Many people come to work with unresolved emotional baggage. What does this mean and why is it important?

Emotional baggage refers to an accumulation of old emotional hurts, wounds, or other feelings that stem from childhood or a previous job. When people hold on to these emotional burdens, it can intensely impact the way they behave and respond to stress in the current day.

When you unpack your emotional baggage, you clear out the cobwebs of your memories and learn that a current situation has nothing to do with your past. More importantly you become aware of situations where you may be overreacting to something in your current life that is really connected to some wound from your past. Any time you catch yourself in an overreaction, ask yourself:

Does this situation really warrant this extreme a reaction?

What else may be causing me to act this way?

Am I reacting to something buried deep inside me?”

How can you tell if you are holding on to any emotional baggage? Any time you get very upset or overreact to anything someone says or does, that is a sure sign that you are reacting to a hidden childhood tangle that is still plaguing you today or a scar from a former job.

Dr. Elayne Savage, practicing psychotherapist, workplace coach and trainer explains in her book, Don’t Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection that childhood rejection wounds come from parents, teachers, siblings, extended family, or friends. Rejection and criticism become internalized and develop into self-limiting beliefs in adulthood. These types of rejection messages get translated to the following mental tapes:

            I’m not smart enough

            I’m not good enough

            I’m not enough

How to get started unpacking your emotional baggage:

  1. Any time you get extremely upset or over-react to something someone else says or does, that is a sign that you could be reacting to a hidden tangle from childhood, that is still plaguing you today. 
  1. Think back to a situation in the recent past when you felt excessively upset or you experienced an extreme reaction like an overreaction or overgeneralization. What happened and how did you feel? 
  1. Try to recall a childhood or previous work situation when you experienced a similar reaction.  
  1. Ask yourself when in your childhood or at a former job were you made to feel bad about yourself.  

These exercises will begin to help you unpack your emotional baggage.  

Becoming your best emotional self at work requires understanding where your distorted reactions come from and then letting them go. That is the goal of this tool.

How can you help your clients take care of themselves if you do not take care of yourself? Unpacking emotional baggage is part of that self-care. In chapter 3 of the Banish Burnout Toolkit there are more exercises to help you.

For more information about the Banish Burnout Toolkit, visit,