Get ready for the travel metaphors! They will be plentiful! We've covered this before in a previous episode, but we think it's time to tackle this subject again. In this episode, we talk about baggage, but not neccessarily all the bad stuff. We talk about evaluating your own personal baggage and what you bring to a relationship. Are you carrying around past experiences that are influencing your future ones? Are you participating in Transference? Is this good or bad? We unpack some strategies on how you can learn to recognize your own baggage, claim it and figure out if it should stay or go.
Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
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Dedeker: The baggage that you carry with you or the triggers or the trauma, whatever it is, it's your body and your nervous system and your emotions and your brain all trying to protect you and trying to get you what it is that you need. That's actually a very good thing. It's a very wonderful thing that there's a part of you that has your own back.
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating.
Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication.
Jase: And you have no desire to improve your romantic life. Then, our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: But if you want some out-of-the-box ideas to deepen your current relationships.
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.
Emily: Or learn more about non-monogamy.
Jase: Then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: I'm Dedeker.
Jase: This is the Multiamory Podcast.
On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about baggage. We're not talking about the cute or maybe functional kind that holds your clothes while you're taking a trip to Europe or something, but the kind that can be a challenge in your relationships. We're going to talk about how we accumulate all that baggage, how we can actually pick and choose what types of things we want to bring in our baggage. If I can take that metaphor even further, and then also sometimes maybe that baggage isn't always a bad thing. These are all stuff that we're going to explore in this episode.
Dedeker: Dear listener, if you think this is the last time that Jase is going to make travel metaphors related to emotional baggage.
Jase: Fear not.
Dedeker: Fear not.
Emily: I know it's funny. It's like what can we make into a metaphor today, with Jase Lindgren.
Jase: Basically, yes.
Emily: Pretty par for the course.
Dedeker: Well, last time we covered this was ages ago. I think the episode was somewhere in the '40s, in 1945.
Dedeker: Yes. It was the last time that we covered this. Seriously, though it was like 46, 47 or something. I think when we first talked about relationship baggage, so it's definitely been a while, we definitely need to revisit it. I do believe last time Jase coined this imaginary beautiful place known as Relationships Airport International, where you go to baggage claim to deal with all your baggage. I really love that image.
Jase: Yes. Where you go and you have your little luggage-
Jase: -tag thing that no one ever checks to see if that baggage is actually yours. You have that, you've got to compare it. You look at it, maybe you see some better baggage and you pick that one up instead. Wait, don't do that, that's illegal.
Emily: Don't do that. That's like my worst nightmare is that somebody will just like grab my cute pink bag and just take it and all my stuff.
Dedeker: Well, that happened to my sister.
Dedeker: Yes. When she came back from a trip from France when she was in high school actually, someone grabbed her bag accidentally, and fortunately they got it sorted out. She had her contact information, and so there were exchanges and conversations. It totally happened.
Jase: It wasn't like someone maliciously just took her bag, but they mixed it up.
Dedeker: No. I think someone just wasn't paying attention and their bags look similar and they just snagged it, and then ended up with all my sisters stuff which no one wanted apparently.
Emily: That's just a good Samaritan.
Jase: [laughs] At least they didn't want it more than they wanted their own stuff back.
Dedeker: Exactly. The trade off wasn't quite good enough.
Emily: Yes, that makes sense. Well, we're going to talk about what baggage is today and funnily enough, [chuckles] people say that, right? Funnily.
Dedeker: Yes. All right. You can say that.
Emily: It's not really a word but-- Urban Dictionary, our beautiful lovely Urban Dictionary, they had a nice little way of speaking about baggage. They said it well that baggage is a noun, obviously, but it is an issue regarding a person's past that can affect their current disposition. Addictions, debt, diseases, bad habits, past relationships with a significant other or family or kids can all be an example of what baggage is.
Jase: I think this might be the only time Urban Dictionary has had a useful and fairly reasonable definition of anything ever.
Emily: Yes, I'm surprised.
Dedeker: Exactly. When I was first looking, doing research for this episode, I almost didn't want to click on it because I was like, "Urban Dictionary is not going to be helpful here," but I'm so glad I did because compared to every other article that I read I was like, "This actually gets straight to the point and covers a lot of bases and it makes a lot of sense."
People refer to baggage, sometimes it's called emotional baggage, sometimes it's called relationship baggage, sometimes it's just called baggage, and like Urban Dictionary said sometimes it can refer to stuff from a person's past, or I've heard people refer to it as more tangible stuff, like getting into a relationship with someone with baggage could refer to literally they have kids from another relationship. I've heard people refer to that as baggage. I don't know if that's very kind.
Emily: Yes, I'm like, "That's not very kind."
Dedeker: Sometimes people refer to it that way. I think sometimes people use it to refer to anytime you're getting involved in a relationship with someone who has a lot of other stuff going on in their life. Sometimes people use baggage in that way like, maybe they're going through a messy divorce right now.
Jase: Okay. Yes. I've definitely heard it used that way.
Dedeker: Like a difficult job transition and they may or may not always be a deal breaker, but I've heard people use it that way.
Emily: Well, and they clearly may or may not always be like a negative thing because they think when people tend to think of baggage, it automatically is assumed that baggage is a negative, but probably one wouldn't necessarily assume that like a child is a negative thing. If one is saying, "Their kids are a baggage," it's an extra added thing to think about when entering into a relationship with someone.
Dedeker: I guess is that. This idea of, if you're going to get into a relationship with this person, it's not just the person, there's also all these other things. To be fair, I would say that applies to everybody because we all bring our past experience and life context into a relationship.
Emily: Yes, that's true.
Jase: I was just going say, I think for this episode, though, we did want to clarify that what we're talking about is more about evaluating your own baggage in terms of what are the things you are bringing forward from past relationships that might not be serving you, rather than talking about this as like, "Well, these are indicators that someone else has baggage, and you shouldn't be with them."
I think using baggage in that way, I'm just going to take a strong stance here, and I'm going to say that's a total cop out of saying, "Well, I don't want to be with them because they have baggage," or like, "It didn't work out because they had baggage." It's like, "No, you're just not willing to own up to what actually happened." If you want to say, "I chose not to be in a relationship with them," or "Our relationship ended because these certain behaviors didn't work with me, or these certain things didn't get along, or we didn't see eye to eye," whatever the real reasons were, I'm like, "Okay, now we can talk," but when you just try to blame it on baggage, I don't buy it because we're all people who have it. We all have baggage, and that's not necessarily always a bad thing, which we'll get into later.
Emily: It's like whose baggage lines up okay with our baggage?
Jase: You're trying to get the Rent line in here?
Dedeker: [singing] Looking for baggage that goes with mine.
Emily: What is this song? What is this song?
Jase: It's from Rent. It's Roger and Mimi singing to each other.
Emily: Oh, fuck. You're right, Jesus. I forgot about that.
Dedeker: Because they're talking about the fact they both have baggage, and so that's why it's okay to get into a relationship with each other. It's all good.
Emily: What a bad musical theater student I am right now.
Dedeker: Yes, seriously, I'm really surprised.
Jase: I'm really disappointed. Maybe we should record the rest of this one without Emily, so she can go listen to Rent, kind of brush up a little bit. [chuckles]
Emily: I know the musical, obviously. You've auditioned for it like 75 times, so I've definitely heard it a lot.
Jase: That's true.
Emily: Still. Yes. All right.
Dedeker: I'm going to bring us back to baggage and not musicals, but we can talk about musicals some other time. Let's talk about when we think about emotional baggage or relationship baggage, how do we even get that in the first place? How do we get these things that happened in the past that we still carry into the present and still affect or still cause obstacles for us having healthy relationships or a healthy life in the first place?
It goes way back that our baggage, often the first baggage influencer is usually our parents, our family of origin. There is this term working models. The idea that in childhood, we receive our scripts about how we think relationships are supposed to go, or social interactions are supposed to go, or even how we're supposed to handle money, or how we're supposed to handle having a job, or things like that.
These are our working models that we carry with us into adulthood, and we build those basically by watching the people around us, which usually are our parents. Your working models for relationships, it can also be related to attachment style, which we have covered on the podcast before. I feel like the distinguishment between the two of those is I feel like attachment style feels to me a little bit more of a reactive thing of how you react when you're put into an attachment crisis situation, are you clingy ,or are you avoidant, or are you fearful, or do you feel secure, whatever? Versus working models, I feel like it's like the inherent stories that we carry with us of like, "This is the way things should be," or, "This is the way things should go. This is the way a relationship should go, this is the way a person should talk to another person." I think those are more than working models that we get from watching our family of origin growing up.
Jase: We talked about stuff related to this a few episodes ago, where we talked about the things we learned from our parents or from other people because they told us that, versus things we learned just by watching them do it and going, "That must be how people do things." We talked about it in terms of your feelings of self-worth or things like that. How we've adapted ways that our parents may have acted about themselves that we've gone, "That must be a normal thing that people worry about" because they're kind of our only role model for that when we're children.
This can go into other areas, too, and an example of this is how people communicate and how people have conflict. How did your parents fight or whoever was around when you were a kid. Maybe you had--
Emily: Some sort of parental figure.
Jase: Maybe you had much-
Dedeker: Or adult figures around
Jase: -older their siblings who acted as parental figures and role models to you, or maybe it was grandparents, or extended family, whatever. How did they handle conflict? Did they yell at each other? Would they sulk and avoid each other? Would one person always tend to dominate those kinds of conflicts over the other? Look, whatever this is, when you're a little kid, you're not sitting there going, "These people aren't handling that very well." You're just going, "This is how people deal with conflict," because you don't have any other examples. You don't have any frame of reference for it or expectations around commitment. How do people show up on time? Did your parent show up on time? Did they do the things they said they were going to do? [laughs]
Dedeker: Oh gosh, Jase, you're really speaking to me right now.
Jase: Did I hit you with that one?
Dedeker: You're cutting me right to the core there. That's--
Dedeker: That is a working model that I've carried with me to adulthood, for sure, stuff around punctuality and about integrity and follow-through and things like that.
Emily: Believing that others will not do that?
Dedeker: No, it's more of, if someone in my life isn't punctual or shows a lack of follow-through in something, and it could be as small as someone saying to me, "On my way home from work, I'll go to the store and pick up this thing," and then they forget, which is such a totally normal human natural thing to do, but I think because I definitely have this working model around follow-through, I get so offended. I get so offended, I'm like, "How dare you forget to do something?" That's 100% from my family of origin.
Jase: I think you bring up a great point with that question, Emily, in your response, Dedeker is that this can show up in different ways. That also could've shown up where like you yourself are always late because you're like, "Well, that's just what people do."
Jase: It can depend what attachment, which role you put yourself in. Same thing with conflict with your parents, if one always dominated the other, which one did you end up identifying with, and which role do you carry forward?
Emily: I think about this with how my mom when she was married, the only time that she was ever married, she moved in with her husband and immediately, he started becoming really abusive in their conflicts, and it didn't show up before they got married and moved in together because that's the kind of things that he saw family members doing with one another, and so it didn't show up before that.
Jase: Yes, his working model.
Emily: Exactly, that was his working model for what a household of two people who were married and living together, what that was. It didn't show up before that time because they weren't doing those things, but then all of a sudden when it did, it became obviously really awful.
Dedeker: I feel that happens a lot when people get married just because-- I don't know, everything
Emily: It's like the stakes are changed or something, I don't know.
Dedeker: I just think everything we attach, it's almost like we receive this working model not only from our parents and our family, but from our culture, but everything we attach to the titles of husband or wife or the title of married that I think can really show up in a lot of these previously unrecognized behaviors coming up.
Jase: I remember hearing about this at a talk years ago, about whenever a relationship enters a new label, suddenly all of this baggage or all of these meanings or assumptions that you've unconsciously attached to that thing, show up. This is not just getting married, but this could be moving in together. They're like, all of the sudden things show up that you weren't even aware you had those assumptions about how things go when people move in together either about
Emily: That something ticks you off, or about the other person.
Jase: Or your own behavior could really change, and you're like, "Why am I acting this way now? I'm upsetting my partner because of this," or just going from dating to saying I love you or getting engaged or getting married or whatever it is, where you're usually not aware of all these kind of assumptions and little pieces of baggage that go along with that.
Emily: Absolutely, and moving on something to be aware of is that a lot of people, when they're leaving an old relationship, and then walking into a new relationship, they're going to try to fill something that was missing. For example, if in a past relationship I felt as though I didn't receive a lot of affection from my partner, or if healthy communication and trust were really an issue, often people will go into the next relationship believing that those are the things that I need filled, and perhaps they'll start dating someone who is similar, hoping for a different result, and it can put us in this cycle of never being fulfilled in the way that we want, and also just that is at times sometimes an unhealthy expectation.
Even if you believe that affection should look a certain way, and then it doesn't get fulfilled in that manner, then you can still have that baggage come back on you and be like, "Well, I didn't get what I wanted again, shit."
Dedeker: I feel we haven't delved into this too deeply on the podcast before but-- I don't know, I'm curious what the two of you think about theories around people seeking out their parents when they date.
Emily: Yes, the Freudian stuff came out a little bit when we were doing some research.
Dedeker: It's not quite just surface-level Freudian like Oedipus complex, Electra complex, I don't think it's quite as essentially simple as that, but is in finding yourself in situations where you're reminded of the communication dynamic that you had with your mother, or you're reminded of the communication dynamic that your dad and mom or your parents had between themselves and-- I don't know, how do you feel about that?
Emily: Or you expect that in your relationship.
Dedeker: Because I feel like some people-- I don't know because sometimes I feel I'm so averse to anything that's similar to the ways that I saw my parents and family communicate, and so I try to seek the opposite of that, but then sometimes even in seeking the opposite of that, I find myself back in a situation where I'm still triggered by a similar communication dynamic. Then it's just this mind trip of like, "Am I cursed, am I doomed, am I subconsciously seeking to recreate this?" I don't know what's true and what's not
Emily: Interesting. Do you have something on that, Jase?
Jase: The description that I heard that I felt made some sense, I think there's something there-- Well, here's the thing, the idea is that it's not that you're attracted to someone who's like your mother or father, but that your relationships will be a continuation of trying to resolve the things that you didn't resolve with your parents. The idea of being like if you had a particular communication struggle with your parent, that then in your relationships, you're going to relive that or find people where you maybe have a similar issue because you're trying to eventually work through it.
Emily: Sure, exactly.
Jase: That was the explanation I heard. I don't know if I totally buy it, but in the context where I heard it, the person was talking about it in terms of like, "This doesn't mean you're doomed to this forever, it just means that by being aware of it, you can gain some power over it, and potentially by resolving some things with your parents, either with them or just in yourself about them, you can actually help yourself break out of that cycle." Again, I don't know what kind of science is behind this, but I did think it was something interesting to think about at least, just in terms of a way to evaluate yourself and see why you might be doing things.
Dedeker: It's good to hear that it's not a doom and it's not a curse. We will dive into this a little bit more specifically when we get to our bonus content.
Jase: The next thing we want to talk about and this is something I know Dedeker has things to say about this, and this is something called transference.
Emily: My mother's favorite word-- Not favorite, but like she used to use this term all the freaking time as I was growing up. I don't exactly know-- I'm trying to remember why. I think it was just like, "This is a transference right now on me or something." Things like that. I just remember she used it a ton. It is very like psych 101.
Dedeker: Would you say that maybe there's some baggage there around just the term transference itself?
Emily: Definitely, yes. I'd say so, because when I saw this I was like, "Huh."
I think it's a powerful word and it's a powerful concept.
Dedeker: We will reiterate this many times. This is also stuff to apply to yourself when you're thinking about your own shit. I don't think this is good stuff to weaponize. It sounds like maybe your mom did in like kind of throwing it on to you, or throwing it on to other people.
Emily: Sometimes it was about other people but--
Dedeker: Right. Saying, "This person is projecting this," or, "You're transferring this." That's not going to be a boon to your relationships, but I think applying some of these to yourself is going to be more likely to have a positive effect.
Emily: It's much more powerful. I agree. To be able to say, "Hey, maybe this is transference that I'm producing on to X, Y, or Z relationship of mine." Jase, what is transference? Why don't you tell us?
Jase: Well, yes. It's interesting because it is a tricky thing. You may accurately see that someone else is doing this. Like your mom may have been right in those situations.
Jase: For the purpose of this episode, and you listening at home, the point of this is for you to evaluate about yourself, right? What transference is, it's a term that's commonly used in therapy. Another term for it it's like a biological time machine, where basically something happens in the present but with another person generally, although not always, which brings your feelings and pain or worry or fear or whatever from the past into the present moment.
You're transferring an experience you had in the past and a feeling you had in the past on to a present situation. This is something like someone says a specific word like "transference" and all of a sudden-
-you're feeling all these feelings that have nothing to do with the fact that they just said the word transference, but it's because you have these memories, that your body has these memories of how you felt at a past time that this reminded you of.
Emily: I think that this is a powerful thing to be aware of just in general because it can cause some people to, I think, have emotional reactions that maybe seem out of the ordinary, or like they shouldn't have such an intense reaction to something that is said. I definitely had a recent episode of this with a friend where I was-- Their emotional baggage was transferred on to me. I also had a lot of feelings of like, "Holy shit, did I actually do something that warranted this kind of emotional response from them?"
I think in both of us working through it, it was definitely a point in which I was like, "No. Their trauma was transferred onto me by something triggering that happened between the two of us, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I did something to warrant that. It just was their emotional and bodily response to the occurrence." I think in both ways, it's a good thing to be reminded of.
Jase: That's a good point. Yes.
Dedeker: Yes. It's a good segway to talk about the fact that the way transference works is very similar to how trauma and PTSD and triggers work. I feel like they're kind of on a spectrum. I don't think that transference and trauma or being triggered are necessarily the same exact thing. I do think that they work functionally in very similar ways in that something can trigger you. Something triggers a memory or a feeling of past pain, that it can produce a reaction in the present that's disproportionate to what the situation actually is.
Some examples of like transference. Let's say, we'll start there, is maybe your new partner like doesn't text you back as soon as you're anticipating that they were. In the, let's say, hour that you're sitting there waiting to get a response from this person, it brings up either consciously or unconsciously this pain of maybe a very neglectful partner you had in the past. Maybe you had a really bad relationship with someone who was very bad at communicating, or suddenly ghosted you out of nowhere, something like that, and then that comes to the present, and then results in you being maybe more harsh or more angry with your current partner than maybe you otherwise would be.
Again, it's kind of the pain from the past partners being transferred onto the current partner. Now, that doesn't mean that you don't have a right to be like annoyed if someone doesn't respond to you, but it may be what's fueling like having a much deeper pain response, I suppose, than maybe the situation warranted. It's similar with things like trauma. If we want to go with a more extreme example, that it's like a partner may touch you in a way that suddenly brings back this like extreme fight-or-flight defensive response, especially if you have trauma that's based in physical touch that may result in you like pushing your partner away, or freezing or getting stiff.
Again, sometimes these things happen before you're even cognizant of it. Again, just this idea that it's like something from the past that's causing a much bigger quicker reaction than is merited in the present.
Emily: With all of this, though, again, we've talked a lot about baggage and how it can kind of be a challenging thing in your relationships. It's not always the case, it can also be really helpful, because there are things that come up in our past relationships that we carry emotional baggage, but it can also be like I carry maybe a knowledge of how to communicate really well from like a past relationship."
That's something that I want to carry in to my future relationships, or anything to how to be physically affectionate with someone, to how to give better blow jobs, anything, anything, anything. All of the above. It can fuel and make a current relationship better because you've had experience with others as well.
Dedeker: I think even if the quality of the emotion attached to the baggage is also negative, because I think some baggage that I feel like I carry with me that's actually good baggage is-- I had some painful experiences in the past of like, when I wouldn't be honest about my feelings with someone, or I would be very coy or hard to get or I felt like, "I can't be honest with this person about the fact that I'm interested or that I love them or that I want to be in an intense relationship with them," that I had some painful experiences of like kind of missing out on some relationships because people assumed I wasn't interested, or people assumed that I wasn't as into them as they were into me, and so they de-escalated the relationship.
Those were painful experiences, but it kind of taught me to carry in more of the sense of allowing myself to be vulnerable and honest with someone and allowing myself to kind of wear my heart on my sleeve as much as I can. Again, just to be vulnerable for the sake of that. For me, it's like, "Well, though that came from some painful experiences, but ultimately produced some really good things in my newer relationships."
Emily: You can be avoidant attached, Dedeker. You can be an island.
Dedeker: So much. So much. It's constantly my uphill battle.
Jase: [laughs] I think that's a great point, actually, about-- I think we're kind of trying to talk one about just the idea of baggage, in general, being stuff we're carrying forward from past relationships. If you think of it more as just like these are your-- I'm going with the metaphor here. These are your suitcases where you have the stuff you're bringing with you. That's not all bad. Those are also useful things, too.
Maybe like in Dedeker's example there, it could be a painful thing. I'm also thinking I have examples of that, also from baggage I have about pain I've caused to other people, or ways that I've upset past partners of mine or people that I've dated, and then the pain that I had in realizing that I had been the bad guy in that situation. That that's baggage that I still have, but that's not something that I want to-- I don't want it to maybe control me, but I also don't want to get rid of that, because I think that's hugely important in helping me to do a better job of being aware of the power that I might have, that I'm not aware of, or being aware of how to better take care of my partners and the people who I care about, or really just anyone.
Whether it's a positive thing or a negative thing. Emily said it could be a positive thing, like some awesome sex tips that you've learned or like good communication habits or just like a high standard for how communication goes and how people do resolve conflict well. I would still consider all those baggage. To go back to our metaphor here. If we're thinking about traveling, if you have too much baggage, like you've got so many trunks, you need to hire a valet to carry it along with you.
Dedeker: Yes, you have an army of valets and sherpas to carry your steamer trunks around onto the ship.
Jase: Right. Maybe you could get by with it, but you're going to be a lot more limited in your travels. You're going to be limited in where you can go. You're going to be limited in how fast you can go. You're constantly having to take care of all of this luggage you're bringing with you. Whereas on the other hand, if you have no luggage, then you don't have any clothes to change into. You can't brush your teeth. That's also not a good thing. The idea is you want to have baggage that's helpful and useful to you, but be mindful of it. Understand what the baggage is that you have, and decide if that's baggage that's helpful for you.
Dedeker: I think another way that the baggage we carry into relationships can be helpful is just in personal growth. There's this idea of stress-related growth, which is when we go through pain, especially when it's the pain or transition that comes out of a relationship ending, that it pushes us to a higher psychological and emotional capacity than we previously thought that we had, and it develops more of a sense of resiliency. I know, it's like a level up. Well, the way I feel about it is I think about some of my more painful breakups. For some reason, I've been dealing with a lot of clients going through breakups this week.
I've been talking about breakups a lot, that's just what has been on my mind, but it's like when I think about some of my most painful breakups and I look back and I think about like, "Gosh, that was really hard. We both loved each other so much, but it wasn't going to work out. We went through all this back and forth." Ultimately, I got through it.
That makes me feel more equipped where like if I'm in another relationship where it's like, even if I love this person but it's not going to work out, I know I can live through it. It's not going to necessarily make it feel good or feel easy, but at least I have a sense of I can do it.
At the time, when I think about this particularly painful breakup at the time, I didn't think I had the emotional capacity to handle this breakup. I thought my world was ending, and I just could not see how I was going to recover from it, but I did. It's like your baggage can sometimes be the amount that you've grown, or the amount that you've learned to stretch and to go past your own limits. That also is a good thing, even if it comes from something that's very painful.
Jase: Yes, before we go on to the second half, something I mentioned earlier while we were planning this that Dedeker liked, and so she wrote it down in the episode here.
Dedeker: Is that why you think I wrote it down?
Jase: Yes. [laughs]
Emily: Obviously you loved it.
Jase: Is that in the second half, we're going to talk about ways to recognize the helpful and unhelpful baggage and evaluate that. Then also what you can do about it if you do realize you have some baggage that you'd like to let go. As I put it before the body keeps score, but sometimes you don't know which game it's scoring.
Dedeker: Hold on.
Emily: Meaning? Can you elaborate just a tad on that?
Jase: Well, it's like transference. That example of the body keeps score, means the body is the thing that remembers the trauma that's there trying to protect you, that's responding to these things from the past, but we're not always aware of which game it's keeping score for. In my present relationship, my partner does a particular thing and my body goes -1,000 for Gryffindor, but actually they were saying that about the previous quidditch match and not about the current one. I really switched metaphors a few times.
Dedeker: I did not anticipate we were going to evolve also into a Harry Potter metaphor combined with the luggage metaphor.
Emily: Yes, and I'm pretty sure that's not how quidditch works, Jase.
Jase: Yes, you're right, that's more like the house system. I really mixed my metaphors within the world of Harry Potter.
Dedeker: Okay, but the idea that it's like, yes, your body and your emotions are going to react to things, but sometimes it's really difficult to tell, is this because of something in the past, or is this because of something in the present, or is it a mix of both and what do I do about it, essentially?
Emily: Yes, sounds good.
Jase: All right, in the second half here, we're going to start with talking about some clues or maybe some litmus tests that you can use to help recognize when the baggage you're experiencing might be unhelpful baggage that you want to let go of.
Dedeker: The litmi? I don't think litmi is a thing.
Emily: I know, I just thought I was like, "What's the singular of--?"
Jase: The plural of litmus?
Emily: Yes, or the plural of litmus, for multiple litmi.
Jase: Do we have any Greek and Latin?
Dedeker: I think the plural is litmus tests because I'm pretty sure litmus is a name.
Jase: Is it a name?
Emily: I don't know why. Whenever I hear the word litmus test, I think of those things that you stick on your tongue, like do the multiple colors. I don't know what those are, but I'm like, "Is that a litmus test?"
Dedeker: No, I totally lied about the name thing. Litmus itself is a mixture of colored organic compounds obtained from Lichen.
Emily: Fucking called it, man. Shit.
Jase: Yes, it's traditionally that--
Emily: Maybe I was mixing my metaphors.
Jase: It's normally a test for acidity or alkalinity. Not normally used on your tongue, but like in water or something or a solution.
Emily: I don't know why. I think maybe because litmus sounds like something maybe that would be put on your tongue. Anyway, keeping on.
Jase: That's a litmus test that you're thinking off. [laughs] In modern day, this is often used as a decisive test and something that's indicative. In politics, it's kind of used in that way. Anyway, these are a little tests, things that you can think about to help determine. First one we have here, we've mentioned this a little bit before, which is having a reaction or feelings that are either stronger or much quicker than seem to fit the circumstance. Like you have this immediate, harder, better, faster, stronger. That you just have this, what seems to you like a disproportionately strong reaction to something that happens?
I think, again, these are tests, so it's possible that you'll look at this test and go, "No, I actually think my reaction, if I'm able to distance myself from it a little bit. No, I do think that's appropriate. I should have been that upset about it or that was a very shocking thing." This isn't just to say anytime you have a big reaction, that's this. No, can you kind of evaluate, did this seem out of proportion? Does this seem larger than it was warranted by what happened?
The next one would be stubbornly holding onto a relationship that isn't working. This is almost the opposite side of where we see a lot of baggage. There's more about like, "My baggage broke up my relationship." It's like potentially your baggage is what's keeping you in a pretty unhappy relationship, or an unhealthy relationship or an unfulfilling relationship, because you're maybe like with the parents' thing. You're trying to work through something you never got resolved with your parents or in a past relationship, or something that you feel like you're maybe not deserving of in your life. This can get really heavy here, but just looking at that. Like, "Am I stubbornly holding on to a relationship that isn't working just because of whatever baggage I might have?"
Dedeker: Another indicator, another clue that there may be some unhelpful baggage in this situation is, if you are having obsessive thoughts, or if you are fixating on a particular event, or a particular conversation, or a particular fight that you had with a partner, if you're finding yourself really unable to let something go. The way that I look at it is like if you are obsessed about something that happened. I feel like, first of all, it's definitely an indicator that something else is going on underneath the surface, and either it's an indicator that something really wrong happened there, and it's very much a deal breaker.
It's like if you cannot let go of this, maybe you need to reconsider the relationship or reconsider your part in the situation. Or it might be an indicator that there's something from the past that's bringing up a lot more pain than the situation itself maybe actually warrants, and you're finding yourself thinking about it and rehashing it in your head. It could be that something similar happened in a past relationship, or it hearkens back to something from your childhood that, again, is trying to work itself out and that's why you're finding yourself just chewing and mulling over the same thing over and over again.
Another clue can be if you find yourself having an unexplainable, either attraction or repulsion to someone or to a situation or to an environment. I have an example of this actually with the repulsion one that actually at a workshop that we did a while ago.
Emily: Oh God, I remember.
Dedeker: We were doing this workshop and a couple people showed up late, maybe a half an hour into the workshop and this man walked in and I initially only saw him out of the corner of my eye, but he looked like an ex partner of mine and particularly an abusive ex partner of mine. This guy just bore enough of a resemblance to this person that I was just instantly, instantly repulsed to the point of I do not want to talk to this guy. I don't even want to look in that corner of the room.
It's like this guy is just a guy, it's not his fault. He literally did nothing in this situation but I was seriously. I don't know, I feel it was borderline one part baggage and also just one part triggered because of the trauma. It was even like, I think this-
Emily: It wasn't long after everything went down.
Dedeker: It was not long after that particular breakup and this guy even tried to ask me a couple of questions after the workshop and I was just doing everything in my power to make it as short of an interaction as possible. Again, it's another example of a react just a random dude walks into a room and it's not necessarily inappropriate reaction to immediately be so averse to a total stranger. That's definitely because of something in the past that came to the present.
Jase: What would be the flip side of this test? Like a justified attraction or repulsion I guess.
Dedeker: Justified repulsion it could be any number of things. It could be, I don't know, justified repulsion it could be repulse someone who actually did something to hurt you.
Dedeker: That's justifiable because it's like, maybe you're with someone who could do something that reminds you of the shitty thing that your ex did. I feel it's tricky to figure out what is it where you're repulsed by this person just because it reminds you versus did this person just straight up do something your ex did and you're repulsed by the action I suppose. I don't know it does start to get a little tricky.
Emily: I met a person when I was in China and we were talking about the podcast and he was saying a ton of really negative things about non-monogamy and people who are in non-monogamous relationships and what that means that they are, or like a judgment value on them and it really pissed me off. I had an immediate anger because it just felt really bullshit and I don't know, I was like, I don't want to have any more with this person in the time that I'm still here just because I feel that's the way in which they characterize people who decide to do this type of relationship structure and just women in general and a bunch of stuff. It was all about that and it felt really toxically masculine and bullshit. I don't know, that was a repulsion.
Dedeker: It's the kind of thing in that instance where, essentially something that I remember of you telling us about that situation is that he used the word, he didn't call women sluts.
Emily: He said slag.
Dedeker: The British version. A man calling a woman a slut sure that can carry the pain of maybe the times in the past that you were called a slut or the times in the past that you've seen other people be called a slut and the pain from that, but it can also be painful in the moment too and that feels justifiably repulsing.
Jase: That's a good example of how you weigh those things.
Emily: Also, that he's the type of person that would even go there, that would even call someone that and to me I'm like, that's not a type of person that I fucking need to be around so I'm not going to.
Jase: That's a great example of the other side.
Dedeker: I really want to quickly explore the whole heaven. Either of the two of you had an unexplainable attraction to someone that was maybe more based in past baggage rather than?
Jase: I've had unexplainable attraction, but I could not tell you if that was attached to baggage or what.
Emily: I know, God, that's a really hard thing to figure out in the moment. I'm sure but-
Dedeker: I definitely feel this happened to me recently where there's definitely a person that I found myself attracted to, really attracted to because they reminded me of an ex from 10 years ago that got away.
Jase: Sure I have experienced that.
Dedeker: It's not at all about this person's personality or who they are. It's because their physical appearance reminds me of that and I find myself drawn to that because of being fueled by trying to work out that unresolved thing with this ex from 10 years ago.
Jase: That's a good example.
Emily: All right, what's another one? This one is really interesting. A litmus test can be when you have an experience happened and then you make someone else's actions about you. I'm trying to come up with a good example for this but even just it can be something very simple like this person I guess your partner, whomever decides to not take out the trash when they said they were going to and they didn't follow through like what Dedeker had talked about before and then all of a sudden-[crosstalk]
Emily: Yes exactly. Then all of a sudden it becomes about you. It's like, wow, I guess they don't really, I don't know, they don't.
Dedeker: Emily, I can finish this story for you because I have lived this. I think for me it tends to go to a place of gosh, how do I make it about me? About like you saw that the trash needed to be taken out, but you had the thought of, "Well ,Dedeker will take care of it so I don't have to," and you intentionally had that thought and then walked by with this firm intention of making me do everything. That's definitely a story that comes up for me, which pretty much is 100% BS.
Emily: Or all of a sudden it becomes about how your partner doesn't want to take care of you or doesn't want to help out as much as you need them to or wish that they would or that they don't respect you in the way that you deserve or blah, blah, blah. Often it can be things like that. On the flip side maybe there are things that tend to come up. For instance, we always put the dishes in poorly and just freaks out about that and maybe that actually is that we just don't care to learn how to put the dishes in right because we think that Jase, ultimately will still yell at us.
Jase: Gosh, I was going to try to justify a different example, but if just the difference between someone's actions being about you or not. In that example, I don't, correct me if I'm wrong here, but I don't think either of you would intentionally load a dishwasher poorly to hurt me-
Dedeker: Antagonize you.
Jase: -to spite me or to antagonize me or to-
Dedeker: Now I'm considering it for the sake of the laws but--
Jase: That would be an example of something that I might think, "Gosh, she's just doing this again to get to me or to show that she doesn't respect me or to try to manipulate me into just always doing the dishes or whatever it is." Whereas on the other side, maybe someone is doing something that is about you. Is a partner constantly interrupting you when you're talking and they don't do that to other people. Maybe that is something about you, they might still not be doing it intentionally, intentionally, but it is still something about you that's causing them to do that.
That's just a smaller example. It could also be something bigger of intentionally being disrespectful to you or intentionally doing something repeatedly that they know is hurtful or upsetting to you to try to exert power or-
Jase: -make you feel better or manipulate. Again, it's like evaluate, is this me attaching meaning to something that's actually probably just them being spacey or forgetting something or whatever it is, or is this actually about me?
Emily: Finally another litmus test is looking at the types of people that you are getting into relationships with and asking yourself, am I dating this similar person with similar attributes that perhaps are things that have not served me in the past? Again, I'm doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result but ultimately it's not serving me to keep doing that.
I don't know what the opposite of this one is unless these people are serving you in your relationship and you keep getting with the same people that have similar attributes that are great for you and they bring out good sides with you.
Jase: Good way to evaluate that.
Emily: I think it can happen often that we are drawn to similar types of emotional baggage, for lack of a better word. Are you going to say the baggage word?
Dedeker: I feel like at the end of the day just examining any patterns whatsoever that you have in relationships or in the type of people that you date can be valuable. It's not always necessarily going to be an indicator that something's wrong, but I think it is really important to be aware of those things.
Trust me, I had two abusive relationships that happened essentially back to back and they were abusive in very different ways, but it's still, once I was finally done with all that, you're like, I definitely have had to spend a lot of time both on my own end in therapy, just examining what was that pattern about? Even though it was a relatively short pattern of just two people, but examining what happened there? What was I holding onto that was keeping me in both of these bad relationships and it's not the most fun work to do, but it has been very illuminating and very helpful in looking at what baggage I have carried with me.
Jase: With all of these, it's just evaluating, is this baggage if it's not helpful or these things I'm feeling maybe they are appropriate and maybe that means this relationship is one that I shouldn't be in or at least not be in, in the same way that I am now. To tie this back to even the negative baggage being good or can be good like Dedeker was talking about just now, is that because you've had the experiences you've had in your past, whatever those are, those might make you better equipped to see some of these things or to see actual red flags or warning signs rather than staying in this relationship and not seeing it.
Again, it's that evaluation of like, is this helping me and in this case, if this is you a symptom of a relationship where you're not being respected or that's even moving toward abuse or is just one where you're really not happy, that baggage might be the thing that helps save you the time of staying in this relationship when-- Instead you realize, oh gosh look, I see these things because I have this baggage let's get out of this.
Dedeker: If you've gone through all of our little clues and litmus test for trying to figure out like, is this unhelpful baggage, is this helpful baggage, what if you've determined that you have a bunch of unhelpful baggage attached to you? What do we do?
Emily: It's important to realize that baggages are different there are different types of baggage. Some people have away bags, some people have rolling bags-
Emily: That's like the one you got-
Emily: - some people have duffle bags.
Dedeker: Yes, exactly, some people have duffle bags yes exactly.
Emily: Oftentimes when we go into relationships and when we have fights, for example, with people we might think that someone is going to react a certain way because that's the way that we would react. Therefore assuming that somebody else has similar baggage she around, but really we all come from different walks of life, we all come from different experiences and so our personal baggage is going to potentially most likely be very different than your partners or whomever you're having a conflict with.
Dedeker: I think related to that is just being dedicated to having some self-awareness and investing in some self-examination on this possibly with the help of the therapist. A lot of these things are very useful to work out with someone outside of you to bounce ideas off of and to offer suggestions and talk about these things. I find it's really helpful to just take stock of your past relationships, think critically about what happened in past relationships, about what lessons you may have learned or what messages you may have received about how to communicate or about what kind of a person you are or about just what relationships are supposed to be like in general.
Think about what working models you may have received from your parents. Think about how your parents fought, think about how your parents' relationships were. If it's not two parents, think about the relationships that you saw in your family of origin, in the context that you grew up with. Also if you're dealing with trauma or PTSD, do the work to seek healing of the trauma in whatever modality works for you.
For some people it's talk therapy, for some people, it's more hands-on kind of therapy. There's a wide variety of options for seeking healing of trauma but it's choosing to make the investment in being aware of this stuff is really going be-- It's a really important first step and it can really equip you because if you have the awareness of it, at least it's not something that can control you 100% of the time is the way that I feel about it. If you brought it into the light, it makes it a lot easier to deal with it.
Jase: Now, because every good Multiamory episode involves a list, we have five steps that you can take you don't necessarily have to do all of them you can pick and choose, but they're set up in order of some things that you can do when you have determined that you're experiencing some unhelpful baggage. Number one is in that moment, take a breath and come to the present moment and notice where you are.
When thinking about something like transference, it's like just realize like, oh gosh, I'm having a big reaction, let me stop look at where I am and I mean just very literally. I'm in my room it's the present day, my partner is my modern day current partner the one today, not anyone from the past. Just taking stock of very literally looking around being like, Oh yes, that's my wall where I put up note cards yesterday and this is my water bottle that I just filled and grounding yourself in right now.
Emily: Step number two is to make the transference conscious. Why do I want to say something different than that? Conscious. This is really important to ask yourself who is my partner to me in this point? Am I viewing my partner as my mother for example? Am I viewing my partner as an ex? Is this situation similar to something that occurred in the past? Be able to take a step back hindsight is 2020 look from 30,000 feet down on the situation and be like, "Huh, am I having a reaction simply because I feel as though my partner is this other person that has occurred in the past or the situation that has occurred in the past?"
Step three is going to be, ask your partner what they are really saying or feeling. Again, you may be having a specific reaction to something, but it's important to go back and be like, hey, I had an emotional reaction to that I just want to be clear right now what exactly was it that you were trying to convey to me in that moment when you said X thing?
Jase: Yes, I personally, this one really resonated for me when we were putting this list together of especially with a newer-ish partner of mine where especially earlier on, something would happen. Maybe I wouldn't hear from her for a little bit where she would respond in a certain way to something that I said that to me it would go into like, oh gosh she's pulling away and she's going to leave me because that's what the last person did or right whatever that transference was. I was able to ask her, "Hey when this happened, are you feeling like you're pulling away or was something else going on or what's going on?"
She and I actually both started doing that about those things we felt insecure about and just asking it and then believing the other person when they tell you, "No, actually that's not at all I'm sorry that you felt that way. What I actually meant was this thing," and just going like, that's what it means when this person does that thing and not trying to assume what someone else might think, but actually just asking them. That for me was a big, big revelation in that relationship and in my relationships in general. Just actually ask them and believe them.
Emily: That's really important and step number four is to freaking claim that baggage. What I mean by--
Emily: Go to that baggage claim.
Dedeker: Yes, and what I mean is to take ownership of your shit, it is okay-- Once you've recognized that this is what's happening, it is okay to say, "Hey, I'm sorry I reacted that way. This reminded me of something in the past. Can we either talk about that a little bit or let me take a halt until I feel a little bit better," or whatever it is that you need. It is okay to take ownership of what's going on in you and to again just to bring it into the light, bring it into the conversation.
At least recognize something's going on here that's not what's actually happening in this present moment and that's why I'm feeling upset or that's why I'm crying or things like that. Again, take ownership of the baggage that you've brought into the situation. Number five is to find a way to let it go. If not-
Emily: Let it go.
Dedeker: - permanently
Emily: I'm sorry I had to.
Dedeker: - on the top of a mountain than to let it go for now. The thing is that the baggage that you carry with you or the triggers or the trauma or whatever it is, it's like it's your body and your nervous system and your emotions and your brain all trying to protect you and trying to get you what it is that you need and that's actually a very good thing. It's a very wonderful thing that there's a part of you that has your own back that is trying to protect you and trying to make sure that you don't run into another painful situation or that you don't get hurt again.
I find what's been very useful for me specifically in working through my own trauma and baggage, is to address that part of myself and thank it for protecting me, but to also let it know, I just don't need you right now, but I can take comfort in the fact of knowing when I do truly need you and when I do truly need your protection, you are going to be there, but right now it's not this moment. Good work soldier, take a break, smoke if you got them and-
Dedeker: -I'm going to go about my day. That's how I do it, I don't know about all you all.
Emily: Ultimately with all of these things, if we're dealing with baggage good or bad, if we're dealing with transference, whatever it is, it is really important to have compassion for oneself because relationships can be really vulnerable, they can be stressful at times and it is okay if past baggage comes up occasionally. If it's not serving you maybe look at that and understand that you're not necessarily going to get past that baggage that isn't serving you immediately, so have some compassion for yourself if time needs to be taken in order to work, pass that baggage.
I think this is something I really struggle with at times is just having self-compassion. Definitely, I've talked about that on this podcast, but I'll tend to beat myself up over a lot of things and that really doesn't do anyone any good. It's understandable that challenges will arise that take a while to work through, so give yourself that time, give yourself that love.
Dedeker: Yes, speaking of that love, we would definitely love to hear from you. Are there things that came up for you when listening to this episode? Did you become aware of some baggage that you may be carrying into your relationships, either the healthful kind or the not so helpful kind? Is this some work that you've done before and you found some really interesting, illuminating things about yourself have come to the surface, we would definitely love to hear about it and the best place to share your thoughts with other listeners and with us is on this episode's discussion thread in our private Facebook group or in that episode discussion thread on our discord server.
You get access to these groups and you can join our exclusive community by going to patrion.com/multiamory. In addition to that, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org you can leave us a voicemail at 678 M-U-L-T-I-05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook.
Multiamory is created and produced by Emily Matlack, Jase Lindgren and me Dedeker Winston. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio Balvanera. Our social media wizard is, Well Macmillan. Our theme song is Forms I know I did by Josh and Anand from the fractal Cade EP.