Letting Go To Embrace Life

Letting Go To Embrace Life

Remember that time when that person did that thing that really pissed you off or hurt you?

How about when one of your parents embarrassed you?

Maybe, it was your boss who humiliated you in front of your co-workers. Whatever happened to you, is it possible for you to release those feelings, forgive yourself, and move forward?

Depending on your experience and where you are with it, you could say there’s no way this will ever happen.

If this is you, let’s look at why holding onto feelings of anger, jealousy, resentment, grief, or shame is something you do. Why does it work for you or help you?

These feelings are a result of, or come from, our past experiences. They happen when something or someone causes us to feel something extremely emotional or intense. We feel so strongly in those moments that they become seared into our minds. Over time, we can become so aligned with how we felt, in those moments, those feelings become part of our identity.

If those feelings are part of our identity, it makes sense why they are so hard to let go of or release. We may ask ourselves: Who am I without this anger, sadness, or resentment?

We want to know who we are, and feel more at peace when we do. We don’t like uncertainty or the unknown and not knowing ourselves can feel like we’re lost. Drifting through life. Directionless. Stumbling aimlessly along a wayward path. 

So, we hold onto what we know. Even if it’s toxic or brings chaos to our lives, it’s familiar at least. People will remain in abusive relationships or stay with horrible jobs because they know what to expect from them and they don’t think they deserve better.

Loss of identity can be a terrifying experience. One moment we think we know who we are and have life all figured out. We feel so passionately about our path, or this thing that interests us, because our past experiences and feelings about them have led us down this road. 

Then something happens. A moment of awakening. A light goes off in our head. We realize something new about ourselves or have a breakthrough moment in therapy. It could be a daily conversation with a friend where they help us to see we were only interested in pursuing this career because someone we loved or admired told us we couldn’t do it. An epiphany. A cosmic splash of water in our face. We start questioning ourselves, who we are, who we think we are, what we want, where we’re going, and how we will get there.

For so long, we thought we knew ourselves based on our feelings about how our lives had formed as a result of our choices. Choices we made because of the feelings we felt in those moments. Feelings we held onto because we believed they somehow defined who we were. We used them like a compass, guiding us and informing our decisions, whether for good or to our own detriment.

So often, we use our feelings to inform what we do. Even if they are based on inaccurate or outdated information. How often do we question what we are feeling or where these feelings came from? If we don’t question them at all, why?

Is the answer that this is just what I know or because this is how I’ve always done it?

Is it because what happened was so upsetting for you that you made an agreement with yourself to never let it go? 

To be clear, this isn’t about trauma or traumatic experiences which require individual processing with trained professionals through therapy, like EMDR. This is about the moments when someone or something upset you or caused you to feel slighted or disrespected in some way.

What’s the alternative to holding onto all of these emotions and painful memories?

Distractions. Avoid them. Self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. Try something else…

LET. IT. GO. And embrace life!

Let go to embrace life. Sounds counterintuitive. Right?

Well, if you think about life and all of nature, letting go is part of the natural process of transition. Nature does this so effortlessly. It recognizes this process as part of life and necessary for it to continue. It’s humans who struggle with this transition. As much as we may want spring or fall to stick around they will inevitably leave us for the upcoming season.

We may think that holding onto these emotions and negative experiences helps us somehow or fuels us. Some people look at it like a way to create motivation, give them drive, or purpose to their lives. Maybe it does for them. For how long or at what costs?

There is something beautiful and wise about letting go, releasing the weight from the burdens we carry. Not to mention the health benefits. Holding onto emotions, painful memories, and stored negative energy takes a toll on our bodies. It can manifest in ailments, diseases (the state of dis-ease), and mental health disorders to name a few of the effects. According to mayoclinic.org, there are many health benefits to letting go of grudges and bitterness.

Not only does it help us physically, when we let go, it helps us mentally when we do this. Whether we’re talking about letting go of expectations or letting go of the past or current circumstances, you will see and feel a noticeable change in your life when you let go.

Try it. What do you have to lose except the thoughts and feelings that can hold you back. Sure, it’s good to learn from our mistakes and be more aware going forward. It’s not good to punish ourselves, or others, through fear, guilt, or shame which do nothing for us. 

Just let go. Be willing to live life without the weight of the past on your shoulders. You may be afraid or uncertain of what letting go will look like for you. It takes courage to move forward in the face of fear. Letting go and choosing to move beyond whatever happened in the past may feel like a huge risk to take, but it also comes with a huge reward. Deeper connections, new experiences, and a life more fully lived!

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. 

– Buddha