Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to let go: First, figure out why you want to keep it.

I don't think that there is ever a time in our lives when we aren't trying to let go of something. Letting go of old love, letting go of a lie, letting go of an offence against you. Letting go of your idea of who someone else is or should be. Letting go of your idea of who you are, or should be, or can't be. Letting go of your need for someone else's pride. Letting go. Letting go of needing someone to want, or like, or be attracted to you. Letting go of needing to keep. Whatever it is.

"I want to let go of all of this, but I don't know how."

I think before you can let go of it, you need to look at why you are trying so hard to keep it.

Lets take the example of a past hurt. Lets say that sometime in your past, someone lied to you. And this built a little bubble of distrust, an idea that if this person lied to you, maybe other people are lying to you. And if other people are lying to you, how can you trust anyone, anything that is said?

If you couldn't tell that this person was lying to you, if they looked you right in the eye and told you a lie, and it felt like a truth that you could believe, when the lie was discovered, it came wrapped with a bow of mistrust, not just of the person who lied to you, but mistrust of your own ability to discern truth from fiction.

There's lots of ways to work through this, but I think that the one way that doesn't work is to make absolutly certain for the rest of your life that every thing that is spoken to you is a truth. You will spend the rest of your life trying hard to determine whether you are right or not. Short of administering a polygraph test to everyone who talks to you for the rest of your life, there will be no way for you to know.

So here you are, wanting to grow and become and have meaningful relationships, but this seed of mistrust lives inside of you. And you are right to have it there, you touched the stove once, and it was hot, and so, you know better than to touch it again.

But this seed of mistrust is a coping mechanism, one that may have served to keep you from further harm at some point in your life, but now, it is keeping you from living in the present. You have pulled the blanket from your past up and over everything in your present, and like a beautiful, creamy, all butter pie crust, it drapes damply over every aspect of your life, relationships and loves, smothering each piece with doubt.

You can tell yourself that everyone is human, that everyone makes mistakes, you can tell yourself that this time its different, you can tell yourself that you want to trust, you can tell yourself that you are willing to be hurt again, but until you let go of needing to feel safe, you will not escape. That is one stretchy pie crust, and you are skilled at pulling it along behind you.

And so... how do you let go of your fear?

You decide that you do not need the security it gives you. Keeping fear keeps you safe, if you know that you have your doubt, and fear, you know that you can't be duped. Unfortunately, you also can't live in a relationship with anyone else, either. Because keeping your fear precludes you from loving someone completely.

Its scary, letting go on purpose is frightening to everyone, because what if once you let go, you wish you had it back? What if letting go is a huge mistake, and you get hurt again?

Look at it this way: this is how Agoraphobics are made. If you never do, risk or trust something that hurt before, would you ever leave your house?

Go back even further; would you have ever learned to ride your bike, to walk, to crawl, to sit up, to fly in a plane, to kiss someone, to love someone...

What about letting go of love? Of an old love that you wish you could have kept, or wish you had now, or need to leave, but don't want to...

Its the same. I think that we never have to let go of the love. You loved this person once, maybe they loved you too, and I think that love is the reason that we are here. I think it is the point, to experience and feel the peace and calm and fullness that the real gift of love brings.

But love is a gift that is given freely with no price in return. You don't give a gift and then hold your hand out waiting for what you get in return. You give your gift and watch your gift please and warm and honor the person you gave it to, and that is gift enough.

Don't get me wrong, I've spent my share of time howling in the darkness as my heart was breaking. I know that feeling. I've had to crawl to my friends, defeated, empty and broken and be soothed by them while I indulged in the pain of loss.

But at some point, you get to decide to keep the love, the part that was given to you and your desire to give it, and you also get to decide to let go of needing to touch the person you miss. You change the nature of the love. You don't have to remove it, ignore it, dishonor it, diminish it.

But you need to decide why you are keeping your desire for what you have now to be different than it is. If you wish you had her, but you don't, if you wish it had worked, but it didn't, if you know he's not right, but you wish he was, all you are doing is holding on to the very thing that is hurting you.

So how do you let go?

You decide that what you are holding on to does not serve you any more, you see clearly that wishing it was different than it is does nothing but increase your suffering, self indulgent swimming in loss, grief, wish, there is this space where you can almost conjure up what it was, or what it could be, or could have been if only this ONE thing was different. But the problem with that is that it is not different.

Letting go of the fantasy of how it might have been, or of how it was when you first started, but keeping the gratitude for the love that you feel, or felt, allows you to keep the love as well. You get to be full of the gift, but without the pain of wishing.

Its harder than it sounds, that's why we all suffer so much when we lose someone we love, we don't want them to be gone. I still indulge in the loss of my dad occasionally, when I feel it isn't fair, and i wish it were different. But I work hard to remember how full I felt when he was here, how much love flowed from him to me, and from me to him, and I always wish it were more from me to him, but he is gone, and I can't change that. So I am grateful for what I was able to give him.

And I look up at the sky and put my hand to my heart center, and pull a little thread, attached to a  balloon, out of my heart, and hold it high against the blue sky, and let him go. And when I let him go, I watch him go away, and it hurts. There is always some lurch of loss when I do this. But what I am letting go of me wishing it was different, I am letting him go, letting him be gone, and suddenly, the gift that he was is so much more present in my heart.

I'm not sure if this helps, but these are the things I think about when I think about how do I let go?

Why are you keeping it? What about keeping it makes you feel safer? Do you really want to let it go? Are you willing to honor the truth of what it takes to let go?

Go gently, and be kind to yourself. You've saved these things for a reason. Thank yourself for being so wise as to create a coping that made you feel safe. Realize that this reason does not serve you any longer, and once you've made that decision, pull it out of your heart and watch it go. Its okay to feel the fresh loss as you let go, but look inside and watch yourself fill, you just made a brave and compassionate step for yourself, which probably dramatically increased your ability to be closer to those you love and who love you best.

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