If I had a dime for every time someone told me to just let it go after my divorce, I’d be a millionaire. It’s been ten years and I’m not sure I’ve let everything go yet. I’m working on it, but learning to let go has been, and continues to to be, a hard lesson for me to grasp.
Choosing to let go of past hurts and resentments is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself. Hanging on to the crap really drags a person down, and can lead to all sorts of disease and depression. The other problem with hanging on to the nasty pieces of your past, harboring feelings of anger, resentment, or guilt is that all this negative stuff takes up so much room in your mind that it’s pretty much impossible to be present in the present. It clouds your judgment and makes it very difficult to see the present moment for the gift that it is. It also makes it very hard to be happy because you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop based on your previous experiences.
So what’s a girl (or guy) to do when it comes to giving the boot to all this stuff?
I’m no expert because, like I mentioned, I’m still working through a lot of my own crap, but here are a few of the things that I’ve noticed about releasing the past and setting it free.
Writing Will Set You Free
This is my favorite way to work through anything, because it’s true — writing really will set you free. There’s something about the link between the brain and the hand with the pen that makes letting everything out easier. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I really get on a roll, my writing gets really messy — as if my hand can’t move fast enough to catch everything the brain is spewing.
You can use a journal for doing the writing, but I find that using a loose page works better. In my mind, a journal is for recording the stuff you want to keep and remember. Since the whole object of letting go is getting rid of the stuff you don’t want to keep, it makes it easier to let go of it if it’s not permanently etched in your book of memories. (There’s also that little historian’s voice in the back of my head that comes from too many hours in dusty old archives reading other people’s journals that says someday someone is going to find this, and they’ll think you were crazy when they read this.)
I use either cheap newsprint notepads or scrap paper to spew on. And after I’ve gotten it all out of my system, I burn it. Some people say to rip the paper to shreds and then throw it in the river to be carried away, but that’s not necessarily environmentally friendly. Either way, the physical release works as the perfect punctuation mark to the mental and emotional release.
Talking About It Helps Too
At least that’s what I’ve been told. And to be fair I’ve known people who have received tremendous help and relief from talking about the things that they need to let go of. But, to be totally up front with you, talking about what’s bugging me is something I am not very good at.
Using a coach or a counselor can offer a safe haven because they are a totally unbiased party. It often works out that they will see the situation from a perspective that you wouldn’t have considered and that can make it easier to release.
Whether you choose to talk to a friend or a professional, it does help to verbalize what you’re holding on to and how you feel about it. The thought is that unless you talk about your past, you never really let it go.
So if you really want to release the past…
Practicing Forgiveness Trumps All
Until you forgive, you can’t really let go. But it’s hard, at least for me. I can hold a grudge with the best, even though I know it’s not in my best interests.
It helps to remember that practicing forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are condoning what the other person did, or that you are even okay with it. Obviously you’re not okay or you would have already let it go and moved on.
Practicing forgiveness means that you have chosen to move on, have let go of the need for retribution, and have found a sense of closure for yourself. It’s the “for yourself” that is the key. it has nothing to do with the other person at all.
Forgiveness is all about you. It’s the ultimate expression of release because when you forgive someone you don’t just release all the pain and anger over what happened, you also loosen the control that the past has over you. And that makes it much easier for you to get on with your life, live in the present moment and be happy.