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  • Writer's picturegaelle Chatenet

Learning to Let go

Updated: May 3, 2023

Why is it sometimes so hard to let go?

Everywhere we look we see and hear so many messages of positivity, telling us that what we want should and will be ours. We just need to keep going, keep pushing, keep our hopes high, keep trying and never give up. But what happens when it is really time to let go of things, we have no control over? What if sometimes, the constant pushing and trying is just getting us further and further away from what we want?

This is usually the time when I meet very depressed people in my office, telling me about the goal they are still hoping to reach but that just seemingly keeps moving just a little bit further away each time they take a step forward.

Many feelings are at play in a situation where we really need to let go.

The truth is that letting go is often mistaken with giving up, it hints of being wrong, of letting someone else be right, of admitting that we weren’t good enough, that we couldn’t make it where we wanted. It hints of disappointment, failure and sorrow.

While I know all this, such a situation happened to me recently where I could not bring myself to let go. While I could clearly see that nothing more could be done, a part of me kept wanting to try and change things. Hoping all the time that this next move would change the game. Because I am the kind of person who believes in going to get what you really want, letting go can be hard.

So, I have to remind myself time and again, sometimes letting go IS taking action. Because there comes a time when there is not much more one can take, because, ultimately, keeping on pushing can become working against yourself, trying to make something happen that is just not ready to happen. And the time comes when we have to accept, that there is nothing more that can be done on our side. That we can keep the hope without letting it destroy us or take away all the other good things happening at the same time in our lives. At some point, it is time to put our trust in fate, the universe, whatever higher power is leading us, and accept, for once, to follow and not lead.

If you too, are having trouble letting go, here are steps you can take:

1. Understand you never had control in the first place. We tend to think that our lives are pretty much under our control but whenever something unexpected happens we can be shocked to find out it was quite the opposite all along. It is not only ok to not be in control, it is normal and the earlier we understand and accept this the easier things will be.

2. Embrace your helplessness. If there is nothing you can do, the earlier you acknowledge and accept it the better. Trying to work against an impossible situation is just working against yourself. Accept that you don’t have power here and now. Release the pain that you are feeling trying to gain control. The earlier you accept the helplessness, the quicker an alternative solution can come to you. When you focus all your energy on trying to get/keep control, you don’t have any left to actually solve the problem.

3. Find the part of you that wants to keep holding on and what its reasons are. Even if you feel like you really want to let go but a part of you just won’t let you, more likely than not, there is a positive intention behind the behavior and it is not just reaching the goal you are hoping for. Ask the question: what is the positive intention behind this? What positive result is this part of me really trying to achieve? Do not try to rationalize things, do not try to explain, let the answer come to you naturally. Once you have an answer you might realize that what you really wanted all along is much more than the object, person or position that you wanted but a fulfilment of a higher value that is yours. Once you have this clarity you will be able to change the goal to reach the actual value.

4. Things or people that you feel you have to hang on to own you, not the other way around. Feeling that you need to constantly watch over something or someone to make sure you don’t lose them is just exhausting. Ask yourself what would happen if you lost the thing, the person, the opportunity that you are so desperately trying to have/keep in your life? I get some very panicky reactions from some of my patients when I first ask this kind of questions. Some won’t even answer the question at all. But after a few sessions and touching back on the subject lightly, we always get to the same conclusion: I would probably be ok! There are very few things human beings can not recover from. Once you are conscious of that, you are freeing yourself and also much more likely to keep/get what you want.

5. Focus on others, give love. Love is everywhere. In a smile, in unexpected kindness, in the feeling you get looking at the sky or the sea. Let it wash over you, give it freely. Love is caring, sharing, helping. Love is tolerance and understanding. Give it to yourself and to others. Love is the one thing you can never give too much of, and the one thing that will come back to you tenfold. Open yourself to the world around you, get out of your head and out in the world.

6. Release what you cannot hold. Most times, holding on to something is more painful than just letting go. If you just let it be, you might find that it was already yours all along. Or you might open up your mind for something better that you couldn’t see because all your strength went into trying to keep that one thing.

7. Be grateful. Instead of focusing on what is lacking in your life, focus on all the good that is already here. There is so much to be grateful for that we don’t see. Keep reminding yourself of all the good things, no matter how tiny, that are happening around you. A quiet cup of coffee in the morning before the hustle of the day starts, a beautiful sky, the smile of a friend… Take the time to notice and enjoy all those little things that surround you and make your life better. You can even keep a gratitude journal that you can reread at will to remind yourself of all the good things in your life.

Life can be so easy and surprising, once you accept to let go and give up on the control you never had. Try it and let me know how it feels!

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