"I'm just trying to let shit go."
I sat there, a bit stunned. This is a new revelation for this client of mine. It's the first I've heard her say this and seem like she truly mean it. "All the stupid shit. All the shit I obsess and over-think about. I gotta let it go." For someone who struggles with anxiety and over-analyzing a lot, she needed this change.
But I wondered, how is she going to do it? How will she (and you!) let it go?
Here are 3 steps you can do in order to move on:
2. Gain a new perspective
Acceptance can lead to the conscious decision of letting go. Acceptance is acknowledging the way it is. But this can be tough. Not only do we not want to accept at times but we don't want to dwell in it. Acceptance means acknowledging what happened without just trying to sweep it under the rug.
It's believing that your break-up from last year is still affecting you. It's knowing that you are still bothered by your best friend's comments about your weight. It's realizing that you're angry about not getting that promotion at work. It's recognizing the pain you put your family through with your addiction.
We are constantly being told we get to choose how we feel and we should feel happy. Acceptance definitely doesn't look like happiness. Acceptance sucks, it feels awful. It's that pressure on your chest, that pit in your stomach, that pain in your heart. It's not always (or ever) pleasant. But it's necessary. And acceptance may not look or feel like it's getting you to the goal but I promise you, it is.
I remember needing to accept when I said some very hurtful, judgmental things to a friend in an email. I knew it was bad when I couldn't even tell people about it without feeling immense guilt. I was mean. The first step to letting go/moving on was to feel it. The way I accepted was to write about how I felt: about myself, about the situation and everything in between. I didn't want to be made to feel better about it and/or told I was right in saying those words. I wasn't right. I needed to accept and take responsibility.
Accepting it means seeing it, without judging it. It happened. It hurts. It's painful. Cry. Scream. Be mad. Be upset. Feel guilt. Feel the pain in your heart. Write about it. Tear up the papers. Punch pillows. Truly be in it, without judging or making sure you're doing the right thing.
Don't believe that it's about FORGETTING. Because it's not.
2. Gain a new perspective
Einstein said it best when he believed that "no problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it." We need a new perspective in order to move forward. If we keep rehashing the same sad, upsetting story over and over, we're going to feel the same way. Sad and upset.
And notice I said rehash. There's accepting (which is necessary) and then there's rehashing (which is not). When we cross that line, it becomes hurtful toward our progress.
I feel this way and that's it. They're an asshole. End of story. I'm stuck.
Or I did an awful thing. I'm an awful person. I can't believe anything else.
This is where a new perspective comes in. Usually this part gets complicated. Perspectives are so individualized, making it difficult to talk about in a public blog. Here's what you can do:
Ask yourself a few questions. Notice your resistance to an answer and/or desire for that answer.
1. Is the way I'm looking at this helping me to move on?
2. What needs to happen in order to let this go?
3. What belief would I need to change in order to move on? (We make decisions based on a belief we have about ourselves and others, about the way things are "supposed to be")
4. What is keeping me held to this way of looking at things?
5. Have I started to examine a new perspective and felt resistant to that perspective? What makes me resistant?
For me, the new perspective I needed to gain was this phrase: WHO AM I TO JUDGE?
When I heard this, it hit me hard in my gut. I felt it deep and strong and knew I needed to hear that. I needed to change the belief that I was right, that I knew best. Who am I to judge what other people should or shouldn't do with their life? With the choices they make in their life? The way I was looking at things was not helpful towards the situation. It kept me upset and frustrated. I needed to accept that I was judging and to gain that new perspective.
And the new perspective may lead us to the 3rd thing you can do to move on.
It's probably the most important step but also the most difficult. Frederick Luskin has a great definition of forgiveness, saying it is "choosing to give up earned resentment." Forgiveness is a choice we do for ourselves, not anyone else. It allows us to say that we no longer need to suffer with toxic resentment, anger and pain in order to go through life. It says we no longer need to make others suffer for what they did wrong (or make ourselves suffer too). We can gain some peace from the situation.
In order to forgive someone else, we need to see their basic humanity. We need more understanding about them and their behavior. We need empathy for them (Yep, EMPATHY). We may even need to take responsibility for our role in the issues. Maybe we need some awareness that we're all doing the best that we can do. Check out my blog on that topic here.
Forgiving someone sounds like:
What you did was wrong, but I no longer need to hurt you.
I am letting go, and moving beyond the need to make you suffer for what you did.
I don’t have to hold onto my toxic resentment and anger over what you did.
I am giving up the need to make you pay for your mistakes, or take revenge on you.
If we need to self-forgive, it's because we feel guilty for something we did. We feel bad about the behavior but realize we are not a bad person for it. I needed some self-forgiveness after that situation with my friend. I went through a process - I needed to be honest with myself about what I did, actually read the email I wrote, acknowledge the reasons why I wrote it and why that was not appropriate, apologize to the person and try to commit myself to no longer being judgmental.
Self-forgiveness sounds like:
What I did was wrong, but I no longer need to hurt myself for it.
I am able to acknowledge my wrong-doing but I still realize I am a good person.
I don't have to hold on to this as a symbol of who I am. The behavior is not who I am as a person.
I am letting go of the need to make myself suffer.
Forgiveness is an on-going process. You may forgive and then realize something else bugs you, bothering you. Then it's about accepting, gaining another new perspective and forgiving again. And again. And again.
Letting go is a process. It's hard. But it's worth it. To be able to move through life with acceptance, openness to new perspective and the ability to forgive will allow you to truly enjoy your life. I know what it's like from both sides so I get it.
And like I said earlier, gaining new perspectives is individualized and complicated. If you need some help with that, reach out to me. We can set up an in-person meeting or a few Skype sessions to delve into together, in a safe way.
How does it feel to heal your inner wounds? What does it mean to be fully alive?