I have been talking with clients a lot lately about the importance of letting go. (Please do not break into a song from frozen – I have a 9-year-old and, therefore, have heard it too, too much.) What I have been noticing is we hold onto things unnecessarily for a number of reasons, but, most of the time, the unfortunate outcome is damage to ourselves. What I want for you is to take a moment and carefully think about what you are holding onto so tightly and really think about whether it is negatively impacting your life.
- Are you holding onto a past relationship (either because it was so good or because it was so bad)? This happens… a lot.
- When a prior relationship was a good one we can focus so much on the positives we received from it that we have no hope of being satisfied by any future relationships. I see this especially when a spouse or partner passes or when a relationship ended against our wishes. We have a tendency to create a fantasy memory of this relationship and focus only on the good and seem to forget the bad. What future relationship (with real life human people – farts and all) can ever hope to compare to a fantasy?
- When a relationship ends badly we have a tendency to get so lost in our hurt and anger we cannot move on. There are many revenge fantasies about how to get back at the partner who wronged us. I see this most often when a partner is recovering after a partner has cheated. There is such a focus on retaliation that the person gets stuck. There often is no room for anything (or anyone) else in their life.
- Are you staying in a battle just to win even though the outcome isn’t terribly important to you? This can be big or small.
- If you are a parent – you have probably faced this…often. Imagine my daughter and I in an epic stare down over whether or not she can stay up an extra five minutes to watch the end of a TV show. You can imagine which side she was on. This battle can last much longer than the contested five minutes and end up about being right rather than getting enough sleep for school.
- Many times these disagreements are much larger – arguments with friends and family about politics or religion or money. These can turn to epic battles with each person being so set on convincing the other they are right, they end up destroying the relationship in the meantime. Choose your battles – what matters more the relationship or being right?
- Staying in a situation when its expiration date has clearly passed. This includes staying in an unhealthy relationship because you “don’t give up”, staying at a job where you are miserable, and maintaining friendships that cause you hardship and pain.
How do you let it go? Well, the first and most difficult step is deciding to let it go. Sounds simple, right? Not really. If it were that easy I would have a lot fewer patients on my caseload. Many people view letting go as “quitting” or “losing”. This is not the case. Letting go comes from a place of strength, not weakness. You are choosing the healthier life where you are able to look to the future and not be stuck in the past. Focus on yourself, not those who have done you wrong. Decide what is most important to you and work toward strengthening that path.