Traveling Light

Reflections on a journey in life.

(Author: MK)


I’m no scientist, psychologist or therapist, but I enjoy reading books on human behaviour and how the brain works.


This is driven by a curiosity of why people are the way they are and why we are often suffering.


Most of us are just too busy through life coping with the present, thinking of how to make a better life or tackling pressing issues. That is only a natural human survival instinct. What we seldom contemplate on is whether our current issues are in part due to the legacies of our childhood, developmental years or adverse events during adulthood.


Frankly, it’s too much effort for one to ponder over matters of the long past. However, psychologists, counsellors and therapists, are typically trained to do this. The fact that they are suggests that reflecting on the past provides a path to the healing of current personal issues.



Traveling Light is about first reflecting on our early experiences, so as to gain insights into our habits, belief system, and how we think about or look at ourselves.


This could be for example about growing up in a less than nurturing environment, or having over-domineering parents, or suffering trauma or setbacks.



The second part is the tough act of letting go of this ‘baggage’ we have been holding over time.


To be realistic, it’s easier said than done. It starts with pausing when we are ‘triggered’ emotionally or facing challenges, taking self-check actions, and practicing them over time. If we relate this to achieving Mindfulness, when one starts by learning the concept through reading or attending seminars, we know that if we do not make the effort to practice, that mindfulness state will be elusive.



For myself, I recognize that the baggage I’ve been carrying is the trauma of losing my first wife when I was 37.


The sudden loss left me with a sub-conscious sense of insecurity, that life is transient, and happiness is short-lived. I became a somewhat melancholic person but didn’t think much about it until an old friend remarked that I am not the same positive guy I used to be when I was young. This made me aware of my acquired disposition and I now try to check myself whenever I feel a creeping sense of melancholy.


Unfortunately, most of us go through life oblivious that we have lingering issues due to our past. From my conversations with friends who are marriage counsellors, virtually every couple that came to them had issues on the surface like infidelity or incompatibility, but when probed, they discovered underlying causes due to “Family of Origin” (FOO) issues.


FOO is defined as the family we were born or ‘adopted’ into, for example, grandparents or siblings who were the main caregivers during one’s formative years. There is a myriad of FOO issues that are commonly revealed, and when my counsellor friends probed into these suppressed histories, their clients often break into tears. Such deep seated unresolved issues turned out to be the underlying causes of the marital strife.



To further appreciate the FOO impact, I recommend a book written by Dr Gabor Mate, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”.


Aside from a catchy title using a Chinese metaphor to denote haunting experiences, he relates patient cases with drug addiction and mental illness, giving compelling evidence that their conditions were closely linked to history of trauma and/or Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACE).


While the difficulties we face may not be extreme like addiction and nor debilitating, but reflecting on our past will help us as we journey through life.


On a brighter note, this quote from Gabor Mate’s book gives me hope and inspiration :


“In the search for truth, human beings take two steps forward and one step back. Suffering, mistakes and weariness of life thrust them back, but the thirst for truth and stubborn will drive them forward.
And who knows? Perhaps they will reach the real truth at last.”

By ANTON CHEKHOV, The Duel



My life has often been two steps forward and one step back, and sometimes it was like I’ve plunged into a dark hole. Learning about human behaviour has helped me deal with situations and understand people better.


I look forward to sharing in this space my learning and reflections and would love to hear from those of you who wish to share your experiences too. Together we can learn to travel light, and not feel alone, as we continue our journey of life.


Take care,

MK