called me stupid, flat out. From that point on, I figured I must be, because I was behind the class, always alone, and in a special education program for kids who didn’t read well.
Eventually I came to realize that I would get a burst of adrenalin whenever I thought I was going to succeed, but failed instead. So, I became a very pessimistic person. I believed I could not, and would not, ever succeed at any endeavor I would attempt. However, I still did, only failing right near the point I would have succeeded.
If to this fucking day, I can’t seem to do anything right. Every time I think I know I am about to “self-d,” as I call it I try to stop myself, but then fail even harder.
I can’t fucking do anything right, now, and have pretty much just given up hope. I continue to endure though, because I want to see what’s next. I want to see if someone as messed up as me, in this society at least, can get better. I keep trying everyday to stop myself from being a moron, but it never gets any better.
This one thing… one FUCKING SENTENCE “Are you stupid?” HAS FUCKED MY LIFE OVER. I have never been content, even when I thought I was. I have always been miserable. Oh, and FUCK those FUCKERS that say, “Just choose to be happy.” I hope you are raped and then beaten, then drug through a field of glass and salt. Then, after all that, I hope you suffer so much mental trauma, that the dopamine receptors in your brain catastrophically fail, SO YOU FUCKING KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE DEPRESSED! CHOSE TO BE HAPPY NOW, ASSHOLE!

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jtvoar16 Good thing you learned how devastating a single sentence could be to others.

Seek's avatar

@jtvoar16 – “Stupid” is a naughty word in my house.

FlyingWolf's avatar

My mom died when I was young and my father retired from parenting shortly thereafter in order to spend all of his free time at the bar. The grown-ups in my world (mostly my grandmother) were too busy trying to pick up slack of raising my younger sisters (9 and 2) to have time to pay much attention to an adolescent girl. As a result my biggest issue is abandonment. I have always been afraid that anyone who I care about is going to hit the bricks sooner rather than later. A close second is fear of death, probably from watching my mother die a slow painful death (she insisted on dying at home long before there was such a thing as hospice care).

For the most part I have processed these things, but when DH and I start to argue, I have to pay attention to the panic that builds and consciously calm myself down. The fear of death always creeps up on me as I schedule my annual exams – even though I have outlived my mother by almost 10 years.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Parenthood. “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”

Disclaimer: The above quote is targeted at the father of Mrs. Buckman’s daughter. IRL, it can be applied to either or both parents.

After years of observing and talking to friends and family members who have been around since a tender age, there seems to be three top-line categories of parenting. Those that:
– Do a great job.
– Try to do a good job but fall short in areas by expecting their child/children to be like they are or want them to be.
– Should never ever have been a parent. They set their children up for failure.

There comes a point where one has to take responsibility for one’s own actions. At 51, I can step back and assess my issues. Some are self-perceived; some come from the feedback of people that I respect. It’s up to me to decide what to overcome and how to do it.

So, to answer the question…I’m the only family member that didn’t graduate from college. This milestone was expected. For decades, Mom has speculated about where she fell short of the mark as a parent in seeing this happening. While it never was an issue in my career, it has always been an albatross around my neck. It always will be. Banal, but there you have it.

Coloma's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Totally agree. I have had several friends, one right now, that is so BLIND to the fact that her adult children are different from her. She still treats them like children and they are 20, 24 and 30. She goes out of her way to do things for them “help” them and then is angry they don’t reciprocate or act “grateful enough.” I told her recently that anything we do with expectation of some sort of payback is not truly giving. The ONLY reason to give is because you want to make someone happy and if you are feeling resentful then that’s your problem!

My daughter is 26 and while I wish she didn’t have to go through the crap of her dad and I divorcing when she was 15, I am proud and confident I did a good job with her and I quit parenting her years ago. We are peers now and it really bugs me how many parents still seem to think they have carte blanche to keep advising and scolding and trying to control their adult kids and never consider that they may just need to butt the hell out and maybe, even, gasp APOLOGIZE for their behaviors instead of stubbornly clinging to some stupid ideal that their kids must, automatically, respect them. Gah!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have happy news to share. I have been reading a lot lately about releasing fear and embracing love. I have learned some valuable techniques in meditation within the past one or two weeks that I put into practice.

This is all so new still that I’m reeling.

I have forgiven my father for telling me I would be kicked out onto the streets as a teenager in a small Southern town in the 70s when no resources existed, if I ever came out of the closet. I have forgiven my mother’s agreement with that horrifying threat, which caused me great personal harm.

I have not had an easy life by some measures. By other ways of looking at events, I’ve been blessed. I carried a freight train full of emotional baggage for oh so long. My newly found meditative techniques have enabled me to let go of decades of self-loathing and fear. The result is quite honestly miraculous.

I now operate from a firm foundation of loving myself enough to know when to bend with the wind and when to stand tall for myself and my ideals. I am not a doormat, but I am instead a happy, calm man.

This change in consciousness did not come overnight. It has been an evolution, and the sudden culmination has been a profound release of negativity leaving joy in its wake.

filmfann's avatar

i don’t have suitcases, I have duffle bags.
It really is too much to relive just to list here. I am doing my best to bury it.

Blondesjon's avatar

I’ll never be good enough.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Something I call “Mimishu1995’s high school syndrome”

It was the time when I realized I was different, and being different, according to many, meant being unacceptable.

I never got to like the things many like, namely teen romance, make-up, fashion, music bands, blah blah blah… As a result I couldn’t join a single conversation of my classmate as the conversations always revolved around those things. Everybody regarded my interests as morbid, unusual, only-for-a-jerk style. Someone even forced me to give up my interests, but you know, how could you force a person to give up something they really liked?

It was also the time when everyone and I got into a lot of conflicts.

I wanted to be friendly with everyone, I wanted to treat everyone as well as possible, but it turned out that some only used my kindness for their own well-being. There was that girl who constantly asked me to lend her my mobile phone, and used a lot of my money to go to the internet, but I never complained; but when I asked her to let me borrow her mobile phone, she invented a lot of reasons I couldn’t touch hers. I helped people one day, only to be turned a cold shoulder to the next day. When in a conversation, my word never reach anyone. I talked, only to find out my words were buried deep inside tons of more words by my classmates.

I was never good at arguing, and that meant I could never give my ideas to anyone. Whenever I was assigned to a group, all I could do was seal my mouth shut and do whatever people gave me. Because if I gave my ideas, I would be dismissed mercilessly! And mostly the work people gave me was too easy, too trivial, to the point that the group could do without these work like bringing a long ruler or giving other students pieces of papers. I came to resent group work, and tried to find excuse not to participate in group work (and even class work) as much as possible. People called me irresponsible, but hell, what was the point of sitting in a group with my mouth always shut and do nothing all day?

I also got into conflict with my parents. Apparently, my parents failed to realized that I was growing up, and treated me like a child. I was porbidden from giving my opinion on their ideas. They seemed to think they were always right and I was always wrong. What they wanted me was to obey every single order of them. I could see their faults, but I couldn’t say them out, for fear of a punishment. My learning result was not bad, but they wanted more. They wanted me to get better results, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t reach their standard since I had reached my limit. To make the matter worse, my parents also involved in the don’t-read-detective-stories brainwash process. I used to do exactly what they wanted: gave up detectives stories and took up romance stories. But it turned out that romance stories only increased my stress level. Detective stories were the great output for my stress, and inability to access them made me even more depressed.

I was completely excluded of my class, I was looked down on by everyone. I wasn’t even allowed to indulge in a little peace: my interests! I became more and more miserable, suicidal and pessimistic. A classmate asked me why I always sat alone in the class and indulged in my own world. I told her there was no one to talk to. She got annoyed and told me why I didn’t find someone to talk to instead of just sat there and wait. At that time I only wanted to shout straight to her face like this: “OH YEAH? THEN HOW ABOUT WHEN YOU GO AROUND AND TRY TO FIND SOMEONE TO TALK TO ONLY TO REALIZE THAT NO ONE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU? YOU SAID I HAVEN’T TRIED? YES I HAVE! AND IF I HAVE SUCCEEDED, I WOULDN’T SIT HERE LIKE THIS AND MAKE MYSELF A MISERABLE ASSHOLE!”

I also began to resent social activities, the crowd, everywhere noisy. I only wanted to be alone. I made up excuses not to participate in any school activities. One day my parents decided to go to a festival. I refused to go because I was sick of it. I WAS SICK OF EVERYTHING!

Mimishu1995’s high school syndrome still leaves some scars on my mind. I still don’t feel like taking part in some school activities (those that I know I can’t :p). I know I still have to carry that memory along with me, like a weight tied to my legs, like a big suitcase I can never get rid of.

kimchi's avatar

Sleepless nights—In the night, I would try to sleep and all my problems, hardships and embarrassments in my life would come flowing back. As a result, I would not sleep.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My dad didn’t love me, my mom was a weird loud hippie, & we were poor. All of it drives me to succeed though.

ragingloli's avatar

I am scared of bees and wasps.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I was small, very, very small. I was so small, my friends had to hold me up to reach the sink and the paper towels in the school bathroom, until we were in the third grade.
Because I was so small, it was easy for everyone, including my parents, to forget that I was having birthdays and moving on to new grade levels in school.
I was told over and over and over that, I was too little, I wasn’t old enough.
As a result I pressed myself to dangerous risks to prove myself. That much was okay, I know my limits, and most people don’t. Most people have no idea just how strong they are, how smart they are, what they can endure, etc.
On the downside, I am a broken old woman, and some part of me is still waiting to be, “Old enough for this”, “Big enough for that.”

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

My mother was a self-absorbed brat who turned me into her “parent” when I was maybe age 6 or 7. She used me as her confidante, talking about all her very-adult problems and complaints. They were things that no child should ever hear, and burdens that no child should be forced to carry. She constantly needed to be the center of attention. She developed into a raging hypochondriac, simply because she thought that people would pity her, and pay attention to her, if she were sick.

If my father had been born later, he would have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He was a compulsive gambler with insane mood swings, and he was often absent (a relief, because if he were gone I wouldn’t suffer from his black moods). I could always count on him to be undependable and fail my brother and me.

Coloma's avatar

I really believe in the resiliency factor when it comes to how people cope with adversity and trauma. I am also a fan of personality theory and believe, wholeheartedly, that we are a combo plate of nature/nurture. However, that said, I believe nature trumps nurture much of the time.
I move on well from failed relationships, don’t sweat the small stuff, am insightful, flexible, creative, innovative, easy going and quite adaptable, but…for my particular personality type, known to be adaptable, resilient and enthusiastic, take away my freedom, force me to work and live in oppressive circumstance and my light just burns out.

I just can’t do 12 years a slave without digressing to a mere shadow of my natural propensities. The resiliency factor in human experience remains an unknown, the X factor psychology cannot map.

hearkat's avatar

How did I miss this?

I entered adulthood believing I was a waste of breath. I was abused psychologically and sexually by a family member, and none of the others – including my parents – did anything to prevent it, protect me from it, or to counteract the negative messages I was being taught.

The one thing my parents did right was encourage me to get an education. Earning my degrees was a crucial part in proving to myself that I wasn’t stupid – I never thought I was worthy of love, happiness, or success though, so I nearly sabotaged myself from getting that far.

I also made very poor choices in relationships because of my shame. I chose men who were also burdened by shame because I felt they could understand and accept me, even if they couldn’t love me – but I could help them and take care of them and then they’d at least keep me a rounder because I was useful, right? But they took me for granted and never appreciated all I did for them!— Classic martyr/co-dependent nonsense. I remember how liberating it was when I realized that it was ALL BULLSHIT. I didn’t need him and he shouldn’t need me – we should be together because we choose to. Whenever he’d try to bait me into the same old drama, I’d laugh and that pissed him off more. It ended soon after that revelation hit me.

I took some time to work on myself at this point in life. Becoming a truly independent adult was important because I wanted my son to have a role model, and thus far he’d only been exposed to nut cases – my former self included! Changing my thought process was very challenging, because I had been told I was stupid, ugly and worthless since before I could remember.

I’ve managed to get to the point where I have accepted and forgiven myself for the mistakes I’ve made. I learned not to be ashamed because of what others did to me when I was innocent and vulnerable – it is they who should be ashamed. I’ve learned to be proud of what I have accomplished, because many who have been through what I experienced never get as far as I have. I can say that I am strong and smart and independent, and I have developed a sense of personal integrity. I’ve grown to believe that I am worthy of happiness and I am actually lovable, and have found someone who accepts and loves me as I am.

My greatest hurdle is loving myself to the point of tough love, though. I’ve grown complacent in my bliss and I over-indulge. I am lazy and I procrastinate horribly, and now I have a chronic health condition that gives me a valid excuse to be that way. BUT… I know I could improve my odds of keeping the illness at bay if I stop taking it easy. I have never been one to have motivation or self-discipline – it’s amazing that I did earn my degrees. I don’t know if that lack is an inherent/genetic trait, or if it’s the last vestige of baggage, but if I want to not be disabled before I reach retirement, I have to find a way. It continues to elude me though…

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma You have me thinking that maybe part of resiliency is being able to move forward and “forget” when the bad circumstance is over, not necessarily being stellar while the bad shit is going on.

Baggage can be a real burden. Some people have had really crappy things happen during childhood and I can completely understand why it is hard to move on from the emotional scars. Some people didn’t seem to have it that bad, or not much worse than many many people, and they feel and hold onto the bad moments that did happen as though they were catastrophic (for them it was) and have anger and anxiety like those who were very much abused by anyone’s standard. I agree with you that I think part of that is personality. It’s why two children can grow up in a family, be raised very similar, and one has a completely different emotional reaction to similar circumstances.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Absolutely, personality does play a huge role in how someone reacts to circumstance, 2 siblings sharing the same upbringing but emerging with vastly different experiences.

Unbroken's avatar

You know just shortly ago I would have had a long list. But right now in this moment I don’t have anything to say on the subject. I don’t mean to seem like I am gloating.

I’m just happy and relieved. Proud to be free relatively speaking I have worked hard. I wish the same to everyone out there. Stress kills.

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