I’ve always found the concept uncomfortable- what exactly are you letting go of?
People tell you to ‘let go, you’ve gotta let go…’ OK, how?
People never tell you how it’s done or how to go about doing it, but they expect you to be able to. If it was so easy wouldn’t we all be doing it, following instructions and letting go with great abandon?
I don’t usually write with such pessimism or sarcasm however this is a concept that for whatever reason really grates on me. I don’t offer it as advice and it’s not a phrase I use in the counselling room. So, if like me you have a discomfort with this phrase then join me in exploring it now:
What is it?!
Is letting go forgiveness?
Is it acceptance?
To let go: being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place.
To let go: living positively and proactively.
: future happiness depends on a new start.
: making room
: the choice to live inside a story or move onto a new book.
: gravitating to a new book promotes focus and being in the present.
: controlling the meaning I attach to an experience- what keeps me there in that chapter?
: to stop thinking about or being angry with the past
: releasing all doubt and worry
: heart v mind
: conscious v unconscious reactions
: acceptance of right now
The opposite of letting go is holding on, or pushing life into a new place that isn’t of your choosing, not free falling or without spontaneity or making an old story fit new circumstances. Holding on is said to stop us reaching goals, holding on provides fulfilment but within your comfort zone, holding on to the past means your story works against you.
The problem with holding on/ not letting go is that it only affects you, it does not affect the other person. It takes energy to remember, blame and converse in your head. The person is gone but you add fuel to the imaginary fire- the fire doesn’t keep you warm; it burns.
We desire certainty as humans, answers and seek an explanation. Certainty equals comfort and there is comfort in familiar discomfort. To move away from comfort is to let change in and this can be an anxious prospect. It is natural to want to know why, yet so many experiences will never be tied up neatly and we will be left wondering on numerous occasions with the lonely question of, why?
Practical people struggle with the abstract concept. There’s not a process or structure you can select where you simply follow the instructions in order to ‘learn to let go.’
Whether your facing holding on to the past or struggling to ‘let go’ of whatever is preventing change then a combination of these self-care techniques below can help you on your way. It’s not the hallowed instruction booklet but it can help support you:
Ways to let go:
- Be aware of your emotions,
- Expressing emotions helps you understand why you feel this way and what triggered you,
- Explore self-limiting beliefs,
- Self-care and making yourself a priority,
- Take time,
- Expect grief symptoms and emotions,
- Awareness of both sides of the story- understanding your role and theirs,
- Can you apply the same level of empathy to yourself as you have done to them?
- Do they warrant any empathy?
- Forgive yourself,
- Accept the outcome cannot change- a lack of manners, apology, explanation etc can sting but seeking something that isn’t coming your way sets you up for more pain,
- Avoid wishing for a different outcome, you cannot change the past,
- Being conscious and observant of thoughts, such as rehearsing painful events, memories and feelings- make a conscious effort to divert these away and replace them with nurturing thoughts,
- Remembering that thoughts don’t add value, they don’t define your ability to succeed in the future. You’re not incapable or undeserving,
- Believe true colours, they don’t lie.
- Be aware of where your self-loathing is coming from, explore your insecurities; and relinquish unrealistic timelines and expectations, as these don’t help you, and
- Be more self-compassionate.
It strikes me that ‘letting go’ is similar to the grief cycle in that it’s a process and one that may never be fully accomplished but certainly more awareness, understanding and self-compassion can support you along the way.
I’d love to hear your versions or definitions of letting go, please drop them in the comments box.
Equally, if you feel you’d like some support in learning to let go please click Contact to book a free consultation session.