Letting Go: How to Master the Art

Letting Go: How to Master the Art

We humans know how to fight for the things that are important. We fight for relationships, for people, for jobs, for things to stay the same. But here’s the thing – they don’t always fight as hard to hold on to us. One of the greatest sources of hurt is holding on to things that are trying to let go of us. The harder we hold on, the more it hurts. The problem with this is that we have nothing free to grab the things that will be good for us when they come our way.

If you’re in the midst of a knock down, you will get through, but first you have to release your grip on whatever it is that’s holding you back. You can’t know the possibilities that lie ahead until you open up to the world and let it show you – which it will.

Think of it like being in a boat that’s sinking. You know you have to let go of something but you can’t. You won’t. If you’re honest, you know that the things that are heavying you are dead weights, but you do remember a time, once, when it felt good to have them around. That was a while ago though and now you can’t actually remember the last time they brought you joy – real joy that you could relax into because you knew there was plenty there. Meanwhile, your boat keeps sinking and with all of that weight on board, there’s no way it’s moving any closer to land.

I could tell you the heartache and sadness that comes with letting go is part of your ‘journey’ (though I won’t because I actually hate that word when it’s used like that). I could tell you that the lessons you’ll learn will set on track for the life you deserve. I could tell you all of that, and it would be true, but I also know from having been brought to my knees before, that none of that seems to matter when your knuckles are turning white from holding on.

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Here’s what I also know about letting go. The most terrifying part is just before you loosen your grip. Once you let go, momentum will take over. For a while it might be bumpy, but that’s all part of the re-align. Once you’ve made the move away from the things that are hurting you, the things that will be good for you will find you. It might take time but it will happen. It can’t help but be that way – we’re all wired for balance and have everything we need for that inside us. Here’s how to stay strong during the let-go.

  1. Make the decision.

    The hardest thing about letting go is making the decision and feeling okay about it. The ‘what-if’s’ will kill you and talk you into tightening your grip every time. That doesn’t mean they’re right. Set a time limit (‘If I’m still unhappy in six weeks …’) or a condition limit (‘If this happens one more time …’).  There are some questions to ask yourself to sure up your resolve:

    •   Do I feel bad more than I feel good? If yes, it’s time to let go.

    •   What has to change for me to feel happy and secure? Have I ever seen this before?

    •   Is this person, job, relationship is capable of giving me what I need?

    •   What do I get from staying? Is it something real? Or something long gone. When was the last time I got this?

  2. Change ‘Can’t’ to ‘Won’t’. 

    There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when to let go. Giving up is ‘I can’t’. Letting go is, ‘I won’t.’ The difference is subtle in sound but enormous in impact. Giving up comes from a place of defeat. ‘I don’t have the capacity or the ability to do this. I’m spent.’ Letting go, on the other hand, comes from a position of strength. It’s a decision to cut yourself from the things that weigh you down. Fight for them, and fight hard, but know when to stop.

  3. You’re not doing something wrong. You’re doing something brave.

    If you’re questioning whether or not to let go of something that’s been there a while, it might feel risky and it might feel wrong. It might even feel selfish. But it’s not any of those things. It’s brave. Really brave. If you’re at the point where you’re hanging on to something that doesn’t feel right any more, or that’s hurting you, one of the bravest and strongest things you can do is to listen to that, especially in the face of the clamour that keeps giving you reasons to hang on tighter. There’ll probably be a few of those reasons, but that doesn’t make them good ones.  It probably makes them habits – and you don’t want to ruin yourself over a habit. 

  4. Know what’s stopping you. Then move it along.

    What’s holding you back from letting go? Are they your reasons or someone else’s? If you’re stopping yourself from letting go because of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ and ‘what will they think’, stop right there. Some people will might have a problem with you letting go and moving on, it’s true, but it’s most likely because you’re doing something that they themselves are too scared to do. Taking flight by letting go of the things that weigh you down can have a way of triggering those who are weighed down themselves. But don’t let that stop you. When you’re flourishing there’ll be nothing left for them to say. For the most part, people tend to be generous and want to see others happy. They either won’t care at all about what you do, or they’ll have great respect for your courage and will be willing you on.

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  5. The three choices.

    If you’re unhappy, you have three options:

    •   change what you need (sometimes that means letting go of expectations – not always easy to do);

    •   change the environment in which you’re trying to have your need met (either by leaving the one you’re in or by looking elsewhere); or

    •   accept that you just won’t be happy (but be honest – can you really live like that?).

    That’s it. There’s no other options. The only person who can make that decision is you. If you’re at the point where you feel unhappy more than you feel happy, it’s likely that one option will be a stand out. Make the decision that your days of wishing for more than you have are over and decide that nobody will limit you. If you’re not getting what you need where you are, the only way to change that is to move on. And that’s completely okay.

  6. Don’t expect change.

    Your best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Though people change over time, they change according to their own path, not someone else’s. People can change but only if it comes from them. If it comes from you, it will be temporary. The energy it takes for anybody to change is enormous and can’t be sustained long term unless the motivation comes from within.

  7. It’s okay to fall apart for a while. It really is.

    Letting go can feel like rubbish – not always – but mostly. If it was easy to let go you would have done it ages ago, and it wouldn’t have felt like a letting go, it would have felt like a ‘transition’. Accept that the road might get bumpy for a while but that’s not a sign to turn back. Sometimes the only way through is straight through the middle.

  8. Trust that you’ll be okay. Because you will be.

    We’re wired for survival, both emotional and physical. When we hang on so tightly to something the energy we could be using to move forward is stuck with the job of hanging on. Once you let go, that energy that was holding you back will start to move you forward. It might not feel like that for a while – letting go can be hard – but trust the process and remember the reasons you made the decision. Good days are coming, and you will see soon enough why your brave move was such a good one for you.

  9. What you’re scared of is already with you.

    We hang on because we’re scared of what might happen. If you’re hanging on to something that is trying to let go of you, it’s like that you’re already feeling something like what you’re scared of feeling if you let go. Fighting to keep something that’s not fighting to keep you is a sad, lonely, insecure and frightening place to be. You’re most likely already feeling the very things you’re scared of feeling. The difference is that you can’t do anything about it because rather than being able to use your energy to regain balance and move forward, you’re using it to maintain a status quo that probably doesn’t deserve to be maintained.

  10. Let go, and let the momentum take over.

    Hanging on is all about resistance. Let go and you’ll initiate a momentum towards rebalance. It might take a while, and it might get worse before it gets better, but there are new possibilities waiting for you when you are ready to be open to them.

  11. Have an anchor.

    Often when you let go, you’ll remember things as being better than they were. What the strongest evidence you’ve had that it’s time to let go? Was it a conversation, a feeling, a(nother) disappointment? Remember that. Hang on t it and remember it every time you feel the pull to hang on again.

  12. Cry. Go on. It’s good for you.

    Research by Dr William Frey PhD, a biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis found that tears of sadness contained stress hormones and other toxins that build up during stress. Other studies suggest that crying encourages endorphins, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ hormones. Reflex tears, on the other hand are 98% water.

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  13. Feel it fully.

    You’re going to feel sad, angry, maybe confused or scared. Whatever it is that’s in you, has to come out of you. Feel what you’re feeling fully. Put it on paper. Have a cry in the shower. Turn up the music and let it out. Do what you need to do to release the energy. Then you can move forward.

  14. What can you learn?

    About yourself, your expectations, the people who are good for you and the ones who don’t work so well. No experience is ever wasted. Learning from your experience is the best way to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes, find yourself in the same type of relationships or around the same sort of people. With the learning will come closure and movement forwards.

We’re all here to grow and flourish and we all deserve to be happy. Having to let go of things that were once important is part of life – a painful part, but normal nonetheless. None of us stay the same. We grow constantly. That doesn’t mean that everything in our lives will grow in the same direction or at the same rate.

Letting go is one of the hardest, but one of the bravest things we can do. With everything we leave behind, there is so much more waiting ahead. Be able to be ready with open arms when it comes.

(Photo Credit: Unsplash | Chelsea Francis)

54 Comments

Lauren

I have walked away from a abusive man three or four months ago . He broke me . Abuse was physical and emotional and I didn’t get the feeling everyone expected me to have walking away, I didn’t feel relieved yet I know I was brave and made the right decision. I am still in touch with this man, I don’t have the strength to completely let it go , block him and heal. I still love him and I feel so weak for it and I feel like my “ brave decision “ is a lie , a cheat. I am fully aware of the reasons why I had to leave, and how toxic is that person, he proved it and still does. We aren’t together anymore, yet not fully rid of each other , and I’m sure he’s feeling so in control. I wished the mind and reason were aligned with the heart ….I keep hoping I will heal one day and be able to close all contact and feel happy again . This blog helps so thank you

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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