Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a particular feeling—we’re fixated on it, can’t seem to move around it, and we’ve tried and failed to suppress it.
Maybe it’s loneliness. Or grief at the loss of a past relationship. Perhaps we’re angry. Or feel that we’ve lost our direction. Maybe we just feel discouraged and don’t know how to be happy.
Here’s what I do know: we’re not going to get the opportunity to move around it. We can’t deny it or stay busy enough to forget about it. Instead, we have to feel it.
Truly, “the best way out is always through.”
This is where we learn to acknowledge the feelings of resistance…and then let them go.
My story is as old as time itself. Once upon a time, girl meets boy. Although fiercely independent and fairly uninterested in a serious relationship at that time, she falls in love with the boy. She tries not to because she knows that he won’t love her back. And he doesn’t. In fact, he leaves her as thoroughly as he can, closing the door to any possible future friendship. Not only does his leaving hurt her, but his dishonesty eats away at the few precious memories she had of the relationship. Enter grief. Enter sadness. Enter betrayal.
Don’t we all have stories like that?
Perhaps they start or end differently, but we all can relate to disappointment and loss. I find it helps to remind myself that my story is not unique, and I am not alone in my feelings. But it’s easy to have days where I get mired in the feeling of loss. He’s gone as thoroughly from my life as he could possibly manage without moving off the planet, and yet I find that I miss the sense of possibility that I had with him. I miss a future that will never happen, and I feel sad that the past is tainted with his dishonesty. How early did he plan his exit? Had he left long before without me knowing? Were we as intimately connected as it felt or was it all just a game?
We ask ourselves these pointless questions when we get stuck inside a feeling. Yes, pointless questions because the answers will not heal us or set us free. No one else can give us the closure we’re seeking. It turns out that letting go is something that comes purely from ourselves. As long as we’re trying to exercise control over a situation, we cannot be freed from it and we stay immobilized inside of a feeling that erodes our souls instead of healing us.
So how do we find healing? How do we break past the block of feeling this one particular way day in and day out?
1. We go through it. Feel that feeling. Get it out. Cry, yell, write out the feelings. Whatever helps us get them out, we must do that thing.
2. We stop telling ourselves destructive stories and start telling ourselves the truth. He didn’t leave because I’m not loveable; he left because he decided—for whatever reason—that he no longer wanted his own story linked to mine. His leaving was about his story and the life he’s creating, and that doesn’t reflect on me.
3. We stop living in the past, and we choose the present moment. Yes, we choose it. We can waste precious minutes of our day reflecting on the moments we treasured, or we can get busy creating new moments. We can live for the now and stop staying stuck in the endless time loop of what-might-have-been and if-only. We’re not projecting a future that won’t happen because we become too busy creating a life that we enjoy right now.
4. We call in reinforcements. Phone a friend! Have someone on standby who will help you when you start to revisit the past. I refer to my lost love as “my own personal wrecking ball,” and all I have to do is tell my closest friend that my thoughts are headed in that direction to receive all the support I need. She’s happy to remind me of why I’m better off without him and how cruelly he left things in the end. She’s also glad to listen if I just need to talk my way through the feelings, which may come up from time to time when triggered by a memory. We don’t have to go through this alone. Whatever the situation, we can call in reinforcements to help support us when we start to struggle.
5. We find out what it is we truly need and find a way to provide that for ourselves. While some people tire of hearing the whole “love yourself” theme, is there anything more important than learning to properly take care of ourselves? How can we expect to participate in healthy relationships of any kind if we don’t take the time to take good care of our own bodies, minds and spirits? What I needed in my situation was that feeling of connection, so what I do is try to be more present and connect with all of the people in my life. I make eye contact, listen and truly participate in each moment as it unfolds rather than checking out and marking time. I’m giving myself pieces of that connection all day, every day, and it soothes my soul.
We will naturally resist every stage of this because we’re almost comfortable feeling this way. Our ego indulges that pain because it gives us a sense of identity and keeps close the stories that are linked to it. We want to keep part of it close, but at the same time, we want to be 100 percent free of it with none of the hard work that goes into breaking free of it. Our work becomes learning to lean into the resistance and really allow ourselves to get beyond it.
We can complete steps one through five and then find ourselves back at the beginning. Growth is a process, and it won’t be accomplished in a moment’s work. We can, however, find comfort in the fact that we’re not alone, and our happiness is on the other side of experiencing our pain. When we learn to live a mindful life, fully present in creating our own joy, we begin to find more ease in letting go.
We learn that letting go isn’t about loss. It’s not about letting what we want slip through our fingers. Instead, it’s about opening our arms to embrace all of the good that will come into our lives once we’ve let go of the dead weight we’re carrying.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Emily Bartran