Learning How to Let Go

I’ve learned that I can’t “get over” anything. If I want to get continue getting better, I have to go through it. We want to let go of memories that contain past pain and anger…but for most of us that just means we stop thinking about it. It’s childish, but we actually hear ourselves say, “As long as I don’t think about it, it doesn’t bother me.”

And where does it go when we don’t think about it?

We stuff our feelings away, which means we get to carry them. As we go through life it becomes progressively harder to find room to stuff more. We use food or alcohol or other things that make us feel full, enough, complete. We fill emptiness with all the wrong things even as we treat our hearts as trash compactors.

There’s an old expression in AA that dictates, “If you turn it over and turn it over but don’t let go, you end up inside out and upside down.” Turning it over is recognition of what is, accepting powerlessness, and making a choice to stop avoiding what we can’t change and still feel. Ideally we entrust these things to a power greater than ourselves and experience spiritual growth.

Otherwise we move on… just with more baggage.

One of my greatest criticisms of counselors is that a lot of us talk pretty but we don’t actually explain how to do the things we discuss. Letting go is a five stage process:

-  Identify what you feel. You have to choose to be aware of it. The more we notice our emotions the more we do cope and make conscious choices to respond and not react.

-  Accept that at least in this moment that this is how you feel. Don’t shame yourself for feeling it.

-  Experience the feelings (just let yourself feel them without analysis or judgment)

-  Express what you feel – in writing, in artistic expression, and most importantly, in sharing with people who care.

-  Release it. Letting go is a process, not a one time event. We have to choose to let go of what we express. Bit by bit (it always takes longer than we feel it should) this is how we become free.

“The best thing I ever did was let go.” – Eyedeas & Abilities

For a lot of years I told myself that talking about it and expressing my feelings wouldn’t change anything. What I wanted was for other people to change in ways that would be healthy and beneficial to us both. I wanted them to stop hurting me and to be more loving toward me. What I later learned was that I was missing out on what friends and kin wanted to give me while I waited for others to change.

Learning how to let go of pain didn’t change anyone but me. It made every part of my life better. It left me with less and less to compensate for and more and more free to become who I wanted to be instead of who and how I thought I was supposed to be.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.