My new favorite song is one of the best descriptions of early addiction recovery I’ve ever heard.
“I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down If I just let go, I’ll be set free. Holding on…why is everything so heavy?” – Linkin Park, “Heavy”
While I love the song, I hate rhetorical questions. Why is everything so heavy?
- Because we’ve held it for far too long
- Because it hurts to release pain and we accumulate it by avoiding it
- Because we don’t just have a “chip on our shoulder” We have boulders
- Because we keep things from being “real” by allowing it to only exist within
- Letting go requires making it overt and if you speak it, it becomes really real
- Because a lot of the shame we carry doesn’t even belong to us
For most of us, the way we try “letting go” is to block out the thoughts, repress the memory that’s seared into our brain, and numbing the emotions that go with it. This is actually the opposite of letting go. This is how a child copes when not supported. We accumulate baggage and only experience it in it’s totality.
Anything that overwhelms me has to be broken down into manageable pieces. Every other approach is an exercise in futility centered around mental masturbation. It’s okay that I want to go to extremes and do all of it once and for all. It just doesn’t ever actually work when I try it that way.
I can hate the process and still accept it as necessary. If I allow myself to be a work in progress I can accept that there’s always going to be more to let go of and I can become progressively free every day.
Learning how to let go:
- Pay attention to you. Counselors call it “mindfulness”, which is a nice word for, “Hey, pay attention and notice the things you do automatically that keep you stuck.”
- Notice what your thoughts and feelings. Listen to your self-talk (the critical voice in your head)
- (Hard part): Don’t judge the emotions or reject them – just accept that for this moment, that’s where you’re at. It won’t change while you’re telling yourself you shouldn’t be this way.
- Allow yourself to feel what you feel. You may be feeling anxious or depressed but try to notice what else is present. Experience
- (Harder part) Express Write that shit down. Speak it aloud. Share it with people who care.
- Release it. No, not all of it. Letting go is an incremental process. If you express five minutes of pain, you get to let go of five minutes worth.
We learned to hide everything and hold it in, therefore, letting go does not come naturally at all. We’re afraid we’ll lose some good stuff as we release the bad (that never actually happens). We may even feel like we’re losing a part of ourselves as we grieve and release. What we let go of is only stuff we don’t truly want: pain, shame, guilt, and self-limiting beliefs like the idea that we are not good enough.
Letting go allows us to move away from compensating and toward becoming the ideal version of ourselves.