The enticing proposition of ‘letting it go’ sounds so very simple, so very inviting, but it’s rarely as effortless as releasing our fingers from the string of a helium balloon. Our troubles and our patterns do not untether themselves from our grip quite so easily.
What does 'letting go' really mean?
Letting go is not the same as suppressing. There’s a fine line between the two, which is worth inviting in some curiosity and investigation to explore.
Letting go is a process of self-liberation from that which shackles us. It is meeting the ‘thing’ head on, being with everything that arises – the whispers and the wails of pain and contempt – and emerging weightlessly on the other side.
It is wading through the mud with unfaltering willingness, trustingly bound to the promise of freedom glistening ahead.
Letting go is not pretending the ‘thing’ has gone.
Letting go is not denying or squashing our experience and our emotions.
Letting go is rarely a perfect extrication.
“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” ~ Jack Kornfield
On the other side of letting go is a sense of peace, freedom, relief and joy. We can often feel this sense of lightness viscerally, emotionally, mentally.
So why is it so damn difficult to do?
Why is letting go so difficult?
There are a multitude of ways why we magical and messy humans struggle to let go.
If you’ve ever tried to create a conscious intention to ‘let go’ and experienced the difficulty in doing so, this is probably why.
Letting go of the familiar is scary. In early recovery I was introduced to the idea that we would often rather stay in our own familiar shit, despite how painful it is, than step out into light. The illusory sense of safety from the familiar painful shit feels less scary than the unfamiliar light.
We stay stuck, refusing to unclench ourselves and our minds, because we’re terrified of the unknown. Even if the unknown promises to be better.
2. An Unconscious Desire
Often the ‘thing’ we’d like to let go of – the belief, the behavioural pattern, the person – is meeting an unconscious desire for something.
Usually the desire is linked to our innate need for familiarity, comfort, security, safety or control.
“We are taught to acquire, achieve and gain but not how to relinquish, release and surrender.” ~ Sophie Sabbage
3. Frustration & Resistance
When we’re desperate for things to be different, when we’re desiring internal change with only the wilful mind, we are creating a system of internal violence.
What we resist persists.
With the wish for an alternate reality, we often find ourselves swimming in self-judgement and the language of ‘should’s’. We layer on self-blame and self-flagellation, quickly finding ourselves drowning in shame.
Shame imprisons us, blocking the release of what we’d like to let go of.
How do we let go?
Probably the ultimate spiritual paradox is that we begin to let go by accepting the thing we want to let go of.
Acceptance is often the first step, the pivotal paving stone for change.
Instead of fighting ourselves, we can hold ourselves with love, with forgiveness, with compassion.
Wishing something to be different doesn’t make it different, so we start by meeting ourselves exactly where we’re at, where we are right now.
Dissolving our resistance encourages a natural flow and evolution. Only with acceptance do we create a space for things to shift.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Without willingness, we won’t be letting go of anything.
Sometimes we actually don’t want to change. We don’t want to let go. We find ourselves bound to old ideas, old beliefs, old behaviours and our little claw marks indent it all.
When we become open and willing to release, to let go, then energy starts to flow. Often this willingness in its purest form is sufficient to initiate the letting go.
Frustratingly though we can rarely orchestrate this willingness. It comes with grace. But we can pray and be open for the willingness to be willing.
3. See the payoff
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Jung
Unless we can illuminate exactly why we’re clinging on, we’re unlikely to truly want to let go.
Shining a spotlight onto the underlying payoff for our bad habit/ thought patten/ behaviour will help us unravel the truth with clarity and conviction.
We can explore with curiosity and try avoid self-judgement. Often our innate and very primal needs for comfort, safety, familiarity and security will override anything and everything else. We are not at fault. We are human.
Clarity will often open the portal to acceptance, which then flowers into willingness.
Rarely is a one time declaration sufficient for letting go of anything.
We need to remain dedicated and committed to our original intention, despite our wavering emotions and moods. Commitment is the alchemical container for transformation.
Along the yellow brick road of commitment we will often need to repeat our intention fairly relentlessly.
Feeling discouraged and frustrated is so very normal and natural. It’s part of the process.
Neuroplasticity is a wondrous thing though and we DO get to change, evolve and grow. We get to transform ourselves, our beliefs and our patterns from the inside out.
We get to create new neural pathways, new possibilities, though the old ones are never eradicated. The more we repeat our new patterns, the more indelible they become.