What you think about defines who you are.

For anyone carrying around emotional baggage, it's possible that those negative thoughts-- memories of what you did wrong, the breakups and mental breakdowns, the conflicts at work that seem to linger--are defining you as a person. While this might be only a good first step on the road to emotional recovery, there's one secret to overcoming those thoughts and finding peace of mind (and peace in your life). 

The question to ask is this: Is there anything or anyone that does not have safe passage in your mind? These are the thoughts that tend to revolve around in a carousel of negativity, almost like a revolving door. Yup, there's that same thought again--the one that passed through my brain an hour ago. Dwelling on negative thoughts is actually easier, according to science. You have to work harder to think about positive things.

And that's where the secret to overcoming baggage comes in. The trick is to start playing a different movie, to start dwelling on completely different thoughts.

Here's how that works.

I've mentioned the bounce principle before, the idea that you can bounce away negativity almost like a Ping-Pong ball you swat with a paddle. It works because of the well-known brain science involved. Dwelling on thoughts makes them linger and lodges them deeper into our long-term memory. The more you think about how you were fired from a job or had an argument with a loved one, the more you'll remember the details and recall them easily. You become a person who was fired from a job or who had an argument. It's a process of thinking those thoughts, remembering those experiences, and then becoming that person.

Leaving the baggage behind means you short-circuit that process. You bounce the thoughts away and replace them with something completely different: the times you were successful at work, the discussions you resolved effectively, the projects you completed on time and on budget. The time you really impressed your boss. Each and every time you start dwelling on the negative, switch to a positive topic. Bounce it away.

It's not easy, from what I've seen when it comes to people carrying around emotional baggage. There's a temptation to let the baggage define you and choose to become a victim. You decide that you like the carousel of darkness, you like people seeing you as unemployed or broken or messed up. However, it doesn't work. The thought process you go through--e.g., dwelling, remembering, and defining--spills over and now everyone starts seeing you that way. They see the carousel spinning.

I used to have my own revolving door of negative thoughts. Years ago, I'd dwell on the hurts and slights at work, the critical emails, the poor management decisions. I learned how to resist the urge to let that define me. It's basically a form of replacement therapy.

The wonderful thing about replacing negative thoughts is that you then become defined by your positive thoughts. In my case, I decided to think about success with mentoring others and how my advice and counsel helped them. It's amazing to discover that a constant flow of these more positive thoughts will build up. You start a new process: You think about what you did right, you recall those memories more easily, and then you start changing. You become a person who is good at mentoring, or resolving conflict, or completing tasks.

From there, without the baggage, you can grow and learn--and find freedom.