The art of letting go

Following a post I did a while back on acceptance with dignity, I wanted to revisit this, particularly focusing on the letting go part.

It’s a hard thing letting go; whether it be of a person, thing, place, memory or something someone has said to hurt you. Letting go is probably one of the most difficult mental challenges we face as humans, because it’s in our nature to want to control our thoughts, things, people, outcomes, events and so much more. But, sometimes, life forces you to let go, because holding on to something which no longer serves you does more damage than good. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to notice the compulsive cycle you’re in for you to really understand how damaging your actions are, not only to yourself, but to others too. As a friend of mine once said “it’s like pouring acid on yourself expecting not to get burnt”. I mean, wow. How’s that for a jolt back to reality?!

When I step back and really consider this phrase, I’m able to see things more clearly. My efforts to hold onto something that no longer serves me is futile – it is an example of abandoning myself, devaluing myself, but above all, disrespecting myself. When it comes to a certain person you’re trying to get to like you and approve of you, the holding on until your knuckles are white can end up pushing them away as they can see with clarity that you have no self-love or self-respect. Spoiler alert, it’s a turn-off and that determines the way they will treat you in the future, knowing that you will accept anything, including abuse.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the same cycles, hoping for a different outcome. But ultimately, we end up losing our sense of self in the unhealthy pursuit of the things we think we can’t live without. However, I talk from experience when I say, that using this warped logic as a basis for action, is deeply unhelpful.

There will be plenty of situations that won’t allow you to go any further, no matter how hard you try. The door can be closed on you at any time – often without warning, but it’s up to you as to how you respond. Are you going to sit there knocking, banging on it and waiting there, hoping that by some magic, it will open? Will you use force to knock it down – through a metaphorical sledgehammer? Or will you sensibly walk away knowing that you tried your best?

I can’t tell you what to do, nor is that my aim with this post, but I can tell you honestly, that from my experience, trying to force open a door that is firmly shut is high up on my list with some of the dumbest things I’ve done – and I’ve got the scars to prove it. As cliché as it sounds, when one door shuts, an even better one opens and I’m not just saying that. You see, that when something’s not right for you, no matter how hard you try, the outcome won’t be what you want it to be and I hate to say it to you folks, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Zilch. As frustrating as that can be, look at it as an opportunity for growth.

That’s not to say, that I’ve had the sense or indeed the patience, to look for the open doors whilst in the thick of a painful situation. But, when I look back at my life with open eyes, I can see that all the distressing setbacks I often saw as failures or disappointments, were actually the things that propelled me into situations I could never have imagined – positive ones that left me far better off than those I was relentlessly fighting for.

Whether this was my Higher Power at work behind the scenes, the universe or just sheer luck, I’ve come to realise that, when I loosened my grip on things and took a back seat, going with the flow of life, the positive outcomes materialised far quicker. In other words, it was simply because I wasn’t trying to force a certain outcome and instead, let go – whether wilfully or not.

Situations like these, require us to detach ourselves so as not to get caught up in the mess of it, the emotions surrounding it and the need to be heard, because ultimately, none of that matters. Detachment is a conscious choice you have to make in order to separate yourself from something and in the context of letting go, it means transcending beyond the problem in front of you, by not letting it define you.

One way in which you can detach is by viewing your situation as if it were a movie, visualising the main character (you) as someone whose appearance is so contrasting to yours, but whose life is reflective of your own. It is from this perspective that you will be able to objectively consider your upbringing, your beliefs and subsequent choices, without labelling them as right and wrong. It’s akin to self-compassion in some ways as it forces you to look at things differently, removing the personal aspect from it. In a similar vein, you may also find it helpful to think about what you could say to a friend who is going through difficulties in their life. Often, it is far easier to show compassion to others than it is to ourselves.

I know letting go is hard and it feels impossible sometimes, but it can be done – with more patience, compassion and a deeper understanding of yourself. Letting go doesn’t have to be in hate, sadness or disappointment. Believe it or not, it can be done with love, humility and with the knowledge that whatever happens, you will be okay.

Stumbling along with you,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

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