Asalaamu alaikum, sisters. I trust that your preparation for the holy month of Ramadhan has been going to plan, insha Allah. Many of us use this holy month to physically detox, but the holy month of Ramadhan is an ideal time to detox emotionally as well. So let’s put some energy into releasing any past hurts, grudges and emotional blocks that may be holding us back from reaching the next level in our spiritual and personal development. Emotional baggage isn’t always obvious to spot, but it can have a devastating impact on our relationships and on our physical health. For example, if a bad experience stops us from trusting people, this will create a domino effect impacting all our relationships, the stress of which will impact our health.
Carrying emotional baggage is one way in which we disregard our health. Some ways in which we disregard ourselves are easy to spot, for example eating badly, smoking, not exercising, or not offering salah on time. However, lurking emotional baggage is often harder to spot because it is underneath the behaviour, not the behaviour itself. So, where do we begin? The first step is to ask yourself the following questions:
“Is there any relationship in my life that I am feeling negative about?”
“Are there any past events that are still affecting my life in a negative way?”
“Am I holding onto any memories that cause me pain?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, that is a hint that there is work to do, and now is a good time to begin that process. I invite you to use the following tips to begin the process of healing and letting go of emotional baggage.
Step 1: Reduce negative influences:
Imagine that you want to lose weight but your kitchen is full of chocolate and biscuits. The first thing when embarking on any type of detoxification programme is to ensure that your environment will support your goal. Look around your home and identify any objects that bring back painful memories when you look at them. These objects may well have great sentimental value, but if the reminders are more painful than precious, then removing them is a powerful way of creating your intention to move on. If you’re not ready to give them away just yet, then put them in a box and store them somewhere where they are away from your line of vision. This will give you some space to get on with the work you need to do and to let go of any past hurts that are holding you back from living your life in the present.
Also, reduce or remove any elements that would distract you from doing this valuable inner work. For example, if you watch the news several times a day, are constantly connected to Instant Messenger or newsfeeds, these may distract you from focusing on the work at hand. Choose a number of days when you will give yourself a break from these distractions. Set your own timeline on this. The first few days of any detox programme are challenging, but you may find that the quiet provides you with the time and space to focus on your emotional health.
Step 2: Take ownership:
The reason why emotional baggage builds up is because people perceive something bad has been done to them and the other person made them feel the way they are feeling. Whenever you hear someone saying, “She makes me angry (or upset, hurt etc)”, you know that this person is holding the other person responsible for making them feel that way. The longer we focus on how the other person made us feel, the longer we remain in that emotional pain. Let’s face it, bad things happen, and people behave in ways that hurt or disappoint us, but no-one can make us feel anything. Feelings are our own unique responses to experiences and events. We can begin to remove toxic emotions when we take real responsibility for feeling the emotion, and then make the intention to let those feelings go. Try this exercise: Name the feelings you are experiencing in association with the event (hurt, anger, resentment etc) and write them down beginning with “I feel” or “I am.” For example “I am angry because _____________________.”
Step 3: Choose to let go:
You’ve now made two very important steps to move forward. You’ve identified where the issue lies and the emotions that you’re holding on to. Now you have a choice to make. You can either remain in the same place, holding onto those emotions, or you can make a conscious choice to let them go so you can move forward. This can be challenging because either we want the person who behaved badly to suffer, or perhaps we don’t know how to let go, but whatever reason we choose to hold on to negative baggage, the end result is that we continue to feel hurt and our lives are impacted. Ask yourself the following questions:
“What will I gain by holding on to these emotions?”
“What will I lose by holding on to these emotions?”
“What will I gain by letting these emotions go?”
“What will I lose by letting these emotions go?”
Once you’ve done this exercise, you will have a clear choice to make. Insha Allah you will find that it is worth releasing all that emotional baggage. Once you’ve chosen to let go, the hardest work has been completed.
Step 4: Active forgiveness
Have you heard anyone say, “I want to forgive and forget”? Forgetting isn’t up to us really; it’s a process whereby the mind files away things we aren’t thinking about on a regular basis. Forgiveness, however, is something that we control. Forgiveness is letting go of something in a way that you no longer feel the negative emotions that were associated with the event. Forgiveness in this way is actually about setting yourself free from the emotional baggage. Forgiveness is an active process. Here’s an exercise that will begin the process. Write a forgiveness letter. The intention of this letter is to mention the pain and then forgive it and let go. State all that you need to say, and then mention how you are letting it all go. Write down your intention to move forward, and how you plan on doing this from this moment on. Once the letter is complete, tear it up and dispose of it in an appropriate manner. You will find yourself feeling much lighter. If the emotions surface again, repeat the process. One thing to be careful of is not to re-read the letter and be clear about your intention to let go. If you don’t feel you’re ready to let go, then wait till you are. Insha Allah, that will make all the difference.
Step 5: Create a new behaviour
Relationships require more than one person, don’t they? I know that’s stating the obvious, but what I’m hinting at is that you will have had a part in the relationship in the first place. Something going wrong is a great opportunity to learn new behaviours. So now that you have forgiven and let go, think about one thing that you would have done differently. Would you have been careful not to reveal too much personal information? Perhaps you would have done more research, or had a written agreement. Write down 1-3 new behaviours that you will now begin to implement, and in which situations they might be appropriate. Be careful to focus on what you will do and avoid focusing on what you won’t do again. This will provide your unconscious mind with a clear message on what you want to do moving forward.
Insha Allah, I hope that you will find these steps easy to implement. Wishing you every success in your journey.
Sayeda Habib is a Life Coach. She has been featured in Rapport Magazine, ARY Digital Television, and BBC Radio Gloucestershire and has been a presenter on the Islam Channel. To get in touch with Sayeda log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email Sayeda@makelifehappen.com