“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than hanging on.”
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go.” Hermann Hesse
Following up on last month’s article on the importance of letting go to live fully, this month’s article will share techniques on beginning to free yourself.
Letting go can happen in many forms; it can be releasing the past or a loss, giving up unhelpful habits, learning to be flexible, letting go of control, shedding unnecessary burdens, and releasing expectations and toxic relationships. It can also take the form of giving up on unrealistic or unrealizable dreams and fantasies.
I’m sure the things that stifle and hold you back are flooding your mind as you read these words, so you can add to the list.
Condensed, it amounts to this: there are many things and ways that we hobble ourselves on our life’s journey. Wishing things were different by reliving and obsessing about the past will keep us trapped in unhappiness, pain, rage, fear, resentment, jealousy, worry, and so on.
Consider the following suggestions to begin setting yourself free from the prison of your beliefs, expectations, and demands.
Acknowledge & Accept
Acknowledging and accepting the obstacle/s in our path is the journey to growth, health, happiness, and wellbeing. Make time to learn about yourself and the ways you might be creating or contributing to your own pain. Usually our own self-limiting beliefs keep us trapped in the past. But we have the choice to create our own reality and experience. Empower yourself by getting to know the triggers that make you angry, fearful, ashamed, worried, clingy, or whatever other emotion keeps you locked in an obsessive spiral.
Then choose one of these triggers to work with; each day set an intention to notice when the attendant emotion arises and trace it back to the trigger. Notice the connection between the cause (trigger) and effect
(emotion/thoughts/feelings), and then consciously shift your thinking and focus to something more beneficial. Or better still, try to notice the trigger as soon as it arises, and disrupt the process, so the emotion doesn’t arise at all.
A powerful way to subvert your habit of ruminating or replaying old recordings about the past or dreams that didn’t manifest is to clearly recall a few well-thought out disadvantages of remaining stuck in the past.
Impermanence & Change
Make concerted effort to spend time looking at things in your world. The goal is to notice how everything is constantly changing, moving, shifting, and flowing -- from the leaves swirling in the wind to black coffee turning creamy golden. Even things that appear static and permanent are actually undergoing microscopic, quantum level changes each moment. Look at your own face in the mirror and notice the tiny new wrinkles and grey hairs. See change happening before your eyes.
In a world of constant flux and movement, rigidly holding onto things is not only unrealistic, but also unhealthy. Life offers no guarantees. Expectations trap us in fear and hope. To counter these emotional responses we need to train ourselves to think rationally and to act appropriately, so we can move on when we need. For something new to enter our lives, we need to make space for it. Moving on from the past doesn’t mean forgetting it; it means not nostalgically or resentfully clinging to it. Space opens up the potential for anything and everything to manifest.
Here again make a list of all the reasons it is unhelpful to keep wishing for the “good old past” to return, the long lost estranged friend or loved one to be in your life again, or unachievable future life expectations to appear. Challenge this thinking with realistic, optimistic, and achievable alternatives by focusing on the advantages of making small doable changes that will move your life in a positive direction.
Stay Positive & Mindful
Become mindful so you recognize the habit of repeating stuck behaviors. And without delay apply an antidote to counteract them. Over time, repeating this process of noticing what’s happening and immediately derailing it by switching to a planned healthy alternative will become a new healthy habit. We create a hopeful future by being mindful in the present moment.
Remind yourself that you’ve come through countless experiences in the course of your life. Despite the challenges and difficulties, you’ve learned new skills, developed new coping mechanisms, discovered new aspects of your being, and forged personal and professional relationships. So you do know how to let go and move on. When you and your life feel stuck and unsatisfying, try to remember all that you’ve done, accomplished, and overcome at all the stages of your life. Let these thoughts boost your confidence and try to stay positive.
The most effective way to challenge negative thinking is with positive thinking. So I hope you get cracking on your list of the disadvantages of being stuck in the past and the advantages of moving on, and start practicing these steps.
May you free yourself from your past.