How Does the Process of Letting Go Work?

Letting Go

One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it's guilt, anger, love, loss or betrayal. Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go.

Many frivolously and light-heatedly use the words "letting go."  They may say that in order to move forward, you must let go; to have freedom, you must let go; to stop living in the past, you must let go; and to stop destroying your self, you must let go.  But, what exactly does letting go mean, and is this concept as 'simple' as many say as the words roll off their tongues?

A couple of decade ago, I started trying to figure this out--the concept of letting go. I spent thousands of dollars in self-improvement workshops, seminars, lectures, online educational classes, and books trying to understand what others meant when they said, "Just let go."  And, because there was no clear explanation, I kept asking, "How?"  How do you "just" let go when memories and feelings, at many times, overwhelmed me regarding my dysfunctional and abusive past life.  These facilitators, as it appeared, could not explain themselves.  Letting go, to them, as I understood their lectures, was something like dropping a stone from my hand.  That simple, or so it seemed.

So as any good student, I started to just let go using mantras, meditation, and positive affirmations to no avail.  It definitely frustrated me, but it also put me in a position where I started to think that something was wrong with me.  Did I not get it?  Did I not have the talent?  In the end, I felt like an idiot, really, trying to let go, without any clear explanation or understanding of what this statement meant.

During my coaching and counselling career and having great collaborative conversations with my clients, I realized that there is no such thing as "just" letting go.  Letting go is a process that takes time, and the amount of time depends on each individual and each of their experiences in life.  The anger, guilt, hate, shame, sadness, betrayal, and hurt, for example, that we are trying to let go of, took decades to establish.  We gained them through our experiences and we gained them through observing others and their habits.  This all takes time to become embedded within us, so why would we expect that letting go is like dropping a stone?  It's not.

Letting go is a process that takes time.  It takes some practice and it takes diligence--the commitment of continued change and having a great desire within to really let something go.  Let's make something very clear here, though.  When someone lets go, this doesn't mean that dysfunctional relationships are reestablished.  Neither does it mean that the dysfunctional behavior of others is acceptable.  Letting go means that you accept what has happened and you accept the other as they are, but you do not condone it.

"We fight to let go." It's not easy to let go.  There is a battle that goes on within during the time of letting go, but with time and with work, letting go, somehow, just happens.  :) Letting go or healing from the past (whether proximal or distal) is not a passive process.  It is an active process in which you are conscious of your thoughts and feelings and you're constantly working to address what comes up.

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