Letting Go

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6 Techniques for Letting GoHave you been told, “Just let go of it,” or tell yourself, “I have to let go,” but wonder, how? I’ve asked myself that question. Sometimes you want to let go of worry or an obsession with someone else. You may try to detach, but can’t. Other times, you can’t move forward after a major loss or you need to unwind from a busy work schedule.

Each case has different challenges, but fundamentally, they all require a shift in attention from the mind into the body and from the past or future into the present. Letting go can be a rejuvenating practice that brings the mind and body into balance for clarity, peace, and heightened functioning.

Depending upon what you’re letting go of, it can take moments or years. Letting go of a loved one isn’t easy, nor pain-free.

However, it’s human nature to avoid pain, even if the price is long-term misery. When the source of frustration, loss or stress is ongoing, letting go becomes a process of developing a new, beneficial orientation toward life.

The Challenges of Letting Go

Letting go may require repeated efforts to shift your consciousness away from the problem. When you’re obsessing about or judging someone, you may need to detach and question some basic assumptions about your ability to control, or even influence, the person’s feelings and behavior. You may need to ask for what you need or want or set boundaries. Sometimes, worry and anxiety are due to underestimation of your ability to handle an obstacle or loss. Worry can be paralyzing and lead to depression and despair.

Guilt or resentment can rob you of your life and happiness and keep you frozen in the past. The antidote may involve compassion for yourself or someone else, amends, or other communication.

Generally, too much feeling or too much thinking can limit your ability to live your life. If you’re obsessing, it can be helpful to make contact with sensation, including emotion. When you’re overwhelmed with anger or another emotion, using your body – especially when you’re angry – or doing something that requires mental attention, like puzzles or math, can be helpful. In both cases, creativity is a wonderful way to uplift you, calm your mind, and soothe your emotions.

Steps You Can Take

Detach

When it comes to worrying and obsessing about a person or problem, understand the principles of detachment. (Chapter 12 in Codependency for Dummies goes into detail about nonattachment.) Analyze what you have the power to change and what you don’t. If effective action is necessary, take it. See my blog “How to Detach and Let Go with Love.”

Pray

Many people unaccustomed to daily prayer don’t think of asking for help, particularly out loud. This gesture in itself is one of surrender that relinquishes the ego’s hold on the problem and allows for new information or an altered perspective to appear. Prayer is effective to help you accept what you cannot change. The Serenity Prayer begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . . .” Sometimes, you might have to pray for the “willingness to accept the things I cannot change.”

 Journal

Writing about your feelings or writing them in the form of a letter can be a release from mental obsession. If you’re letting go of someone, write them a good-bye letter. This can be useful even to someone who’s died. You can dialogue with the person by writing his or her response with your nondominant hand. Read your words to a trusted friend, sponsor, or therapist for added relief.

 Distract Yourself

When you’re too much in your head, shift gears, and do something physical that’s enlivening, absorbing or relaxing. Put on music and dance, workout, or garden. Play and creativity also shift your autonomic nervous system and use other parts of your brain. Painting provided relief for me on September 11th.

 Relax

Most people think they’re relaxed while still holding a great deal of tension. It’s helpful to lie down and allow your body weight to sink into the floor. Notice where you hold yourself and give in to gravity, and then let go.

Try progressive relaxation, starting at the feet and proceeding to your scalp and forehead. Tighten for five seconds and then release the tension in each muscle group. Afterword, scan your body for any area of restriction, particularly the eyes, stomach, and jaw. Discover where your body tends to grip.  The slightest tension around the eyebrows restricts the flow of energy throughout the body. This can be a prime area or storing daily stress, particularly for people regularly viewing a computer screen.

Allow Your Feelings

Change can only happen in the present. Coming into your body and into the moment return you to your power source. Interrupt your mental activity, place your hand on your chest, and ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” It may start with an awareness of sensation in your body. Emotion that’s been feeding anxiety, an obsession, grief, or frustrated attempts to fix or control a situation may surface. A deep release can also be accompanied by shaking or jerky movements – much like a cat twitching during his nap.

Once you’re in the present and centered in yourself, your perspective changes away from a narrow focus on the “problem” or person. You gain a more realistic appraisal of the situation, including your limitations. You reconnect to life itself, and often new opportunities and solutions present themselves.

Join my mailing list for free “14 Tips for Letting Go. Read Chapter 12 of Codependency for Dummies.

© Darlene Lancer 2012

 

6 Techniques for Letting Go by Darlene Lancer, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, and author of Codependency for Dummies

 

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Joelenne Revak
Joelenne Revak
5 years ago

Hi Darlene, Your website has been very helpful and intuitive to my situation. I have been in a live-in relationship gone wrong for the past three years. He recently stopped smoking marijuana and I have started going to a mindful based counselor. Within two sessions the counselor has determined a huge portion of the relationship battle, that my boyfriend has been verbally abusive and I have been co-dependent in this process of apologizing when he gets upset and not having any true boundaries of my own. He matches every description of BPD. Is there an outcome where I stay and… Read more »

Debbie
Debbie
7 years ago

I have been reading all of your blogs, I have finally started seeking therapy for my codependency issues after several years of denial. I have a terrible time over thinking things and not being able to accept the things I cannot change. It has been very challenging to learn how to just be and not control and manipulate my surroundings. I read self help books to help center my self and want to thank you because your blogs help give me hope.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Debbie

Thank you, Debbie. I’ve very glad to hear that. Check out my recent blog on Acceptance and also Ch. 9 of Codependency for Dummies. Be patient and forgiving of yourself on your journey.

Rachel Miller
Rachel Miller
7 years ago

I am very grateful for the insightful information you provide in this blog- it is helping me to understand my relationship with my partner and where I can make changes. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful gift.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Miller

Thank you Rachel for letting me know. I hope you both benefit from new awareness.
Darlene

Joelenne Revak
Joelenne Revak
5 years ago

Hi Darlene, Your website has been very helpful and intuitive to my situation. I have been in a live-in relationship gone wrong for the past three years. He recently stopped smoking marijuana and I have started going to a mindful based counselor. Within two sessions the counselor has determined a huge portion of the relationship battle, that my boyfriend has been verbally abusive and I have been co-dependent in this process of apologizing when he gets upset and not having any true boundaries of my own. He matches every description of BPD. Is there an outcome where I stay and… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Joelenne Revak

Please see my blogs on abuse and boundaries and “Loving a Borderline.” Go to CoDA meetings and learn to be assertive and set boundaries. Ask your therapist to help you with this. You can also do the exercises in my books, and “Dealing with a Narcissist” is equally applicable to helping you with your partner.

Cornelia
Cornelia
6 years ago

I do not know if it will ever be better for me. I love my child and he knows that I tell him everyday, I never hit him, I value his opinion, he has choices, his education is a priority. I am involved at his school. He a happy child, always smiling, and has a wonderful, kind spirit. It’s me that is in shambles, and I know on some level that impacts upon him. I want the chance to smile and to be free of the past and create a wonderful future for myself… I just don’t know how. The… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Cornelia

You’ll need to go to meetings regularly and get individual help to heal trauma. Do the exercises in my books, in including “Conquering Shame and Codependency.”

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