You know what it’s like to have something that eats at you and eats at you. It’s something we have all experienced. It feels ridiculously hard to let go of something when we feel unjustifiably wronged or when our love has been shunned by someone we care about, or ego bruised by something said, or when we feel the grief or shame over a wrong action we’ve made. It steals our inner peace.
Our minds go into overdrive about the wrongness of it. What could we have done differently? What conversations could be had to make the other person see the light? The thoughts start to play in a loop, a feel-bad loop which keeps the negative emotions within us stirred.
I’m not saying we should let go of anything and everything (well, not in action, but emotionally, yes). For instance, if you have a fight with your lover and they walk out and you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, when heads have cooled you can ask for a conversation in which you own your part of the situation. You can then extend the olive branch for a possible reconciliation. If a contractor takes your money and leaves things undone, never returning your calls or emails, there are legal actions you can take. I’ve never sued and don’t have a ‘sue mentality’ at all, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it if I were egregiously wronged. That’s why we have a legal system.
Being spiritual doesn’t mean we roll over and passively accept whatever comes our way. A big part of being spiritual is always reaching for the most loving action you can take for yourself and the other. And, the loving action toward ‘yourself’ in the last sentence should be bolded. It’s also about learning what lesson the situation is trying to teach you. What emotional button has been pushed? Why does this bother me? What part of my ego personality needs to be tamed, healed?
But, I digress. The point I’m trying to reach is that we can let go emotionally whether the issue is over (but still bothering us) or whether we are still moving toward a resolution. Letting go of the outcome is where we find emotional relief. There is a young person I know that is currently holding on to a lot of angst about the injustices of the world (and Lord knows there are many of them). We had a conversation about it the other day in which I said, “It is your resistance to ‘what is’ that is keeping you from happiness.” This is always the case. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say resistance to ‘what is’ is our only barrier to happiness. It’s not a perfect world. You can’t go through it without getting nicked and scraped up a bit along the way. But, we can be emotionally well and operate with an inner sereneness despite the world, the current circumstances and the comings and goings of negatively perceived events.
Why Let Go?
First, let’s make a case for why we should let go.
- Holding on to a grievance hurts. The thoughts produce feelings of anger, sadness, stress, powerlessness, frustration, and a number of other negative emotions that make us feel bad. They don’t make the other person feel bad, just us.
- Holding on to thoughts that create these emotions is bad for your health. I put a quote by Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, in a recent post entitled “How to Use the Placebo Effect to Create a Better Life & Better Health”. His quote basically explains that we are skin-covered petri dishes in a way. When we think hurtful thoughts, our brains trigger the release of chemical compounds, harmful ones like cortisol, into our blood which is ultimately the medium in which our cells live. Although adrenaline is short-lived in our systems, cortisol lingers all day. Excessive cortisol leads to a host of health problems including weight gain, digestive illnesses, osteoporosis, hormone imbalances, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Repeated thought patterns strengthen negative neural networks which can lead to disposition and personality changes. The more of a particular chemical compound you release with your thoughts, the more receptors your cells build for those particular peptides. Over time, your body can actually become addicted and send a request up your spinal column to your brain for the chemical compounds for which it is most addicted. And, your neocortex knows exactly where to go to trigger the memories and thoughts that will produce those compounds. So then your body, not your mind is running the show and you’re in a not so good loop at all. Bad thoughts can turn to bad moods which can turn into extended periods of negative disposition, which can over time become engrained parts of your personality. Do you know anyone that used to be happy go lucky that is now quite negative? Now you know why I harp on thoughts so much! Joe Dispenza has an excellent book on this phenomenon if you’d like to read more about it. It is called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.
- And, lastly not letting go and the associated negative thought loops that come with that block us from positive possibilities. Ancient wisdom states that any thought in the mind is like a city in the clouds. What this means is we can only hold one thought in our mind at a time (although they can flood in quickly one at a time). Holding a negative thought and turning it over and over in your mind, keeps you from seeing the beauty and possibilities right in front of you. Example, you are in a diner wallowing in self-pity about a failed relationship and fail to notice the handsome guy trying to make eye contact with you. Opportunity is always all around you. Don’t miss it.
Steps to Letting Go
- Make the decision
Make the decision that you would not like to hold on to this baggage any longer. Know that you are worthy of feeling good and being healthy. Cherish your life and your well-being enough to do this for yourself. Know that these bad thoughts of someone else does not hurt them, they hurt you. Know that you are in the driver’s seat and can choose a sunnier reality. You are so worth making this decision and effort for – choose self-love.
- Watch your thoughts and feelings
If you pay attention to how you feel and notice that you are feeling upset or irritated, then notice the thoughts running in your mind. Just noticing and identifying the thoughts will cause a pattern interrupt. From there, go to step three.
- Turn your focus to the present moment
Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now, has an excellent technique for turning one’s attention to the present moment. He says notice how your hands feel or the sensations in your body. Can you feel the energy in your fingers? If you are outside, how does the wind or sun feel on your face? Come back to now. That is the only place life is – the past is gone and the future is not here yet.
This doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies with the person that wronged you. It just means you spend some time recognizing that they are human. And, as humans we make mistakes. Sometimes, we are selfish. Sometimes we act out of self- interest. Find a common bond in that knowledge. Know that they will have their own karma (memories) to deal with in regard to how they’ve treated you and others. Try to come to a place of compassion for the spot they’ve made for themselves.
- Remember that angst and worry serve no purpose and are only a waste of energy
- Spend time on your most grand vision
Take time each day to conjure up a fabulous five-year vision. In your wildest imagination, where would you like to be in five years and what would you like to be doing? Would you like to be sitting in your Summer condo on the patio with your soulmate watching the boats peacefully drift in and out of the dock? I would!! Spend some time on your vision and how great it will feel.
- Train yourself to look for evidence that your new vision is starting to happen
This is a technique I’ve noticed over the years with my most successful clients. They have a vision and they have trained themselves to look for evidence that it is progressing. It is so funny, I’m not political at all just to preface, I saw Donald Trump interviewed the other day about his lagging in some poll. He said something like well look at how good we are doing in this state and this state and that state. ‘No, I actually think we are winning’, is pretty close to the words with which he concluded. And, you could tell he truly meant his words.
Whatever emotional pain you currently have that you need to let go of, please use these steps and thoughts to dissolve them and move to higher ground. You are a loving soul and deserve all the best in life. Nurture yourself every day of every week of every year. In the coming weeks, I plan to write a piece on extreme self-care. Please stay tuned in!