Learning how to let go

One of my biggest annoyances with the average therapist is that they shower people with clichés. In an exceptional piece about trauma recovery, Vicki Peterson offers some amazing insight about the harm well intended friends, family, and professionals do when they advise by saying trite things like, “let it go.”

At face value, letting it go is an abstract concept that people like me lack a frame of reference for. When we grow up having to hide our feelings, wants, and needs, the last thing that comes naturally is release. To us, Letting it go means ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen, and repress any and all negative feelings about it.

We learned to detach from ourselves and our experiences. We got so good at hiding that we lost ourselves. To let go requires a number of concrete strategies that are absent in our way of being.

One of the most important skills a professional counselor or coach can teach is the ability to take and abstract concept and turn it into a series of step-by-step instructions. So, here it is…

How to Let Go:

  1. We have to embrace mindfulness. This is a polite term that means, “Hey! Pay attention to you.”
  2. We have to identify what we’re feeling. This is a tall order. It takes a lot of practice but the simplest strategy is to imagine someone you have a lot in common with and care about in your shoes and consider how they’d feel.
  3. We have to withhold judgment of our emotions. We have a tendency to talk ourselves out of feeling what we feel. We see certain emotions as unacceptable, especially when they require vulnerability or make us feel like we might lose control.
  4. We have to tolerate expressing those feelings to at least one other person. Stop telling yourself the lie that you’re burdening others or imposing by sharing with them. The truth is, you’re giving our past suffering meaning by allowing us to share what we have learned. It also helps to journal them, but we must not analyze them. Emotions simply need to be expressed.
  5. Letting go is not a one-time event. The amount we release is the amount we can consciously choose to leave where we shared it.

Things that are natural to others do not come naturally to us. We have to unlearn the unhealthy behaviors and perspectives that were taught to us. Be patient with yourself and remember that it helps us to help you.