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The myth of letting go


In spiritual and new age circles we are often advised to ‘just let go’, as the ultimate solution to problems: in pictures on social media, in conversations, in workshops and all kinds of therapy settings.

But is that really the ultimate solution? And is ‘just letting go’ really that simple?

More than once I have heard clients in my therapy room cry out desperately, “They tell me to just let go, but they won’t tell me how to do it!”

Sometimes telling someone to ‘just let go’ isn’t helpful

In situations involving great loss or great disappointment, this can be even harsh.

Telling someone inappropriately or inappropriately to just let go shows a lack of empathy and lack of understanding of pain and loss.

When people tell you to “just let go,” sometimes it even means, “I don’t know how to handle your emotions, so please stop expressing them in front of me.”

Understanding why letting go can be so difficult and what it takes to be able to do it is important not only for our own well-being, but also for our ability to respond compassionately to others.

Here are a few facts about letting go:

1. Not everything is easy to let go.

The psychological impact of painful issues is on a scale from low to high. Some things are easier to let go of than others.
For example, if you drop your ice cream on the floor, you can probably let go of your disappointment in seconds. If you lose a job, it’s a whole different story. When something traumatic happens at the hands of someone else, it is even more difficult to let go of the complex feelings of pain, fear, and anger.

Losing a loved one is of course one of the hardest things to face.

let go of myth

2. People can have different reasons why they have a hard time letting go of something.

Situations and issues mean different things to different people.
Going back to the ice cream example, when an adult drops his ice cream on the street, he can usually easily and quickly let go of his disappointment and move on.

For a small child, however, this can be more difficult and often requires more: being able to express disappointment and anger through tears, a hug, and the promise of a new ice cream!

3. In situations that have a great psychological impact, something is usually needed before we can really let go in a healthy way.

For example, we often need to understand what happened to us and why it has (had) such an impact on us.

Most of the time, we need to feel, acknowledge, and express our true feelings about it, such as anger, sadness, and pain.

We often need some form of recognition for our feelings: from our friends or family, but above all from ourselves.

let go quoteSometimes we need to gain some sense of meaning about what has happened to us, in order to place it in a larger context of personal or spiritual growth.

When you can see what you have learned and how much you have grown in experience and wisdom through an undesirable situation, it can become much easier to come to terms with it.

Sometimes when someone else is involved, we need to understand why that other person did what they did in order to let go of the anger and pain.

Forgiveness, which is of course the ultimate form of letting go, is often only possible when people gain insight into why the other person did what he did.

A good example is that of a mother who lost her teenage son when he was shot during a robbery by another teenage boy. It wasn’t until she visited him in prison, and got to know him and his story, that she could forgive him—and she truly forgave him, from her heart, not just as a gesture or in words alone.

Her act of authentic forgiveness and letting go was impressive and moving for all who witnessed it.

Another example is sexual assault: when someone has been sexually harassed or abused, they often take on guilt or shame for what happened, especially when it involves children.

Understanding that what happened was not their fault or responsibility, and letting go of the perpetrator’s guilt is often necessary in order to process the pain, let go of the past and actually move on with their lives.

Understanding why you or someone else has trouble letting go is the key to understanding what it takes to really let go. What is needed will vary from person to person and from situation to situation.

4. Letting go before we’re ready often acts as a defense strategy, avoiding underlying painful feelings and their causes rather than actually processing them.

In that case, the feelings won’t go away, but just keep pulling at your sleeve for attention. They just bounce back like they’re on a rubber band.

Actually, that’s a good indicator of the letting go process: if you let go of something and it keeps coming back, there’s a good chance that more is needed.

5. Letting go is a process that takes time, and everyone does it in their own time.

It cannot be forced. It can be facilitated by loving assistance from yourself or others. Allow yourself time to feel, cry, scream, be quiet, have a ritual, write, take a healing journey, do whatever it takes to really process something.

letting go

6. When you take the time and invest the energy to find out what you or the other person really needs to let go, you give them a valuable gift.

It shows patience, unconditional love, the ability to be truly and authentically present with the other person and to witness emotional pain without judgment.

It is truly one of the most valuable things you can give someone!


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