Ouff. I have a tough time with this. Letting go is an essential part of life. But when push comes to shove, I’d rather hold on to something (i.e., people, places, memories, etc.) than let them go, even when it’s painfully obvious to me that it’s time to move on. This way of being has caused me a fair bit of unnecessary pain over the years, and more recently, has been something that I’ve consciously decided I needed to get a head of.
This isn’t the first time I’ve come to this conclusion, however.
Unfortunately I’ve realized this bad habit of mine many times before. This isn’t to say that all of the things I’m holding on to are bad, some are actually good and/or happy; it’s just that holding on to them so tightly without allowing them room to breathe and shift causes problems after a while. Because of this (and other reasons) the desire to let things go isn’t always strong.
Let’s talk about some of the reasons why I might not want to let something go. As mentioned, not everything is bad. And not everything that is bad is completely bad - there’s always some good in there as well. If that’s the case, why should I want to let it go? The way I try to think about it now is that everything comes to some sort of completion or goes through a transitionary period. Change is inevitable. People play important roles for a while and then they don’t. Memories have significance and then the details become hazy and the fade out. Even still, it’s hard for me to accept this reality. I find myself wanting to hold on to how things were, resistant to the current context.
Holding on to a particular feeling, actively unconscious of the new reality.
I recently read in the book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden that one of the core pieces of self-esteem is conscious living. This refers to our ability to be conscious of the reality in which we exist and to make informed choices based on that reality ( i.e., if we see that something is harming us, we have the choice to actively make changes so that the harm is removed; or we can choose to continue to allow it to harm us by actively deciding to not make changes). After reading this, I realized that by holding on to things/people/memories until the point where it caused pain, I was actively choosing to go into an unconscious state by avoiding reality. Which kind of sucked.
I also realized something else that’s pretty cool (and relieving). Letting go doesn’t have to look like how I thought it would, which was harsh and abrupt. It can simply mean to allow for room for things to shift, breathe, and transform into something else entirely.
Give the experiences space for them to flow through you and around you.
Now, when I feel myself desperately wanting to hold on, I direct my attention to the reality I’m existing in. Am I actively choosing to remain unconscious to the pain that holding on is giving me? If the answer is yes, then I can choose to move more fully into consciousness. When this happens, I’m aware that the context I’m holding on to is over, and that it’s okay to feel sad about it but refusing to release it is causing pain. By acknowledging the present reality, taking ownership of my feelings, and actively choosing to move forward, I’m allowing for what once was to become a more peaceful part of me.