People who haven’t let go of emotional baggage from childhood usually display these 7 behaviors as adults

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Many adults unknowingly carry emotional baggage from their childhood, which often reveals itself through various habitual behaviors. This burden, if not addressed, can affect the individual’s personal growth, relationships, and overall mental well-being.

In our experience, these unresolved feelings from the past usually manifest in seven distinct patterns of behavior in adulthood.

These patterns can be subtle and may be mistaken for personality traits, but they are actually signs of unprocessed emotions and experiences from one’s formative years.

Recognizing these signs is a critical step towards healing and personal growth. This is particularly crucial for parents, as understanding and working through their own emotional baggage can lead to more effective parenting.

It allows for a shift from reactive responses based on past wounds to conscious decisions grounded in the present moment.

In this article, we will delve into the seven behaviors that adults who hold onto childhood emotional baggage commonly display. Our goal is to provide a roadmap to self-recognition and understanding, offering the tools necessary for growth and healing.

1) Frequent overthinking

One common behavior displayed by adults carrying childhood emotional baggage is frequent overthinking. This can manifest as a constant analysis of past events, conversations, and decisions, often leading to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.

This overthinking tendency stems from past experiences where the individual felt misunderstood, criticized, or invalidated. As a child, they may have developed the habit of overanalyzing their actions and words in an attempt to avoid negative outcomes.

As adults, this behavior persists even when the initial threat is no longer present.

To combat this tendency, learn to challenge irrational thoughts and focus on solutions rather than dwelling on problems. Set time limits for decision-making and distract yourself with enjoyable activities. If possible, seek support from trusted friends or a therapist to gain perspective and break the cycle.

2) Difficulty in establishing boundaries

A second behavior often seen in adults with unresolved emotional baggage from childhood is a struggle with establishing and maintaining boundaries. This difficulty can appear in various relationships, including familial, romantic, and professional connections.

Individuals carrying childhood emotional baggage might have grown up in environments where their boundaries were consistently ignored or disrespected. As a result, they may find it challenging to assert their needs or may even feel guilty for doing so.

Recognizing this behavior is the first step towards change. Keep in mind that setting boundaries is key to keeping your mental and emotional balance in check. Boundaries are your personal guardrails—they protect you from unnecessary stress and emotional drain.  

3) Tendency to self-sabotage

Another behavior often exhibited by adults with childhood emotional baggage is a propensity for self-sabotage. This could be in the form of procrastination, self-destructive habits, or consistently making poor decisions that hinder their personal or professional growth.

This tendency towards self-sabotage can originate from a deep-seated belief, rooted in their childhood experiences, that they are undeserving of success or happiness. They might consciously or subconsciously create obstacles to prevent them from achieving their goals, out of fear of failure or rejection.

To overcome your tendency to self-sabotage, start by identifying your patterns and triggers. Challenge negative beliefs, set achievable goals, seek support, and practice self-compassion.

Embrace positive coping strategies, such as meditation and positive self-talk, to break free from self-sabotage and foster personal growth.

4) Constant need for validation

The fourth behavior that is common among adults carrying childhood emotional baggage is the constant need for external validation. They may frequently seek approval and reassurance from others, often tying their self-worth to other people’s opinions of them.

This behavior can be traced back to childhood experiences where their feelings and thoughts were invalidated or dismissed. As a result, they may feel a constant need to prove themselves and seek affirmation from others.

Overcoming this behavior involves building self-confidence and learning to self-validate. It’s about recognizing one’s worth independently of external opinions and acknowledging that their value is inherent, not conditional.

5) Excessive fear of rejection

Another behavior common among adults who carry emotional baggage from childhood is an excessive fear of rejection. This fear can be so overwhelming that they avoid situations where there’s a possibility of rejection, often leading to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.

This fear of rejection often stems from childhood experiences where they felt rejected or abandoned. These experiences can leave deep emotional scars, leading to a heightened sensitivity to rejection in adulthood.

Confronting this fear means grasping its root cause and working on building resilience. It’s about learning to see rejection not as a measure of one’s worth, but as a part of life that everyone experiences at some point.

6) Holding onto grudges and resentment

The sixth behavior often seen in adults carrying unresolved childhood emotional baggage is a tendency to hold onto grudges and resentment. This behavior can lead to prolonged emotional distress and strained relationships.

In their childhood, they may have experienced situations where they felt wronged or mistreated, leading to lingering resentment. As adults, it can be challenging for them to let go of these feelings, leading to grudges that can last for years.

Clearing the air and resolving misunderstandings can alleviate pent-up resentment. Hence, engage in open and honest communication with those involved, expressing feelings and seeking resolution where possible.  

7) Habit of suppressing emotions

The final behavior we will discuss is the habit of suppressing emotions, a common trait among adults carrying emotional baggage from childhood. These individuals may find it difficult to express their feelings openly, often choosing to internalize their emotions instead.

This suppression can stem from childhood experiences where expressing emotions led to negative consequences or was discouraged. Over time, they learn to hide their feelings, leading to emotional suppression in adulthood.

To overcome this habit, learn to practice expressing emotions in safe and supportive environments. This can involve journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in creative outlets like art or music.

Starting the healing process

Healing from emotional baggage from childhood is a complex but rewarding journey. It involves acknowledging past experiences, understanding their impact, and making conscious efforts towards personal growth and healing.

The first step is recognizing the behaviors discussed above and understanding their link to past experiences. Self-awareness is a powerful tool that can illuminate the path towards healing.

Next, it is crucial to seek professional help when needed. Therapists and counselors can provide guidance, tools, and strategies to navigate the healing process. They can help unpack and process past traumas in a safe and supportive environment.

Additionally, practicing self-compassion is key. Understand that healing is not linear; there will be setbacks along the way. It’s important to be patient with yourself throughout this process.

Finally, remember that it’s never too late to heal from childhood emotional baggage. It’s a journey towards a healthier and happier you. The key is to take the first step, acknowledging the need for healing and taking conscious action towards achieving it.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

9 signs your partner just isn’t a right fit for you, according to psychology

10 signs you’re in a relationship with a genuinely good-hearted person