A relationship that ends, a friend that disappears from your life, a loved one that dies… How hard it is to let someone go. Discover whether you are securely or insecurely attached and how this affects saying goodbye. “Feelings of grief are part of the process of letting go. Allowing these feelings is liberating.”
You may be closing yourself off from real connection. This may be related to past pain. With the injuries your heart has endured.
A whirlwind of emotions
We all find ourselves in situations where we have to let go. Sometimes we have to let go of someone we actually want to hold onto. Letting go is a process involving many emotions. One moment you feel intense fear, and a few hours later you experience a deep sense of relief. The next day you wake up with a feeling of resentment, which turns into sadness moments later. Feelings of regret, doubt, and uncertainty are reviewed. In short, letting go can cause great confusion. It can feel like a whirlwind of emotions.
The Attachment Circle: Where Are You?
Think of the process of letting go as a tangle of wool with the thread entangled. It takes time and attention to unravel the tangle. The attachment circle model gives you insight and clarity in this process. This gives you more control over your emotions and the situation.
The image below shows the suture circle. There is an inner and an outer circle. The outer circle symbolizes healthy attachment and the inner circle represents insecure attachment. Whether you have a secure or insecure ‘attachment style’, everyone finds themselves in the inner circle in the process of letting go.
And that’s not bad at all. But it is important that you recognize it and that you pick yourself up again. By being aware of your emotion, you gain insight into where you stand in the circle. You now have freedom of choice and can opt for the constructive outer circle.
A broken heart
The first step in the attachment circle is contact: you welcome someone into your life. That can be a new person as well as a person who has been part of your life for a longer period of time. Each contact moment is essentially new. At the moment of contact, you open up to the person and to the connection.
But it may also be that you close yourself off from real connection. This may be related to past pain. With the injuries, your heart has endured. Your heart has been emotionally wounded and damaged while letting go. To protect yourself, you therefore now avoid the connection. You isolate yourself and ensure that contact remains superficial; you don’t dare go into depth. This is how you protect your vulnerable, previously broken heart. The result: the contact remains superficial and you experience no real connection and depth.
The courage to attach
The second and third steps in the circle concern attachment and intimacy. You enter into the actual connection with the other, both emotionally and physically. You do this with an open heart and it can therefore feel vulnerable. It takes courage. If you feel safe in yourself, then you dare to attach. You know that you don’t lose yourself in contact with someone else. Should the contact end in the future, you know that you will not lose yourself completely. There is sadness, but you do not fall into a deep hole. You are aware of the safe foundation that you have within yourself.
A wall around you
You isolate yourself and ensure that contact remains superficial. This is how you protect your vulnerable, previously broken heart.
The opposite is the avoidance of intimacy and detachment. It feels unsafe and scary to bond with someone else. You have built a wall around yourself and in this way you ensure that your vulnerable heart is not touched. But this also means that you cannot experience real connection. You experience feelings of loneliness. Everyone needs real contact and connection. Even the people who shut themselves off from it.
Difficulty letting go
Saying goodbye in a healthy way goes hand in hand with a secure attachment. People become attached to their partners as they did to their parents in childhood. A secure attachment means that your needs were listened to from an early age and that you felt safe. There was someone before you who took you seriously.
But if this was not the case with you, then saying goodbye will be more tense. You may know that you have to let go of someone, but emotionally it is not possible to let go of him or her. You cling to the person. This can take the form of contacting again and again. Or the clinging is in the form of incessant thinking about someone. You have become fixated and obsessed.
Feelings of grief
The penultimate step is about denial and mourning. You may have trouble coping with the emotions associated with the letting go process. You may not even be able to feel the emotions. You stop feeling it because it is too overwhelming. One survival mechanism is dissociation. You can see dissociation as a survival mechanism that protects you against too many impressions. Your brain switches off a part of your consciousness because it threatens to become too much, for example, your emotion. You can then appear indifferent in a situation. Maybe even heartless and cool.
In order to really break free from someone, it is essential to acknowledge and feel the emotions. No matter how painful or confusing it may be. Feelings of grief are part of the process of letting go. Allowing these feelings is liberating.
Staying in a victim role
When we have gone through the outer circle, we eventually arrive at meaning. We can see that the situation has made sense, that it has served some purpose. It has had a purpose. This is a soft feeling, the situation is enveloped in love, no matter how painful it has been.
On the other hand, there are feelings of resentment, hostility, and bitterness. These are painful feelings, they can keep us stuck in a victim role. The moment you notice these emotions overtaking you, go back to the previous step in the attachment circle. Have you given yourself time and space for the grieving process? Perhaps there are still tears to be cried; tears purify the soul. At every moment you have the choice to step into the healthy circle of meeting and saying goodbye.
The old has been released, and a new beginning awaits
Has this attachment circle given you more insight? If you’ve found yourself in the tangle of emotions, grab this simple and insightful image. Can you determine where you stand in the circle? Look at the emotion without judgment. Approach yourself and the emotion with loving-kindness.
Letting go can be painful, but with this tool, you can actually see letting go as a beautiful and healing process. You can look forward to inner wholeness. And from that wholeness, you attract a beautiful and valuable new contact, where you can connect (again) in all authenticity and purity. Thus, in every farewell, there is a new beginning hidden. Something to look forward to.
Your heart has been emotionally injured while letting go. To protect yourself, you therefore now avoid the connection.