When we hear the term “let go,” we don’t always entirely comprehend it, as it isn’t always as simple as “mind over matter” and just releasing what we feel.
Often, as much as we try to force ourselves to let go of the grip our past has on us, we end up back where we started, thinking, feeling, and sometimes even obsessing about a certain someone without fully knowing why or what to do about it.
There is one small word that holds an incredible amount of weight that can keep us plunged below the surface, making it difficult to freely move on.
That little word, which contains huge meaning is: “hope.”
Whether or not we are consciously aware of it when we feel unable to let go, it is because somewhere—hidden deep within—is a hopeful thought that causes our heart to be tied up and bound to someone we no longer have a healthy or mutual connection with.
This person may be someone we once shared a relationship with, it might even be someone we are still in a relationship with, or could be a person with whom we shared a momentary spark that we feel is still burning away at the core of our heart.
It is my belief that the only reason we hold tight, rather than surrendering and freeing our hearts and minds, is that we believe that “if only a, b, or c happened, then everything would play out exactly as we envision it would, could, or should”—and to put it bluntly, this is usually delusional thinking.
Basically, we hold ourselves prisoners to our own pain. We become our own source of suffering—and all the hours and energy we spend ruminating over the past are precious minutes and days that we fail to live in the present moment with what we have, rather than what has already disintegrated or what our imagination has conjured up.
Breaking an attachment that we have created to someone can be one of the most difficult (yet peaceful and freeing) experiences we will ever have; and yet, many of us put it off, as we believe that there is a glimmer of hope that our dreams can actually come true. We often hold hope and have undying faith that the person we have placed high up on a pedestal is capable of changing and becoming everything we want, need, and intensely desire.
The cold, hard truth is that hope can be a beautiful feeling, but can also be destructive, as it can mean we pause our lives and remain trapped in a dysfunctional longing for something or someone that will never manifest in the way we want it to.
Letting go of those who have already gone is something that so many of us struggle with, as we feel as though once we’ve finally loosened our grasp, all our memories will diminish and the possibility of ever feeling that way again will be gone. Ironically, it is only when we are able to put the past behind us that we give ourselves the possibility and opportunity to feel deeply and genuinely about anyone again.
Holding on causes so much tension and pain—and truly, all we do is break our own hearts, whereby it is so immensely healing to silently announce that we are ready to embrace the next chapter with our heart wide open, instead of filled with grief and sorrow from the past.
What we fail to realise is that sometimes it isn’t us planting the seeds of hope. Many people play mind games, or they don’t know what they want and desire, so they plant tiny grains by saying “sweet nothings” (words empty of meaning) and through actions deliberately expressed for their own validation and self-gain, rather than considering how their futile promises or insincere behaviour affects us. This is why it is vital to listen closely to our intuition and to discern whether or not there is a realistic chance that things will play out the way our mind has meticulously planned.
When we live in hope that a relationship or someone’s feelings toward us will do a 180 and suddenly be all we want again, we live in limbo, and all we are really doing is prolonging our heartache and pain, rather than facing up to our loss and processing it. In many ways, it is like breaking a toxic addiction, as we put it off day after day believing that the poison is manageable “for now.” So instead, we choose to deal with it some other day in the future, when we are feeling stronger and more able.
We may convince ourselves that there is valid reason for feeling hopeful, as we notice signs, synchronicities, and hidden meanings in words and expressions that wrongly confirm that we are right to halt our lives for this unrequited or unhealthy love. We may also only look at the positive aspects of the dynamic we are in, rather than being honest with ourselves and taking into account the amount of negative encounters we have that often paint a far bigger and more realistic picture of the “love story” we believe we are in. We might even fall into the trap of telling ourselves that the person we have poured so much emotion into is “the one”—a twin flame or soul mate—as a way of putting up with circumstances we would normally (with a clear head) run far from.
Our most powerful enemy when our heart aches is our thoughts. The mind not only plays tricks and paints illusions, but it also falls into a routine of obsessing over the same things that keep painful past experiences fresh in our mind. However, at any time, we have the ability to take control of our thoughts instead of being controlled by them.
When we are fueled with hope and refusing to let go, we will look for any excuse to remain attached to how we feel, because in a roundabout way it is an avoidance tactic of facing the pain and grief of loss.
Plot twist: the pain and grief that comes with accepting a relationship is over will ease in time, whereas the ache and pain from holding on can continue to keep us hurting forever.
The key is to remember that pleasure and pain are part of our journey as human beings, and it is unrealistic to expect to sail through relationships without being emotionally affected in some way. When we reach a place of allowance and acceptance for our emotional responses and the pain we may endure, we soon arrive at a place of peace, as we are surrendering to the natural force of life, in which all emotions play a significant and healing part.
Admitting to ourselves that we know hope is keeping us stuck—and that it’s time to untangle ourselves—is the biggest step we can take toward vital self-preservation. From there, we can take a series of smaller steps that will lead to obtaining and maintaining inner and outer peace, harmony, and emotional health.
Letting go can be terrifying, as there is always the risk that once we let go, something this good or this intense may not come our way again. However, holding on to someone who doesn’t want to be held only prolongs suffering and keeps us locked in a cycle where heavy emotions have the ability to make us feel inadequate and to inflict painful wounds over and again.
We can easily become confused, thinking that letting go of the hope we hold means that we have to cut someone loose from our life, but it’s quite the opposite. Letting go and allowing unrealistic hope to fade can be the most loving, compassionate, and considerate thing we can do for ourselves.
Sometimes, we subconsciously believe the pain we experience through holding on is keeping us connected to the person we love. It can almost feel as though we are being disloyal or turning our backs on the person we have lingering feelings for when we finally decide to sever the ties that keep us bound to them.
Letting go is less about attempting to rid ourselves of memories from the past, and more about finding comfort and peace in where we are now, even if this current place feels turbulent. It sounds like a contradiction to talk about peace and turbulence at the same time, but it is entirely possible.
Something powerful happens when we loosen our grip and relinquish the need to control or force a relationship to go where it isn’t ready to go. Our fear of loss is replaced with an immense belief and faith in ourselves—and also the person we are letting go of. We send a strong spiritual signal to the universe that we trust in our ability to deal with what is and what isn’t meant for us—as well as trusting the other person to make choices that align fully with what they want for their life.
As we open up this channel, fresh new energy flushes in, and with it arrives possibilities that we wouldn’t have noticed before. All our energy was so caught up in holding on to the past that it was blocking us from anything new beginning in our future.
In a way, letting go is like using the ancient art of feng shui, sweeping out negative energy so that positive energy can flow in. Love cannot be trapped; it requires space and freedom. The highest form of love is to continue loving despite circumstances not turning out as we might have hoped, dreamed, or wished for. All we need to do is vulnerably love and accept the other person as they are, whether near or far.
Sometimes, the bravest and most courageous thing we can do is to resist the temptation to cling—and instead, gently and gracefully let all our hope, attachments, and unrealistic expectations toward this person go.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Unsplash/Eunice Stahl
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron