What does the phrase letting go mean to you? Often, when I reflect on my own behaviour patterns alone or with others the issue of letting go will reveal itself. Over many years of personal development simply acknowledging that this was the underlying issue would help me to take a step back, take a different perspective* and release my tight grip.
In 2010, I wrote the following,
There is a connection – a bond, a tie, an attachment, an umbilical cord. Imagine holding onto one end of a rope and another is holding onto the other end of the rope. You both hold on tightly. Wherever one of you goes the other one goes too. Generally you are content, either of you may occasionally be disgruntled but you are comfortable in your attachment. The other starts to tug at the rope, you pull it back, they pull harder – it is a tug of war. You dig your heels in, they dig their heels in.
“I am powerless – I don’t know what else I can do”
Empower yourself, put the rope down.
You are inviting the conflict in. Now you are faced with managing your loss, rather than managing the external conflict.
What have you lost? Make a list of all the little losses within the primary loss. You may need a large sheet of paper.
This is life……a multitude of losses and endless beginnings.
(From Life’s Gifts)
My exploration of letting go has been deepened by welcoming meditation into my life. With meditation I have embraced my resistance to being still, physically. This was an awareness that I had about myself that came from my belief, ‘resting is a waste of time’. Somewhere deep inside I knew that I needed to rest, to ‘be’, to recharge and yet my resistance was strong. What I have also discovered is that meditation’s key principles of awareness and acceptance have helped me to let go. This gift, bringing together letting go and meditation and wrapping it up with positive psychology, is my xmas present to you.
How does a resistance to letting go show up in your life? The clues to an issue of letting go are the feelings of frustration and powerlessness, the thought patterns of ‘I can’t do anything about it or it’s not worth it’, and a general feeling of being stuck. Here is how you can bring awareness and acceptance to different areas of your life and take steps towards a happier, calmer you.
Resistance To Change
There is a fear of the unknown at the centre of resistance to change.
“How I am now is what I know and that is difficult enough why would I want to change, because it will only make things worse.”
And yet there is another option…what if it makes your life better? This is the option that is not always considered. Yes, change can be difficult, it can also be rewarding. Having an awareness of your mindset will show you how you react/respond to change. If you often say ‘I can’t – this is how I am’ then practice the statement ‘I can’ and grow your courage* and build your confidence*. Accept that nothing stays the same and that we are all a work in progress. Look around you and see how mother nature is a model for growth,
‘All the trees are losing their leaves and none of them are worried’Unknown.
The Idea That We Can Change Someone Else
Even though we know how hard it is to change ourselves, we persist in trying to change someone else. We would prefer someone else to change because then we don’t have to. Be aware that your thoughts are focussed on changing someone else in the hope that this will make your life easier. Accept that changing someone else is outside of your area of influence. Drop the magnifying glass, this is a distraction and will only highlight someone else’s faults, and pick up the mirror to raise your own self awareness*. Keep practicing your self awareness because although it seems like the harder option it is the most effective and time efficient. Why spend your time on something that doesn’t work when you could spend time on something that does work. Focus on influence rather than change, one way to influence others is to be a role model.
‘My, how you have changed since I’ve changed’Unknown.
Perfectionism and High Standards
Be aware that you have perfectionism tendencies. Perfectionism shows up when we expect that things or people will be perfect and we are disappointed when they’re not. We can also put pressure on ourselves to be flawless and to achieve the impossible. Be aware of your perfectionism and the high standards that are holding you to account and making your life a misery. Accept that nothing is perfect – instead see how what you have is good enough – accept that good enough is ok. Bring self compassion* to your perfectionism. Learn to embrace your limitations, practice gratitude and celebrate* what you have got rather than berate yourself for what you haven’t got.
“There is hardly any space left for self-criticism and self-harm once we commit to loving-kindness meditation. The method quietens our inner critic and makes us more self-accepting than ever.“(Frederickson, 2001)
Be aware that you are living in the past. It may be that you are disappointed about the past or that you prefer the life you had in the past. All that we have is now. Accept you cannot change the past. If you are ruminating over the past, accept that you did the best that you could, given the knowledge that you have. If you preferred your life in the past, accept that life in the present has advantages too. Speak more positively of the present and savour life’s joys. Express your feelings about the past either on paper or with a trusted friend or professional. Bring forgiveness to your experiences in the past. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation – the re-establishment of a relationship, pardon – being absolved of responsibility, condoning – justifying, minimising or toleration, excusing – offering extenuating circumstances, denial of harm – an unwillingness to accept what has occurred.
“We forgive because it is good for us, so that we will have peace. When we are unforgiving our relationships get poisoned, unforgiveness seeps into all of our relationships.”(Professor Everett Worthington)
Our ego is trying to protect us and encourages us to put walls up to defend ourselves. The danger then, is that we become isolated. Letting go of our ego means that we feel vulnerable and unprotected. You can learn to protect yourself in a healthier way, one that does not involve brick walls and suits of armour. Everyone feels vulnerable, mostly we hide it. Get support from a trusted friend or professional to explore and accept your vulnerabilities and your humanity. Own your vulnerability and your resourcefulness. Building resilience* will enable you to protect yourself in a healthy way. You can handle it.
Listen to your self talk to raise awareness of when you are experiencing guilt, shame and self blame. The way you speak to yourself will highlight when you are giving yourself a hard time. Learn to treat yourself with kindness*, accept all parts of you and appreciate that you are enough. Bring compassion and forgiveness to your judgment* of yourself and others. This will enable you to let go of blame. Without blame you can be more accepting of yourself, and you are more likely to be accepting of others too. Ultimately, letting go of guilt, shame and blame will give you greater peace of mind and freedom.
Notice when you are holding on tightly to toxic people. These are the people who are working against you, putting you down, attempting to stop you moving forward. The people who drain you, who are not happy for you when you share great news. Accept that people come into your life, some leave and some of them you need to let go of.
How To Let Go
- Just like the rope in Life’s Gifts, you can image holding on and letting go of something or you can physically hold something and then let it drop. As you do so declare ‘I am willing to release ……….. (fill in the blank). Notice what happens. Notice if any resistance comes up.
2. Write something about whatever/whoever you want to let go of and burn it (carefully) or dissolve it in water. Repeat this until you feel more peace.
3. Reframe the situation you are in to consider your small wins. Look how far you have come in your journey and appreciate what has helped you along the way. Realise that all is well and that you are enough.
Breathe, trust, let go.
Positivity: A Work In Progress Podcast
Fredrickson, B.L. (2009). Positivity. U.K. Oneworld.