We have all faced the inevitable question of “how to let go” and have been told of strange power that lies within doing so. In fact there is an entire Disney franchise based on letting go – you know the one. Letting go is much more complex than just moving on. So what does it really mean to let go, why it it so important and how do we actually do it?
Letting go is a particular struggle for INFJ types so it has always been something I have personally struggled with. Some painful life experiences have forced me to really investigate this subject matter. I couldn’t be more excited to share what I have learnt with you.
“And there’s a power in letting go” – Brandon Flowers
THE CONCEPT OF LETTING GO
In order to let go of something we have to hold onto something in the first place. We hold onto so many things – emotions, thoughts, people, objects, memories, grudges…the list goes on and on. So what is it in the human psyche that feels the biological need to hold on?
Why do we hold on
We tend to hold on to something because of what someone did or didn’t do. The loss of someone and change in circumstances to which we have formed close connections to also makes us feel the need to hold on. We hold onto something because we feel the need to change the situation. This comes from a specific stage of adjustment called “bargaining“.
Bargaining is a stage of grief, according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose 1969 book, On Death and Dying was a groundbreaking piece, which changed our thinking entirely on the grief process. There are many who theorise that these stages of grief are also relevant to any difficult adjustment process.
The things we hold on to, the things that seem to possess us, the things with which we are obsessed all very commonly fall into the realm of things to which we might be having a difficult adjustment. We want to hold on to those things, people, places, and circumstances because we never wanted to lose them in the first place. But we tend to hold on longer than usual when we get stuck in the bargaining stage of adjustment.
Why is it important that we let go
Growth comes at a price and that price is letting go. To cultivate a healthy mind and lifestyle, you need to learn how to let go. There’s comfort in familiarity and justification, even when it’s rooted in a negative experience. But ultimately, not knowing how to let go has no real benefit – it only holds you back from achieving your true potential.
Letting go means being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place, even a deeper more true rendition of self. Holding on means trying to push life into the place of your making or be damned.
Learning how to let go is a continual process, it is most certainly not a one-and-done kind of thing. Letting go can be painful, confronting and challenging but the rewards will enrich your life in immeasurable ways.
Knowing you need to let go and finding out how to do it are two very different things. So let’s delve a bit deeper into some techniques to help let you go.
Start the letting go process
The process of letting go is actually a counter-intuitive process, to really let go we have to face our feelings head-on, sit with it and then subsequently let them go.
This can be very uncomfortable and daunting, but it is the only way to find true resolution. In most cases, the need to let go of something stems from a painful experience, but that is not always the case.
Contrary to popular belief letting go is not a dismissal of a feeling, thought, person or memory it is the understanding of the emotions associated with pain or discomfort, understanding it and choosing to let go of the negative energy behind those emotions. Letting go is a practice of finding the powerful self within each of us – a way of life.
“Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it. It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on letting out the energy behind it.
The first step is to allow yourself to have the feeling without resisting it, venting it, fearing it, condemning it, or moralising about it. It means to drop judgment and to see that it is just a feeling. The technique is to be with the feeling and surrender all efforts to modify it in any way. Let go of wanting to resist the feeling.
It is resistance that keeps the feeling going. When you give up resisting or trying to modify the feeling, it will shift to the next feeling and be accompanied by a lighter sensation. A feeling that is not resisted will disappear as the energy behind it dissipates.”
#1 Identify the underlying emotion
As introverts, we spend the majority of our time in our heads overthinking most things. So you might ask – where do I even start addressing all these thoughts, there are so damn many?! Well we have to start looking at the emotion behind the thoughts and figure out what the underlying emotion is.
A single emotion is associated with multitudes of thoughts.
For instance, if you are feeling frustrated at work with your co-workers or boss, you might find that you feel jealous that they are getting ahead because they are always socialising. Or you might be frustrated that you aren’t getting looked at for a promotion that you really want. If we break it down to the core emotion behind it all we will see that it often comes down to a feeling of pride. If we surrender the feeling of pride, the associating thoughts will also be relinquished.
#2 Make letting go a daily practice
When we let go we often assume it’s a one and done situation, so when those feelings come back up we get frustrated with ourselves because unlike a Disney movie it’s just not a magical spell. Letting go is a non-linear process. Letting go is a daily practise it’s not something that happens overnight or in an instant.
HOW TO LET GO OF SOMEONE
Letting go of someone you love or have built a close connection with can be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Letting go in such cases can often lead to a period of grief, depending on the depth of the connection. Because introverts tend to form fewer close relationships, the ones we do form are often very deep and can take a long time to let go of.
It is important to remember that we all grieve at our own pace and to remain patient with yourself. Here are some tips for letting go of someone after the relationship has come to an end.
#1 Create some distance
Creating some distance emotionally and physically will allow you the space to heal. Unfortunately, these kinds of losses are very painful and you will need time to heal.
If the relationship is unhealthy it is essential that you find practical ways to create distance between you and the other person.
If you wish to still have a relationship of some sort in the future make sure to let the person know that you care about them, but that you need space. That does not mean that the distance will be forever, but it is necessary to move on
#2 Lean on your support system
This will be a very difficult period in your life so it will help immensely speaking to people who you trust regarding the situation. Verbalising our feelings really help us understand our true feelings and start the letting go process. You also need some outside perspective to help guide you through this difficult period, but make sure it’s someone who’s opinion you trust.
Due to the complexity of moving on from someone, speaking with a professional can also be a very healthy way to learn to get-go.
As introverts, this step can be very difficult since we are accustomed to solving problems on our own. Introverts also tend to have smaller social networks and verbalising our thoughts can be very daunting. More so, the loss of a close relationship can make it very hard for you to trust people. You must challenge yourself to reach out to trusted friends or family as this process will really help speed up the healing process.
#3 Be patient and be kind to yourself
Learn to be kind to yourself and be patient in letting go. The same feelings will keep coming up and every time they do let them go again and again until one day you wake up and the weight has indeed been lifted. Like I mentioned earlier, letting go is a non-linear process.
There are very few truly terrible people in this world that will intentionally hurt you, so try and remember that even though you might have been hurt that person only did the best they could at the time. Their level of emotional maturity, environmental pressures and consciousness all come into play.
#4 Limit Social Media use
Letting go of someone can be very difficult when you are constantly of them. Though social media is a way to stay in touch with friends and family, it’s the opposite of what you need when you are going through a breakup.
Staying off social media while you heal not only prevents you from seeing pictures or posts from your ex, but it will also keep you from seeing other seemingly happy couples, which can make you feel worse about your situation. Remember people only post happy things on social media, no one posts the painful things that are happening in their lives.
HOW TO LET GO OF ANGER
Anger is an emotion with a lot of motivational energy behind it. It is often anger that makes us want to change something. Even though anger can be a strong force that can be used for positive change, holding on to anger is however a very unhealthy habit.
Many studies have linked anger and resentment to heart disease and hypertension. The physical energy anger takes from us can have long-term side effects, such as high blood pressure and stroke.
#1 Understand why you are angry in the first place
Anger is a second-hand emotion (or substitute emotion) we use to avoid a primary emotion such as fear, vulnerability, or pain.
It is therefore important that we take the time to delve into the underlying fear, vulnerability and pain and really sit with it to get to the root of the anger. This can feel very counter-intuitive since anger naturally wants us to run away from something or towards something, it is not a placid emotion.
The only way through anger though is through the pain at the root of it. Wish I had an easier strategy my friends, but this is the plain truth. You have to sit with yourself and deal with the anger head-on.
#2 Let go of assumptions and expectations
It is human nature to place expectations on situations, people and experiences it is a simple defence mechanism so that we may anticipate possible outcomes and prepare mentally in case of danger. It stems from a very primitive part of our brain that utilised this technique to expect a lion will most likely eat you and to avoid that animal or situation.
We now place expectations on people, ourselves and situation which inevitably sets us up to fail. You see the brain is actually very bad at predicting the future. How many times have you expected an experience to go one way and it turns out the complete opposite? Probably more often than not if we are being honest.
So place an expectation on a person or situation and then we are disappointed when they don’t do as we planned or anticipated – which is more often than not. The repetition of such behaviour leads to built up anger and resentment. Such a simple thing can lead to deep-rooted anger.
We must, therefore, become aware of often we make assumptions as to how people will act, how situations will turn out and forming unrealistic expectations. Once we are more aware of it, you will notice how irrational they are and that projecting your own fear and expectations onto others only bring disappointment.
#3 Practice mindfulness and utilise relaxation techniques
This ties into the earlier mentioned strategy of understanding the root of the anger. Becoming more mindful of when you are angry and why will be a big help in addressing anger hotspots for you. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with relaxation techniques as it requires us to become still and relaxed to clear the mind and pay attention to our body and emotions.
This process, especially when new to mindfulness practices, can often be frustrating and difficult but trust the process. It is called mindfulness practise because it is a practice. Some days will be easier than others, but persist and you will become better at it.
Use relaxation techniques in short form when you need it most. Taking deep breaths, counting to ten, simple shortcuts to help take the edge off when you don’t have the time or environment to do a full meditation.
#4 Get daily exercise
There is nothing as good as exercise to help release anger and frustration. Our emotions are part of our body and physically releasing them is an important tool.
The endorphins exercise release will also help. Find something that suits you, the fact is just that any movement will help. Go punch a punching bag, go run, do yoga, climb a mountain – whatever your jam is just go out and do it. Walk a simple walk does wonders, it doesn’t have to be exhausting it just becomes a physical release of your anger.
We all have feelings and thoughts that we kind of need to let out, but can’t fathom ever vocalising to anyone since it might make us look bad. It’s human nature, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just let it out in a healthy form.
When you write your thoughts down in a private journal you can be as mean and angry here as you want. No judgement, not even from yourself. Let it out, vent, be the worst version of you on paper so that it does not build up and explode.
I didn’t try journaling until much later and life, because I always thought it was something silly girls did in teen movies. It has since been such a wonderful addition to my daily routine. It is actually very therapeutic and you can’t lose anything by trying it.
Practice letting go daily
Like anything truly worthwhile in life, it is something we work at and create healthy habits of. The same goes for the practice of letting go. If change is what we really crave, we must make decisions daily to create that change. That can often be very painful, but worth it in the long run. Letting go is not just letting go of negative or painful feelings, but letting go of our smaller self so that we may become the best version of ourselves. And even though the process of letting go might initially be brought on by the need to let go of the feelings and situations by other people, we ultimately do it for ourselves.
I believe that this should be a daily practice for us all, especially for INFJ types who typically have extreme difficulty letting go. So be kind to yourself fellow over-thinkers and practice letting go daily. It’s not magic, just another habit.