Let It Go
One of the hardest things we will ever do in life, is learn to let go. Life is forever a cycle of gaining and losing, shedding and growing. The more attached we become to an object or person, the harder it is to let them go. Even when the object or person is detrimental to our health.
I imagine there is a huge market waiting to be cornered, in "letting go" therapy. One of the hardest things I've ever had to, was allow old dreams to die, so new ones could come alive.
I've spent the last two years, trying to understand the mechanics of why letting go is so difficult for so many people (myself included). Even if we know that what we hold on to is not so good for us.
Why then, the often deep inner conflict?
Human behavior is not always so mysterious. In fact, there is a reason we do (or not do) just about anything. Even if we don't consciously realize it, or understand the why behind it.
I want to share, what I believe to be the top two reasons we keep hanging on, when we should be letting go.
Fear : "There's Nothing Better"
The number one reason letting go is so difficult, is the idea that there is nothing better than what we are holding on to. There are many reasons we are conditioned to believe this. But at it's core, the fundamental reason(s) typically revolve around a "luck / poverty" mentality.
For example: "I have no control of what happens in my life"
The driving forces in life, are the meaning(s) we create and associate, with how life cultivates the good and bad experiences we have.
If we fear that we cannot, will not, or do not have the ability to produce better than what currently is, we are not likely to part with what is (potentially) not good for us. It is hard to conceptualize "better", when we don't know what "better" looks like, feels like, or how to acquire it. And more importantly, "why" something better is actually better for who we are, and where we are going in life. Something more aligned with who we truly are.
The power of this limiting belief, is what holds so many back from what they truly desire, and the potential of who they are becoming. At the end of the day, who we become as result of what comes into our lives, is far more important than the object or person that we are desiring. People and/or objects are always coming and going in life. But we are our only constants. We are solely responsible for the decisions and choices we make, that control the quality of the fulfillment we experience. Regardless of what is or is not present in our life.
When allow the idea that there is nothing better to take root in our belief system, we shut the door on all the other possibilities that exist. We rule out every other avenue by which the perfectly aligned object/person can enter our life. We shut the door on our growth. And anything that doesn't grow dies. Many folks are holding on to things that make them feel like death inside, but are so afraid of letting go, because they fear the feeling of the absence of that "thing" more. Without realizing there is much more fulfillment they could have, by letting go and allowing something more true to their personal alignment, to come into their life.
The worst part about this limiting belief, is the sense of loss that comes with it, even while the object or person is still present. Many folks live like they are losing the object or person already, and that it's entirely out of their control. It is the constant fear and feeling of loss, even though the object or person is still present. There is no sense of security or certainty. The idea is, "I won't have better than this, but I'm not guaranteed I get to keep what I've got". To live with this mindset, would be like living under the assumption that you have terminal cancer, only to find out later, that you were completely healthy the whole time. It is self inflicted torture.
"Better" is that which aligns itself to the truest version of myself. So that I continue to become all I was created to be, and contribute to the world in the profound and unique way, that only I can in my lifetime.
Does this object or person, inspire me toward the inspirations I already have/had, before the object or person showed up? Does it take what already is, further than where you had previously been?
Does the person or object awaken new inspiration(s)? Does a whole new world of possibilities, thoughts, ideas, motivations, realizations etc ... become awakened in you? Do you have a gut feeling, an inner intuition or sensing, that you are feeling more like the "you" - you have always imagined being or becoming?
Does this person or object assist you in the journey of where you are going in life? Does it distract you, or does it propel you? Does it bring you joy (more often than not) - or does it sap the joy you have?
See it for what it really is, without making it worse than it is. That is a good start. If you are holding onto something out of fear, because you think there is nothing better, then the question has already been answered (in my opinion). When you have found what aligns with you, you will rejoice in it's alignment with you, and not fear it's absence. Not because "it" has anything to do with it, but that you have grown beyond the limitations of that false belief.
The second reason we keep hanging on, when we should be letting go is ...
The Benefit : How It Meets Our Needs
You probably know someone (presently or past tense) that had a very solvable issue in their life, yet for whatever reason, they refuse to do anything about it. This person probably complains about the issue a lot, and speaks as if there is nothing that can be done to improve their dilemma. They are completely stuck, and nothing can help them.
If you do know someone like this, you probably know how frustrating it is to be around them. And you may have even offered very realistic solutions to their ever-going-problem. To only meet resistance time and time again. After all, this person speaks as if they want to be freed from their problem, and yet they find a reason every potential solution will unquestionably fail.
The reason people do this, is because we can become addicted to our problems.
There is a benefit people receive in their problems. It sounds somewhat sickening when you first think about it as such. But take the previously mentioned persona for example; such a person benefits in many ways by having an unsolvable problem. These types of people usually get a lot of attention. It's the same thing toddlers do when they cry. We are inherently born with the natural ability to draw attention to ourselves. Whether it satisfies a longing for connection, appreciation, validation, or significance - problems are a low quality way of meeting our primary human needs.
When the benefit of a problem meets two or more of our Six Human Needs, it can become addictive. And no matter how much someone complains about the issue, or how badly they portray wanting to resolve it, the truth is - they really don't want to. Even a negative thing can have the effect of what most folks think, only a positive thing can create.
The Six Human Needs are: certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution.
Anything that meets at least three of our Six Human Needs, becomes an addiction. People hold on to negative or destructive object(s)/people for this reason. Even if not consciously aware that they are doing so.
How do we let go, and why should we let go, if there is comfort in not doing so?
Changing Our Mind
Good advice alone, does not create enough leverage to convince someone that change is necessary (in most cases). The most powerful form of influence, is to get someone to experience the new benefit of the proposed change. The best way to accomplish this, is to experience it within oneself.
Pain and pleasure are the most primitive and instinctual forms of leverage. Most of the important decisions we make and the meanings we assign to our beliefs, are done so through the association to pain or pleasure. Most conflicting human behavior is a prime example of this concept in action. Someone can intellectually understand that smoking is bad for them, but the benefits of doing so are pleasurable to them. The same goes for binge eating, bulimia, and depression. Until we associate more pain to these experiences, the pleasure of the benefit(s) will keep us from letting go of them.
This is going to sound like an unusual statement to make, but the best way to let something negative go, is to change ones focus from the pleasurable benefits, to the painful ones. And then practice the pain. Most people would never consciously create a bad habit. And yet, few people seem to consciously break them, even thought they are aware the bad habit is present. Practicing painful association, is really just seeing the problem for what it is, and experiencing the truth - the negative qualities.
To successfully let go of something that is not beneficial for the growth, fulfillment, and direction of your life, you have to associate as much pain as possible to not doing so. Then practice feeling that painful experience over and over again in your mind, body and emotions. The three keys to change are: focus, physiology, and language.
First and foremost, you have to come to terms with yourself, and fully accept the truth about the negative aspects of holding on to something you should let go of. You have to own and take responsibility for the limiting beliefs, and the ways in which the object or person has been meeting your needs. And fully accept the truth, that you are obstructing better alternatives from coming into your life, because you are choosing fear.
Once you have accepted the truth, it's now time to take responsibility, and break the pattern(s) that keep you from letting go. To do this, you must focus on the pain you now have, and intensify it, by focusing on that experience getting worse and worse, until you let go. While you focus in this way, you are also going to practice feeling the despair, anxiety, and sadness of grieving the loss of the life you are losing, and all that that entails. Not in the present moment only, but in every moment you refuse to let go. That you won't grow into the best version of yourself, and will continue to miss all the opportunities and blessings, that not letting go is preventing. The key is to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
You will do this for 3-5 minutes, five to ten times a day, until you let go.
After practicing the painful experience of not letting go, you will then do the whole process all over again, but this time you will practice what it feels like to have the pleasurable experience of having something better. If you cannot imagine something better (which is very common for most people) simply think of a time in your life, where you felt the most intense joy, peace, excitement, ecstasy, passion etc. A moment that was so wonderful and powerful, you should be able to recall it in your mind fairly quickly. Then basically, relive that moment. Feel what you felt, hear what you heard, say what was being said (if applicable), do what you did with your body (or at least imagine yourself doing it) - again, immerse yourself in the experience. Do this IMMEDIATELY after practicing the painful experience mentioned above. For 3-5 minutes, five to ten times a day. And as you finish reliving the pleasurable moment, tell yourself three times (out loud works best) "What I will get, if I let go, will be much better than even this!"
If you commit to changing, and practice the aforementioned steps intentionally, you should find that over time, the idea of letting go should not be as frightening. Up to the point where letting go because the most logical thing to do. Expect there to be tug-of-war moments. Where you feel like you gain momentum, and may get really close to letting go, and then are hit with a powerful wave of fear that knocks you back. This is totally normal. The human mind is designed to protect old wiring, especially when it comes to survival. When we meet our needs in a powerful way, our brain associates this with our survival. That is why we often feel and say "I can't live without this!" Recognize these moments as you being human, and continue practicing. Eventually your mind will make the conversion from the old wiring/belief.
Letting go is not easy, but it is necessary. There are times to fight and hold on. There are times to give and receive grace, so that second chances can become new beginnings. But there are times when we need to let go - to let old dreams die, so new dreams can come alive.