Five Simple Steps to Master Letting Go
No one lets go voluntarily, but sometimes when the pain of holding on gets too intense, you have to.
After months, sometimes years, of heartache, you're tired of trying to force a different outcome. Feelings of hopelessness make you want to give up. It's just too painful.
There is nothing harder than letting go of someone that you love, but this type of surrender doesn't apply just to relationships. It can be about giving up a job, a home, a dream, or a situation that doesn't work anymore. Letting go doesn't happen quickly but once you understand the process, it becomes less frightening.
This blog outlines how to let go - no matter where you're at emotionally right now. While everyone's journey is unique, here are some steps to guide you through the process of letting go.
1. Confront Your Fear
When you can't accept the outcome, you spend a lot of time trying to change it. Fear keeps you wanting things the way they've always been. No one likes change, but anticipating the worst keeps you stuck.
A great acronym for fear comes from 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. What you fear rarely happens. Your mind tries to convince you that something bad is going to happen. This fear paralyzes you from taking action, but feeling the fear is part of the process. Getting a reality check from trusted friends helps to calm obsessive thoughts.
2. Exhaust All of Your Options
Letting go is a process, not a single event. Before you can let go, you need to exhaust all of the options in your head. Attempts to control the outcome take many forms, but they should not be criticized. This takes time and patience. Your efforts - even the unhealthy ones - are a necessary part of letting go. Without this step it's more difficult to move to the next step.
When you're exhausting all of the options you're:
Trying different ways to manage the situation yourself.
Seeking validation that you're right.
Preventing someone else’s consequences.
Overthinking possible solutions.
Gathering resources including counselors or other professionals.
Assuming a negative outcome.
By exploring every possible scenario, you get to the point where you're done. The emotional exhaustion provides the necessary push you need to consider letting go. You simply run out of energy. Some people get so stressed it creates illness. Though agonizing, once you recognize your powerlessness the relief can begin.
3. Admitting Powerlessness is a Good Thing
Holding on takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. Worrying about the future and what could happen if you let go dominates your thoughts. You might even berate yourself for not doing it sooner but you cannot force this process. Letting go isn't for the weak but for those who have the willingness to keep trying. Efforts to let go pile up until one day, you're ready.
Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is insanity. Everyone still does it because it's human nature to want control. You fight hard to keep what's precious to you until you're willing to stop. You become willing to do something different.
4. Feel the Feelings
As you begin to let go, the feelings will pour out of you. Intense grief, anger and sadness get triggered which explains why most people avoid it. Some get addicted as a way to ease the pain, but the expression of feelings relaxes the body. By allowing the deep pain to surface, you can come back to center. You feel more grounded because you're no longer fighting the pain but embracing it.
Tips for handling emotions:
Do some journal writing.
Get support from a trusted friend.
Let yourself have a good cry.
Sit quietly and focus on the sensations in your body.
Practice some form of mediation or prayer.
Ask for a hug.
5. Utilize Your Support System
It's important to have enough support before starting this process. Attempting to do this in isolation makes letting go more painful than it needs to be. Family and friends aren't always the best option if they're too close to the situation. They may have their own bias that can get in the way.
Find neutral people who can be empathetic. Having friends who are on the same journey of personal growth helps you to feel less alone. If you don't have that type of encouragement right now, try Al-Anon for more support.
Because letting go is so painful, it's important to be gentle with yourself. Don't let anyone try to rush you through the process. No one can dictate your readiness but you. Many times when I’ve had to let go, it happens in a single moment - after doing these steps. While you may not be able to control when it finally happens, when you let go at your own pace, you can survive the struggle and reach acceptance.
For more on letting go click here to read 10 Ways to Let Go of Someone You Love.
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