What is the secret of letting go?
From the time we are born, we are introduced to the reality that we cannot survive without others. Our dependency creates a mandatory attachment to our relationships with others. We are inevitably committed to our first social group when we are young without the wisdom or awareness of what we are committed to. It is an innocent commitment.
We become conditioned to our world as we experience it early in life and the more accustomed we are to the arrangement, the more difficult it becomes for us to change and let go. One of the reasons that change is so difficult is that we generally have a lot of love and loyalty for the people in our lives. Much of this is good but it can make change difficult.
In addition we learn how to survive within a set of cultural rules and become comfortable with them. They become our reality and can offer many rewards for maintaining the status quo.
Sometimes when we seek change we make these common mistakes:
- we reject our past. When we want to get rid of an uncomfortable part of our lives it is easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We may dislike the helplessness we have felt at not being able to change our families and their treatment of us. What we are often rejecting is our own feelings about this past.
- we feel guilty for letting go of a part of our lives and the people in it. Guilt can be a culturally promoted emotion to keep people from changing. One small example from my past illustrates this: my mother is from Germany; she used to promote the idea that I was German not American although clearly since I was born and grew up in the United States; there was no question about my identity. Of course, a compassionate view of the situation recognizes the difficulty of moving from one culture to another, the difficulty of assimilation and her fear of being left behind. It is hard to leave the past behind.
- change before we are ready. Sometimes, however, we are seeking change because the past was not a success, and we have a lingering disappointment with it. If we cannot accept our sadness, which is not a culturally approved feeling as of this writing, we may want to get rid of the source of the sadness. Allowing change to be a process makes it easier not only to make a positive transition, but it also allows our systems to process and assimilate all of the feelings we have about it.
Looking at change differently can help make it easier. When we need to change it is important that we do not think of it as a rejection of the past. In fact, it may mean that our past life situation was a success and we have learned what we needed to learn. Whatever, the reason, the process of sorting and sifting through our experience, seeing the good and not so good in it, enables us to come to terms with our experience in an imperfect world. It can help us see our past in a new light and show us how we are all part of a larger evolutionary process.
Ultimately, life is a learning process; seeing a process with different stages can help us find some perspective that makes acceptance easier. Respecting the benefits of the past as you move forward makes letting go easier.
Letting go sounds easy, but actually it is a process of becoming aware of a problem or need to transitioning to a new way of living. It is not a small matter and needs to be taken seriously. If we do not lay the groundwork for change we may have greater difficulty realizing it. If we change without preparation we may in fact predispose ourselves to less change in the future because in not preparing our attempt at change may fail.
Letting go is a complex process of becoming aware, educating oneself, grieving, transition planning and implementation. When the process of transition has been mastered and the pitfalls have been avoided, letting go becomes much easier.
What is essential – what is the secret of letting go – is to see it as a process and a positive step.