Hot shot kid in a too-fast car cut you off this morning; it’s noon and you’re still seething.
Spouse had an affair 25 years ago and even though you’ve been divorced for 10 years, your stomach still knots up when you think about it.
You moved to a new city for a great career opportunity but long so much for your former home and friends that you can’t find anything to like about the new place.
You regularly whip yourself into a frenzy because your 40-year-old son stays home to raise the kids while your daughter-in-law works long hours at her fancy law practice.
Every time you rehash painful past experiences, you are choosing to re-injure yourself by generating the same toxic cortisol stress cocktail in your system that you originally fostered during your chosen reaction to the initial experience. Holding on to anger and resentment hurts you much more than it can ever hurt the other person. It keeps you trapped in a painful prison of your own making.
You know you should let it all go, and you try, but there it is—that same old stuff still claiming rent-free space in your head.
Just exactly how does one let go so that the residue of the past is put away, forgotten, or transformed into memories that can be called upon at will, rather than those that show up like telephone solicitors at dinnertime and demand attention?
Letting go has to do with living in the present moment rather than the past. It happens when the past isn’t projected into the future, but is left behind where it belongs. It is about making amends when called for, taking care of that which needs attending to, forgiving rather than re-living.
- Next time a thought about something that happened in the past floats into your mind, let it pass through without jumping aboard and going along for the ride. If you focus on it, like a weed that gets watered, it will grow. Try acknowledging the thought, then, with a deep breath, letting it go.
- If the thought that comes along is about something that’s left undone, you may need to take some action before you can let go. Do you need to make amends to someone, clear up some misunderstanding, write a letter, or make a phone call? Perhaps you need to make a list of the actions needed to clear a situation and set some goals. Begin with a small, manageable baby step, but, whatever you must do, begin. Taking action becomes the catalyst for letting go.
- Stay in the now and appreciate the circumstances of your life. Make a gratitude list of what you like about wherever you are, not just your living arrangements, but other parts of your life, too. Get rid of what is no longer appropriate in your life and create more space for new parts of yourself to show up.
- Write letters that you may or may not send to people you need to release—including yourself. (CAUTION: always wait a few days and check with someone you trust if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of actually sending a letter.) Write unsent letters to situations from your past or to people, even those who have passed away. Write what you feel, ask for what you need, and say goodbye.
- Let go by putting away pictures, memorabilia, clothes, gifts, and anything else that keeps you actively connected with past experiences from which it would be more beneficial to move on.
- Make a ceremony of letting go. Burn old letters or journals. Dig a hole in the earth and bury what needs to be buried. Write a letter or vow for the occasion, read it aloud. Light candles, sing songs. Like water after a deep tissue massage, weep, if need be, to clear the emotional toxins. Include others in your ceremony for support.
- Let go of old ideas that have outlived their usefulness in your life. People, lifestyles and cultures change. Talk to others, get fresh perspectives. Focus on what’s good about change, find the ways it benefits you and others. Holding on to how it used to be keeps you from fully participating in and appreciating the present.
- Release thoughts and words that categorize, measure, evaluate, judge, or condemn yourself and others. Eliminate words like should, ought, can’t, if only, however, and impossible.
Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love is Letting Go of Fear, wrote, “When we cherish or hold onto grievances, we cannot let go. We become imprisoned.”
Forgiveness is a superpower.
Forgiveness isn’t about saying what the other person did was fine and didn’t hurt. It’s about detaching from inviting the event to continue to have any negative hold over you. When you forgive, you detach from the destructive impact that fanning the catabolic flames of blame has on you by embracing the anabolic energy of forgiveness to liberate and empower yourself instead.
Learning to fuel yourself with constructive core energy grounded in love, respect, curiosity, compassion and gratitude (LRCCG) will enhance your life choices. And, for those times when you feel you’ve drifted off the path, make self-forgiveness easier.
In every situation, love yourself enough to pay attention to every aspect of your life. Respect everything you are experiencing—what you are thinking, feeling, deciding, saying, and doing. Determine whether the energy underneath is love or fear. If it’s love, you are probably on your authentic path. If it’s fear, demonstrate compassion for yourself. Foster gratitude by reminding yourself that everything is an opportunity. Then further neutralize the fear by bringing curiosity to bear. Explore every aspect of the situation, especially your internal landscape, and identify all of the opportunities available to you through this unique experience.
As with any new skill, practice will help this way of being become a healthy new habit—your automatic response to every situation.
Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
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