The art of letting things go

There is a very delicate balance between running away from our problems and maturely working through them to keep them from causing us stress or pain in the future. The first is cowardly while the other is brave and self-preserving.

I have always struggled with this balance, as I would much rather ignore any uncomfortable situations than work through them.

I couldn’t say why I have always had the tendency to avoid conflict or emotionally charged decisions, but since I realized how much I struggle in this area, I have attempted to be more mindful about dealing with things in better ways.

Not only am I working on facing the things that will come my way in the future with more maturity, but I also have some things from my past to sort through using this new perspective.

There are some heavy, hard things that I have shut out of my mind and in order to avoid dealing with them. Even though my intention was to pretend the issues don’t exist at all, I know that leaving them unsettled is getting in the way of my heart, mind, and soul and limiting my emotional growth.

I know I am not alone in letting things simmer in the background of my life un-dealt with for weeks, months, and even years. Many of us continue to hold on to things that cause a pang of hurt in our hearts when they cross our minds; mistakes we have made in the past, mean things people have said or done to us, and even some relationships that are no longer the healthiest for us to be in.

What can we do to better acknowledge these painful things and then keep them from controlling us in the future?

Why do we hold on?

Sometimes we let our issue eat at us because we feel guilty, or because we feel angry, or because we are too scared to move on. What really ends up happening, is that our growing obsession clouds our judgment and takes over our actions until we end up causing more damage to ourselves and to others.

One of the reasons that I hold on to things is because I’m still trying to figure out a way to change past situations even when that is no longer possible.

It can be a blessing to realize that not everything is going to go how we would like it to, and we will never have control over everything that happens to us.

Letting go can also make me feel weak sometimes – like holding on is my way of fighting the injustice of someone else or punishing myself for my wrongdoing. I don’t want to let go of the anger I feel towards someone because then it feels like I lost to them. And I don’t want to forgive myself and let go of guilt because I want to continue to punish myself for it.

I read a quote about Angelina Jolie recently said by director Phillip Noyce. He said that she, “Has a hard back and a very soft front. The back is determined. The front is soft and receiving of ideas.”

I love this description of a strong woman because it made me realize that I can be soft, forgiving, kind, and humble, all without losing my backbone or letting people or circumstances walk all over me.

Letting go of things in order to keep my front soft might also help me keep my backbone even stronger and leave me more energy to concentrate on more important things.


How do we let go?

Once we determine that it’s time for a situation to stop controlling our thoughts, it’s still not always easy to let it go. In my process of trying to let some things go, I asked myself a list of questions and the answers helped me move toward closure.

– Does it make me stronger to fight to keep this thing in my life, or to let it go?

– Am I holding on to it because I am scared and it’s easier to ignore than to face?

– Am I running away because I want things to go my way and they aren’t?

– Does releasing this thing of the control it has on me mean leaving it behind completely?

– Does my decision to hold on/let go negatively affect other people in my life?

– What is the action that brings about the most peace in this situation?

– How is this lingering issue affecting my behavior and my emotions on a daily basis?

For me, letting go starts on paper

I am a list maker, a pro-con chart writer, and a mapper. I get my thoughts out better when I put them down on something.

So, I wrote some of the things down that I’ve been holding on to, I asked the above questions about them, and I took different approaches to each for letting them go.

Some I forgave myself of and scratched them off, some I forgave someone else of and attempted (key word there) to grow a patch of kindness for them in place of my bitterness.

Some I tearfully said goodbye to with the goal of putting something healthier in its place. That might be the last of a few of those issues for me, and for others I might need to go through the process again down the road.

I do feel a little lighter though and a little less controlling and frustrated. I really do think that the process of releasing things that have control over me gets easier the more I practice it – like an art.

The first few things that we let go of might be a tougher battle than the things to follow, but hopefully it will become more and more habitual with time. 

I want to practice letting go of things so that I have the clarity to focus on the things ahead of me instead of being dragged down by things that should no longer have any power over me.

See also:

7 simple ways to bring balance in your life
Be here now: a guide to happiness
How not to waste your life

by Sarah

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