Getting rid of the baggage

We all have it.  We all have that mental baggage we carry around with us.  We initially start storing the baggage in our heads and then if we don’t deal with it, we start storing in it in other parts of our bodies.  Working as a physical therapist for twenty years I have seen enough patients with chronic ailments to know that in everyone of them, the baggage is at least partly to blame for their chronic neck or back pain.

It is not just physical symptoms that become expressed with excess baggage, sometimes it shows as an inability to accomplish goals or an inability to stay the course.  The baggage is just simply hanging on to some thoughts.  Usually it begins with something somebody said or did or something you said or did that you regret.  Instead of taking the time to deal with it, we chuck it into a bag and store it in the dark corner of our hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for memory).

Sometimes we need to be reminded to clear the baggage.  It has been there so long, we have actually forgot it is there.  The best way to do this is to talk to somebody.  Many of us in North America have a pioneer spirit and we believe we can do it all on our own but the truth is we cannot.  Humans are social beings and having somebody to talk about your struggles and challenges starts the process of getting rid of the baggage and cleaning out the hippocampus.

Many of my patients with chronic physical ailments like chronic back pain, report difficulties with short term memory.  They can’t recall names of people they just met or easily forget something they just read.  If the hippocampus is filled with baggage it just can’t store anymore so it starts storing things in other parts of our body.

This may sound like fiction but I can assure I have seen some crazy things where the body literally stores memories.  There is a technique in physical therapy where you take a patient’s joint and put it in a position where the muscle is completely relaxed.  If I support the patient’s joint in this position long enough, the muscle will invariably move the joint completely without the patient consciously moving it.  This movement will carry into multiple joints and muscles and eventually put the patient into a position where the injury initially occurred.

I had one patient with chronic whiplash from a car accident decades prior.  I moved with this patient’s joints and muscles, unwinding until the patient was lying on the floor in a contorted posture.  The patient was in no pain but started to cry and said, “this is the exact position I was in when I woke up and they were cutting me out of my car.”  Muscles and joints don’t have a hippocampus but they are controlled consciously and subconsciously by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).  When the baggage isn’t dealt with, it shows up in strange ways.

Eventually I was able to help the patient with whiplash by doing two things: 1) breaking the subconscious movement patterns 2) getting the patient to see somebody (psychologist in this case) to talk about the accident and any other baggage.

Your baggage may not be as a traumatic as a car accident but you are guaranteed to be storing some.  Storing baggage takes up room for important memories.  Get that hippocampus doing what it should do – store memories of love, of favourite restaurants, of great books, and other happy memories.  The best way to clear it out is to talk it out.  Share with a friend or a professional but find somebody who will let you share.  Spring is here – time for cleaning.

Brett

5 Responses to “Getting rid of the baggage”

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