The Emotional Baggage Carousel

If you’ve ever been to an airport then you know exactly what a baggage carousel looks like and what it does. It constantly spews out baggage from somewhere deep within the bowels of the building and then circulates it on a conveyor belt until someone claims it as their own. And while a visit to the baggage carousel can be an interesting study in humanity and a fun way to kill ten minutes, it’s also a fascinating metaphor.

A Metaphor

Consider the carousel to be the human mind and the circulating baggage to be a endless selection of emotions. You have just arrived at your destination and like the good passenger that you are (but then maybe you should be the pilot?), you’re standing to attention when the first bag emerges from somewhere subterranean and crashes onto the revolving belt in front of you. Splashed all over the bag in capital letters are the words POOR SELF-ESTEEM. You pick it up. You know it’s yours. Next comes ANXIETY. You too. Boom; straight on top. Before long, you’ve loaded up your trolley with SELF-DOUBT, GUILT, PARANOIA, SHAME and SELF-PITY. In a few minutes you’ve collected all your baggage and you turn to make your way out of the building. To your surprise, the trolley won’t move. You try and try but it won’t budge and then right before your very eyes, the ANXIETY bag grows bigger. The overloaded trolley is incredibly heavy and you’re now sure that people are staring, judging and laughing at you (in reality, they’re not). As you feel your heart rate increase, your face begin to flush and your chest tighten, you glance back at the carousel and rolling across the floor towards you is a new bag: EMBARRASSMENT.

Awesome. :(

Stuck

Of course it won’t fit on the trolley but nonetheless you choose to carry it awkwardly with one arm while desperately trying to budge the rest of your baggage. Nothing happens. You’re totally stuck. You’re pushing and pushing but the weight is killing you. Lots of effort and energy but no progress. A kind stranger suggests that you leave it all behind and simply walk out the door.

‘How can someone be so stupid’, you mumble under your breath. ;)

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate L June 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

love it!

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 8:39 am

Cheers Kate :)

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chebbieanne June 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Simply walking away, for me, would be a far greater loss than the struggle to succeed. The struggle to understand emotions, good and not so good, learning how to control and use them and more importantly learn from them. I think this has made me a more feeling and empathetic human – or nuttier than a squirrel, a view that I suspect is shared by many. That is OK I like squirrels. To understand pain in others, be that physical or emotional, you first need to feel it yourself. Life without the less desirable emotions would make the feel good stuff less satisfying. Imagine a world full of deliriously happy people who no longer have anything to aspire to, nothing more to hope for, devoid of all challenges and dreams! Living the dream is not living life. To the kind stranger at the airport I would say “here is a dollar, now go and get another trolley and help me get my stuff to the car” My problem solved and he would feel good as well as kind. :)
Simple really. :)

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

“Life without the less desirable emotions”…

Hey Chebbieanne, I wasn’t suggesting a life devoid of negative emotions but rather a life not destroyed or controlled by them. :)

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Ann-Marie June 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Great Metaphor! How do I leave my baggage behind?

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 8:42 am

Anne-Marie, Eastern wisdom tells us that happiness comes not from chasing and striving but rather “from letting go of that which makes us unhappy.”

When it’s too painful to hold on to, you’ll let it go. :)

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Lori Minky Radcliffe June 17, 2013 at 2:05 am

Craig,
I’ve been reading your stuff for years. This time I just had to comment. I giggled all the way through this article. What an awesome metaphor. You’re terrific!

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

Hey Lori! Where have you been? Thanks for emerging from the shadows. Don’t be a stranger. :)

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Anonymous June 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

Ahhaha – funny, welcome to my world – how did u know? Lv ur subsequent comment too re happiness comes from letting go rather than chasing and striving. Sometimes it seems we are all frantically searching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and think we’ll be happy when we find it….why wait I say, there is every chance it doesn’t exist.

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

I just know Anon! :)

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Tim June 17, 2013 at 9:07 am

Like the metaphor Craig.

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thanks Tim :)

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Sandy Fishwick June 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

I Love travelling, my baggage is getting lighter as I go.
Your post on Shit That Won’t Happen your advice to me was “Let it go Sandy” so I am learning to let it go.

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

Good for you Sandy :)

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dave June 17, 2013 at 9:55 am

Hi Craig,
Since I came across your wonderful blog last year, I have transformed my health and mind. However I had a nasty incident at work last month; I was assaulted… Since then all the issues I have been struggling with(anxiety, depression I developed from a fatality with my tram and being assaulted; long, long story) have resurfaced and I’m truly having great difficulty remaining positive and I’m falling into a downward spiral. I know what I have to do Craig, but I’m not sure if I have the strength anymore. I have found/find your advice invaluable…
Dave

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

Hi Dave. :) Well done on your achievements so far. Man, you’ve been having a tough time haven’t you? The fact that you left the message you did means that you’re looking for solutions and you’re serious about surviving and thriving. Good for you. Control your controllables, do your best not to over-think, try to be proactive and productive early in the day (sets you up for a better day) and exercise daily (the best medication and anti-depressant). Dave, I really respect men who can share their feelings and explore their emotions, so well done and keep learning, growing and exploring. I have a feeling you might inspire others to do the same. Take care :)

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dave June 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

Thanks Craig, a much needed tonic.

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Kat June 17, 2013 at 10:37 am

We CAN choose. Isn’t that great?

Love this post!!

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

Yes it is Kat :)

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Lou June 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

Awesome, having just been interstate for work and to have arrived home somewhat confused about “stuff” this is a brilliant metaphor :)

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Glad it resonated Lou :)

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tracy June 17, 2013 at 11:50 am

This was very timely. Sat in a car dealership today as salesman made me feel like crap over credit not being stellar. Long story, but 2 years ago allowed myself to be swindled because I was “in love”. Been digging out and moving on, but being denied service because of poor credit brought it all back. Mustered up the nerve to try at another dealership and hopefully will be bringing home my new car tomorrow. While sale guy #2 was doing paperwork, I read this on my phone.

Thank you for this!
Tracy

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Enjoy your new wheels Tracy :)

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Betsy June 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm

“A man’s speech should exceed his gasp; or what’s a metaphor?”

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Clever Betsy. :)

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Joe June 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Really relevant to me in the past few days so thanks!

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

You’re welcome Joe :)

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Tracey June 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Bloody brilliant.

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Craig June 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

You are ;)

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Taglia June 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Good post…however…. fooling oneself by not handling the baggage…when not handled and dealt with…it always follows and creeps up…unable ‘to move’…causing blockages. It has become part of the underlying ‘blueprint’…and the blueprint needs to be ‘rewritten’. There are various ways of dealing with emotional baggage, one of them is a technique called EFT (emotional freedom technique)

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Cathy S February 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

Hi Taglia,
Not to make light of your point but rather an opportunity for a laugh. Isn’t EFT an acronym for ‘electronic funds transfer’?! Just before some retail therapy to temporarily cope with all your emotional baggage?! ;)

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Val May 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Craig this is so awesome! The way you put this together is brilliant! Humorous but a great way to help us understand ourselves better :-)

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Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 5:21 pm

This baggage is weighing me down less and less. I’d like nothing better than to leave it behind altogether. But getting rid of it is quite an effort. Can anxiety, self-doubt and paranoia serve any useful function? There must be a reason why they develop. Self-pity is an interesting one. In some circumstances I’d say it’s justified (some people have simply been dealt a bad hand by life). But the very words “self-pity” carry a negative judgement with them. So I think people need to be careful when they use the idea of “self-pity” that they’re not in effect saying to someone, “Don’t complain because it’s inconvenient for me to listen to”. I agree self-pity isn’t helpful (or attractive), it’s just that I think sometimes it’s understandable. H

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Tina May 29, 2014 at 1:18 am

Hey Craig, loved this, but I have a question. Why do the dates on the responses go back to 16th June 2013?!!

OK, I’m going to bed now!!

{{HUG}} Tina

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Sandra May 29, 2014 at 2:29 am

Awesome analogy!

I decided a long time ago to let go the bulk of my baggage, because I was no longer willing to let it have control of my life. There are still annoying little doubts remaining, but they’re pretty much reduced to wallet size. ;)

I’m gonna have to share this one!

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Mares May 29, 2014 at 8:04 am

Oh God this is me, however I think I would have a few extra bags on that trolley!
Hmmmm I think I will try carry on luggage next time.

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Trish May 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

This is a great post Craig, and really really helpful for we over-thinkers!
I had an unpleasant experience with one of my clients early in the week, and it’s been doing the rounds of my ‘mental carousel’ ever since. Thanks to your metaphor, I can now let it go, permanently.
My wonderful partner is the ‘kind stranger’ who gives the same advice, and is one of the most grounded people I know, so you’re both obviously on to something!
Thank you for your wise words.

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Deb May 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

Love love love it!

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ecmcspline May 29, 2014 at 10:02 am

Love the metaphor, and one of life’s lessons for me has been you cannot control the uncontrollable, so let it go and move forward. I am taking small steps and slowly getting there!! Thanks Craig great post :-)

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Kim May 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm

excellent post Craig!! Thanks very much

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Lisa May 30, 2014 at 4:52 am

I know you considered not writing these blog’s anymore. But I really hope you don’t stop. I rarely reply, and I’m sure many people don’t, but that dosn’t mean tons of people aren’t reading and finding insperation in your words. Thank you :)

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Nerida May 30, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Loved the blog. Please don’t stop writng these Craig. Sometimes a little light bulb moment is all you need to keep going. You provided that this morning. A big thank you.

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Martijn @ acongruentman May 31, 2014 at 5:22 am

Letting go of the “baggage” is a slow process, but if you consistently refuse those things to be in your life it will become reality. This is what I’ve noticed alot over the past two years

- Martijn

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Emma May 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Kinda off topic but I reckon you see the best and worst of human behaviour at airports. I personally like to travel lightly – carry on all the way ;) . Far too much energy required another way.

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Ronald June 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Great article, really strikes a chord! :-)
The funny thing is that when you (“you” being me, of course) are standing there with all your baggage, it does really seem like an incredibly bad and wrong idea to just walk away from it. In any case difficult, as in almost impossible.
Whenever you do manage to walk away, it turns out to be totally easy and the only question then becomes “why haven’t I done this a long time ago already?”.
Thanks for the reminder — yes, timely! :-)

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