It’s so hard to do, ain’t it? Do you ever wonder why it’s so difficult to let go?
I think it’s because we create an identity that aligns with whatever it is that needs letting go. If you’ve been depressed or anxious most of your life, it’s hard to imagine what you would be like without depression or anxiety. Like a parent sending their kid off to college….their identity as a parent of a young child growing up in their home is now gone and that’s a difficult pill to swallow. It feels like a part of us is now gone and will never return. And in reality, that’s exactly right. That version of you will never come back, it is gone forever. It can cause you to feel profoundly sad and maybe even afraid of the future without this identity.
Who am I now? Who am I if I’m not raising kids? Who am I if I’m not a nurse, teacher, firefighter? Who am I if I’m not the husband of an addict? Who am I if I’m not anxious all the time? Who am I if I’m not married or partnered?
Scary questions….but necessary in order for us to evolve as humans. If we don’t let go, evolving becomes much more difficult. And if we don’t evolve, we miss out on what’s actually happening right here and now, the present. If we’re stuck in the role of parenting a young child, we will miss out on how our kid is coming into their own adultness and needing us in a different way. If we’re stuck in the identity of being a married or partnered person, we miss out on the richness of other relationships around us, including and especially the relationship with ourselves. If we’re stuck in the identity of being a “good Christian” we are not present for the beautiful inspiration of a spiritual path. If we’re stuck in the identity of being anxious about something, anything and everything, we miss out on how lovely and peaceful life actually is right here, right now.
I understand letting go is not an easy process. You have to start by acknowledging and befriending the grief of letting go. All transitions, even the good ones, involve a grieving process because we are essentially saying goodbye to a part of who we have been our entire lives….forever. It’s like saying goodbye to your co-dependent partner. You know you have to do it, but it can feel like a death. And so you must tread carefully and gently…with compassion.
On the coattails of grief there is fear. Fear of the unknown. I don’t know who I am if I’m not _______________. And guess what we have to do with that? Acknowledge and befriend. Acknowledge the fear and then with gentle kindness, befriend it. As if you’re befriending a frightened child. Do you angrily run up to the scared child and scream at them to stop feeling afraid? Of course not. That would only add shame to the child’s fear (shame for feeling afraid). With curiosity and love, you would approach the frightened child and ask what exactly scares them. When you give them a chance to talk about their fears, they feel supported by you and their fear naturally subsides.
As you’re sitting here reading this blog post, you may be aware of some things or people in your life which you need to release. When you can find some quiet time and a little privacy, I encourage you to close your eyes for a few moments, acknowledge the parts of you that are sad or afraid of letting go and then attempt to befriend these parts with gentle compassion. If befriending yourself is too difficult at first, start with an image of you befriending your favorite person or animal and slowly over time, incorporate yourself into that image. I promise, that with practice and time, it will become easier.
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we can learn to let go of yesterday”