I know there are numerous books and articles on the subject of letting go. I am wading in today because for some reason I cannot get the topic out of my mind.
The advice I have received over the years from a number of people about letting go was all well meant, but some of it was more damaging than that which I was trying to let go of. Some of the advice was
-just stop thinking about it
-you are better off
-go find something else (someone else)
All the advice was to basically ignore what you feel or replace it with something else. Most importantly the advice most often given are words that when broken down to their basic meaning say, do not deal with your feelings.
Feeling your feelings is hard. We all want the good ones and we are terrified of the bad. Many of us learned to suppress our feelings at a very early age. We have those feelings buried deep in our physiology. At some point they erupt in anger or illness and we find ourselves wondering why.
Very few of us allow grief, anger, sadness etc to run their course. We want to get rid of those feelings so badly that we cut them short. This leaves the remainder of the process undone and the last of the feeling with no place to go but inside of us.
Many years ago my friend lost her father. We were all very sad because it was unexpected. It was also the first time I ever watched anyone give themselves to their feelings completely.
For 5 days she didn’t get out of bed! She cried, she moaned, she seriously rolled around in her grief. After 5 days she emerged healed. She still missed him and would sometimes forget he wasn’t around. The most amazing thing is that the process only took 5 days.
I come from a family of people that suppress both positive and negative emotions. We hide, we put on brave faces, we carry on. It looks strong from the outside, but it breaks us in ways people don’t see.
After watching my friend I decided to try it her way. A few years later I split with the man I would call the love of my life. Instead of trying to be strong, I allowed myself to wallow. I cried, I moaned, I rolled around in it. What surprised me the most was how quickly I moved through the grief process. Sure it took time to get over the habit of him but by letting the feelings flow I discovered I was somehow stronger.
I watched a show years ago that talked about how cold and unfeeling we seem at funerals. Everything is tidy everything is neat. The comparison was with those cultures (if they still exist) that wail and scream and tear their clothes. Which way allows the feelings to be felt?
Pema Chodron, one of my favourite authors, speaks of leaning into the feelings. Don’t suppress, don’t hide, simply lean into them. When you have spent your life suppressing it is not the easiest thing to do. But it works!
The strangest part of allowing yourself to feel after spending your life trying to hide from your feelings, is how emotionally self-indulgent it feels. It feels wrong, it feels like you are making way more of whatever it is than it warrants.
The truth is folks, if you feel something it is valid. Once you have allowed yourself to really feel your feelings you will be surprised at how free you feel and how horrified you are that you would have suppressed something this powerful.
This does not mean that you disrupt business meetings or go out and hurt others. That will never help. What this means is that when things happen, allow yourself to heal, allow yourself to feel.