Unpacking Suitcases

If you missed our chat last week, we talked all about a trauma-responsive approach to every day interactions. It’s called the suitcase analogy and you can check it out here. Today, we’re taking this another step and asking ourselves, “What do we do with all of this baggage?” I’m outlining FIVE things you can do right now to ease your burden and be more compassionate with others. 

  1. Investigate your own suitcases with self-compassion. Make two boxes that represent your acute stressors and your long-term adversities – aka, your two suitcases. Stay present and gentle with yourself. Write down what feels heavy without judgement. 
  2. Acknowledge that some days, the weight of your suitcase feels heavy. This all depends on context. Some days, you feel well-rested, connected to others, and deeply grounded. On those days, the suitcases you carry don’t feel so burdensome. Other days, your energy level is low, you feel disconnected or sad, and the weight of your collective experiences feels burdensome. It’s ok, give yourself some grace. 
  3. Notice your suitcases throughout the day as you interact with others. Some people offer to “carry” your stress while others compound it. Some parts of the day, the weight feels heavier than others. Stay curious and pay attention. 
  4. Notice that others are carrying suitcases too. If someone seems terse, mean, rushed, or withdrawn, recognize that they might simply be feeling the weight of their suitcases. Don’t take it personally and don’t feel like you have to take on all of their stress or worries. Be curious. If it’s a friend or co-worker you care about, check in. “Hey, I noticed you’re not yourself today, do you want to talk?” or “Let me know if a walk over lunch would feel good” with no expectation that they have to share at all. 
  5. Noticing your own suitcases and knowing that we’re all doing the best we can to carry the weight of our experiences will lead all of us to more compassion. Just see what the next few days feel like when you recognize: I’m carrying around a lot of stuff and other people are too. It doesn’t excuse hurtful behavior of others; but I hope it provides perspective. It’s an explanation, not an excuse. We all carry stuff. 

Ok friends, let me know how this goes. It’s a bit of a compassionate, social experiment. See how you feel the next time the barista is frustrating, someone cuts you off in traffic, you disagree with a co-worker, or feel confused by someone’s actions. It might just be that what’s in their suitcase is quite heavy. 

By the way, we talk about trauma-responsive space with all types of organizations and we’d LOVE to come to yours! Connect with us here!