(OR ‘what exactly are you Letting Go of my love and would you prefer to Hang On?’)
It’s a phrase we use often. Usually in reference to an idea or a plan we had that we’re struggling to ‘move on’ from when it doesn’t happen.
There’s another one: ‘Moving On’.
But why do so many of us struggle in the ‘Letting Go’ and the ‘Moving On’?
We assume they are the right thing to do- I must Let It Go- in order to be happier. Obviously the main reason to Let Go is because Hanging On causes suffering.
We feel stuck. Trapped. In pain. Unsure what to do Next.
So why can’t we let go?
Perhaps it’s because these kinds of concepts and the language swirling around them remain relatively unexamined.
Usually when we’re trying to will ourselves to let something go, we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We want the whole thing to just bugger off and stop causing pain. We want to wish, hope and dream for something else- something completely different- than the thing we’re trying to Let Go of.
The promotion hoped for… the pregnancy that won’t happen… the lover who isn’t who they promised they were in the beginning.
But by tossing the whole thing out (Career change! Embrace Childfree! Love Sux!) you lose a vital part of why you wanted the thing in the first place. Why it meant something to you.
Instead of ‘going big or going home’ (blech! More garbage speak from the hyper-competitive society we are pressured by every day) spend a little time, gently, calmly, pulling the threads apart of the thing you feel you need to Let Go of.
It’s not a race.
This is all there is. This life.
You’re allowed to stop. STOP. And give yourself the time and energy to feel what you are feeling.
Maybe there’s a deep swell of grief. Cry. Write. Talk to someone. Meditate. Scream. Get angry. Run up or down a mountain. Listen to loud music. Drink too much. Swim until you can’t swim anymore.
Then separate this pain from the core value of the thing you can’t let go of.
You wanted a promotion. You got fired or moved on instead. Why did you want the promotion? What was important and meaningful to you about the promotion? Do you need to Let Go of that or is there a way to Hang On to the core meaning that is helpful to you? What meaningfulnesses can you stay close to that inspire and motivates you?
Someone you loved passed on. You don’t have to Let them Go. You can ‘say hello again’ and keep them with you in ways that aren’t so paralysing by remembering them, and remembering yourself through their eyes. Remembering your skills and strengths and why they loved you, why you were special. Skills and strengths that they’d love to see blossom and grow.
Michael White wrote one of the seminal papers introducing Narrative Therapy to the wider sphere on this work and it’s truly a beautiful practice that can be applied to many areas of life.
You had a vision of your future that was torn away. What was it about that vision that filled you with hope? Is there a part of this vision you’d like to retain in your choices now that speaks to your personal hopefulnesses (not anyone else’s expectations)? How can you stay close to THAT part?
It might help to imagine some kind of compartment (‘compartmentalisation is bad!’ they say. Pffft.). Shelves… boxes… nests… tabs… whatever works for you. As you pull the threads apart on the Thing you need to Let Go of, and notice the different colours and textures, lay them ever so gently in different places for looking at when you are ready.
You are likely to find that there are parts of the Thing you’re so desperately pushing yourself to get rid of that you don’t actually want to Let Go. That are vital to you. And that’s why you can’t move on.
The idea of separating the part you don’t want
(the painful/cyclic/stuck/demoralising/disturbing/scary/hopeless/shamey part)
from the part you DO want
(the values-focused/hopeful/motivating/L.I.V.I.N’/meaningful/dreamy part)
is so you can, with kindness and thoughtfulness, shelve the crap bit but keep the good bit. Have a different relationship with your Thing rather than blaming yourself when you can’t toss it all away.
The ‘why’ it mattered so much in the first place is so important.
You get to make your own meaning in a thoughtful Letting Go process.
And that’s something to Hang On to.
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