How many times have you heard the advice to “Just let go and move on!”
The instruction is clear – cut yourself off from whatever is holding you back and then you will be able to move forward with gusto and achieve all the things you want to achieve.
The implication is that holding on to something that appears to no longer serve you impedes your ability to sense and move with the current of life that swims within and around you.
Somehow holding on holds us back. So why do we do it?
I think it has something to do with the image that the words conjure up for us. The words “Let go” tend to make me think of something being severed or cut away from me in a way that is both drastic and final. The picture is almost that of an amputation from which there is no going back. The fear of the pain of the operation and the knowledge of what will be lost to me because of it is what keeps me holding on tightly to whatever it is I would be better letting go of.
The problem is that an amputation speaks heavily of loss and we are hard wired to resist loss. When we lose something, or something is taken away from us, we are left with less than we had before and this can fuel a sense of emptiness that we do not quite understand. Feelings of lack, inadequacy and incompleteness can rise up in us and fearing these feelings we would rather cling to our familiar, known territories than make the move to pastures new even if at some level we know we would benefit from the move.
Typically the advice to “let go” is often offered when a significant relationship comes to an end. Perhaps someone you love dies or ends your relationship and you are left with a range of unpleasant emotions to deal with- grief, sorrow, regret, blame, anger, denial, self pity.
Perhaps you get stuck in the past reliving your memories of happier times or perhaps you find yourself living for the future where you hope against hope for reconciliation with your loved one.
Perhaps you cannot stop going over and over, again and again, the circumstances of your break up, questioning yourself and wondering if you could have done something to prevent it or perhaps you are filled with anger and spend your days wilfully plotting the downfall of your ex partner.
Perhaps, in some strange way, you are enjoying the attention and fuss from well meaning friends and family who are gathering around you to support you through your grief and sadness.
Although we may long to ‘get on with our lives’ to all intents and purposes our fear of loss paralyses us and we become stuck in the mire of our fearful thinking. Any well meaning advice to just “let go” only serves to perpetuate the problem.
Perhaps it would be wonderful if we could just chop of the offending parts of our lives and move on leaving them behind but the truth is that life doesn’t work like that.
Perhaps we are meant in some way to stay connected to the painful things in our lives; to connect with the lows of life as much as the highs?
Because I believe this is true I would like to offer an alternative approach to ‘letting go’ and suggest instead that we simply learn to relax and release our hold on whatever it is we are trying to move on from.
Think of a clenched fist – make one now! Think of all the energy it takes to hold your fist in this tight and awkward shape. Think of how it cuts your hand off from the circulation needed to sustain life. Think of how you can’t function properly with your hand closed and how your attention always seems to be focused on the fist. Think about how if the circulation is cut off for long enough you will lose your hand.
Then think about how if you just learn to relax your fingers the circulation will be restored and you will regain full use of your hand. Think about how you will not have to lose your hand and of how easy and comfortable it feels now the tightness has gone.
Your life can be like this. Rather than close yourself down into a ball of tightness around a relationship that has ended; try releasing it. This does not mean that you have to stop loving the person that has left you but rather that you place that love in a wider and freer context – a one in which it can breathe and live in a new way. This way the relationship is still apart of you but it no longer defines you; it no longer takes up all your attention and it no longer impedes you from functioning in a healthy way. Whatever you may have to learn from the relationship is still available to you and you may revisit it, at any time, if you so choose to do.
Of course it may not be a relationship that you are holding onto; it could be a myriad of other things, such as:
What ever it is that you are stubbornly holding onto try releasing your grip, just a little and notice what happens. Do you feel any less of a person than you were before? Do you feel depleted in any way? Do you feel that you have lost something OR do you feel that rather than being robbed of something you have gained something in return? The poet Em Clare in her poem ‘What is it you were given’ asks us to identify what it is we are given from our losses. At the very least we might discover that we gain a slightly different perspective on life or a slightly different feeling and experience than the one we have grown accustomed to.
I cannot repeat enough:
You will NOT be depleted; you will not be robbed of anything! Whatever it is you are holding on to it remains as part of you and you can revisit it at any time you choose to if that is what you desire. However you may choose not to when you discover what else life has in store for you once you release your tight hold on things.
There is always a GAIN. Your life may change, it may be different BUT it will not be less of a life, just a different life. THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR.
So GO ON! I invite you to move from ‘Let go and lose out’ to ‘Release and gain’ and see the difference it makes to your life. Let me know how you get on.
The opinions I express here are my own. However I offer them with the word 'syat' next to them. 'Syat' is a word used by the Jain Tribe in India which means 'To the best of my knowledge SO FAR.' In the spirit of openness I invite comments from anyone whether you agree with my point of view or not. In this way we can all learn and grow together. Thank you.