What do we do when we can’t let something go? When rumination and overthinking take over and the same situations, thoughts and feelings are on loop, maybe even getting stronger or more intense each time?
We are often told that we should just let things go, that maybe we have let them affect us for long enough or that the impacts of this experience are affecting ourselves and others negatively. Others may tell us this, but often it is a criticism that is directed inwards – “I should be able to just let this go” or the other version “why can’t I stop thinking about this?”. But when we try and let things go because the experience is unwanted or uncomfortable or we think we should be over it by now, we can often miss the meaning of these experiences and the messages they can have for us.
Often the intensity of an experience speaks to its inherent meaning for us – in that, the gravity of our reactions and strength of the feelings tells us what is important to us and what we value. If we mine the meaning what happens then? Or if we stay with these difficult feelings, experiences or situations and give them (and us) some space can we let them be?
As Jack Kornfield so eloquently put it “When letting go is not possible, it can be modified to a softer version of this practice called Let It Be…instead of letting go, be aware of it, let it come and go”. The idea that we don’t have to let things go when it feels impossible anyway can be a relief when gifted with the permission to “let it be”.
Once the pressure is off to let it go, opening towards letting it be can reward us with gifts of insight and reflection and meaning making that may have not been possible before. We can settle in for some ups and downs knowing that the process of letting it be can support whatever is there to shift and transform.
As a counsellor who is aligned to the practice of Narrative Therapy mining the meaning of what’s showing up can be a good place to start and to settle some of the intensity of certain feelings and experiences. I also work with the idea of developing self-compassion – a practice of directing kindness, love and acceptance towards the self and all its ways of showing up. I am always curious about what becomes possible when we can open to an experience rather than it shut down.
So what are some of the ways we can let it be?
Get curious about the intensity of the feeling, what may it be trying to tell you?
Just being with - walking, moving or sitting with the experience, is it ok to just let it flow over you and observe it?
Talk to it - tell the feeling or experience that it's ok to be there
Locate it in the body and breath into it, give it some space
Tap on it (click here for an EFT Tapping intro).
The post was inspired by Jack Kornfield’s book “A Path with Heart” and is dedicated to anymore currently struggling to let something go.
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