9/3/2013 10:22:00 AM Guest Column: Be aware of your 'mental and emotional' baggage
Did you know that wherever you go in your day-to-day life, at every moment of the day, you are carrying unseen baggage around with you? This concept of "baggage" - which can be both a burden and a benefit- is best understood if a person thinks about it in the form of three suitcases: an inherited genetic suitcase, a past experiences suitcase and a suitcase filled with current resources one can pull from to help them make decisions and face new challenges in life.
This is the first suitcase and it is forever locked. A person cannot, in any way, alter the contents of this suitcase- this is their genetic makeup. These are the things given to an individual by their family and their family's past. The health risk factors and strengths associated with one's family are locked in this suitcase. An individual may have a family history of heart disease, diabetes or cancer and there's not much he or she can do to control those genetic odds. However, what one can do on a daily basis is make good, healthy choices and decisions about how to live their life in that moment in the face of their genetic risk factors. Personality characteristics sometimes are very similar to one's parents and perhaps even their grandparents. These inherited personality characteristics may be beneficial to draw from in some of life's circumstances or there may be times when one may need to stifle a particular trait. Although none of the contents of this suitcase can be changed, people can work to become fully aware of these contents and embrace them.
This suitcase can be unlocked, either consciously or subconsciously, and contains everything that has happened in one's life. Past relationships- good, bad and a mix of both- reside in this bag. All of these experiences make an impact on present and future experiences, relationships and challenges. As much as people would like to, they simply cannot change their past, but they can learn and grow from it. Many times, a person encounters situations in life which require they pull from this past experience suitcase in order to navigate through it. The past experiences that we pull to help us with issues today may be positive and/or negative. People usually can make decisions and choices easier if they allow their past experiences to help guide them.
The good news is this suitcase stays unlocked. Not only is it unlocked, individuals are constantly opening this suitcase, sorting through its contents, then removing, using and replacing resources. Resources like good health, a well-balanced life, an active lifestyle and a good support system are all examples of resources a person currently may have to lean on. The healthier and more balanced the contents of this suitcase are at any given time, the more fortified a person will be to face life's present and future challenges.
When individuals think of the "baggage" they carry around with them as they move through life, it's best not to focus on the negative image this typically brings to mind. One should think more about the rich mix of biology, history, life experiences and lifestyle routines that are found in these suitcases.
Judy Mason, R.N., M.S.M, is the director of Behavioral Health Services at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Website at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.