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  • Darci Daniels

Let It Go

Nope, not about the song from 'Frozen'

Letting go can be tough to do. Think of an issue you need or want to let go of, or something in the past that was tough to let go. It could be anything, big or little: a relationship, a dream of the future, a minor conflict with someone you care about, a slight by a stranger that stays with you, a mistake you made that you are kicking yourself for, or unkind words from your boss. I tend to replay times when I put my foot in my mouth over and over again, until I remember to LET IT GO. Once I’ve forgiven myself or someone else, made peace with whatever it was and remember I can’t do anything about it NOW, then I can actually let it go. I want to help you do the same, with whatever scenario came to mind.

(Caveat: I’m not saying we shouldn’t look at negative issues and try to correct them. This is not about societal ills or bigger problems in the world. This is about you, individually, and your feelings. It’s also not to say that we should ignore things like abuse, harassment, and the like. Your feelings are always valid, and bad stuff happens that needs to be dealt with. I’m not talking about traumatic events that have altered your life. What I am speaking to is what YOU want to let go of to move forward so it doesn’t wreck your day or week -- or longer. Bigger things like relationships absolutely can be ‘let go’ but may require a lot more work than these simplified steps. Got it? Cool.)

I often say if you’re not honest with anyone else, you have to be honest with yourself. So first, how do you really feel? Not what you think you should feel, not how you want to feel, not how you’re posturing to others, not sanitized for public consumption, but how do you honestly feel? (If someone else has told you that you should ‘let go’ of a situation, how do you feel about that? This is tougher than when you KNOW want to let something go, but it’s still doable.) Look again, at the emotion underneath the reaction. You may feel mad, but is the real emotion fear? Are you feeling somewhat sad, but actually really angry? Anger often masks fear, or grief. That’s why we see the cliché so often in movies where a character is absolutely pissed off and yelling, right before they break down in tears. Do you feel frustrated? Sad? Confused? Hurt? Rejected? Pinpoint it as best you can, and if that’s too difficult, put it into one of these categories: sad, mad, glad, or scared.

So, how do you really feel? If you tell no one else, at least be truthful with yourself. Great! You’ve taken the first step to letting go.

What next? Ask yourself: how you do want to feel? We don’t tend to want, or think we need, to let go of something that feels good. There are usually bad feelings and energy around the thing we want to let go. So, what would feel better? What are you aiming for? What do you hope the process of letting go brings to you? Some of the answers I often hear to this question are peace, relief, and to be happy. If you’ve got how you want to feel in mind, you’ve finished step two!

Note: If you’re feeling conflicted about letting go, it’s usually because the “thing” you’re thinking of is too big. For example, if you’re thinking of letting go a relationship, and you have conflicting feelings about letting go and confused about what you should do, it’s because that’s too big a question. Break it down into smaller parts. Why are you thinking of letting go? What happened? Was there a fight? Can you get honest with yourself about how you feel in the moment, right now, and not focus on the distant past? Maybe what you need to let go is not the relationship, but the fight. Maybe you need to let go of long ago feelings you’ve been dragging around. Or maybe you do need to let go of the relationship, but you can’t wrap your brain around that yet because you need to deal with the individual issues, first. If your dominant feeling is confused, look at where you can break it down into smaller parts. Again, get simple – do you want to feel sad, mad, glad, or scared?

I had a client once who asked for something big at work. He got about 75% of what he asked for. Instead of being thrilled that he “mostly” won, he was incredibly angry he didn’t get the other 25%. This wasn’t about money, it was something that he was fighting for on behalf of a client. It was a bold ask, and no one thought he’d get what he asked for. It was, in fact, somewhat unreasonable. But he’s smart and confident, so he asked for everything anyway. When he didn’t get it all (and believe me when I say getting 75% of it was a HUGE win), he, well… he basically threw a tantrum. He vented and harped and made ridiculous threats (calling HR, quitting) in order to try and convince me, and anyone in the office who could hear him yelling, that a grave mistake was made and needed to be rectified. No one listening had any power to change this, by the way. He had unrealistic expectations, and we all knew it. He actually admitted it himself when he made the ask. But when push came to shove, he was livid not to get what he asked for 100%. By the way, his client was thrilled he got the exception that he did, they were more than happy and did not care about the other 25%. But that didn’t matter to him. After listening to him vent and generally bring the office to a stand-still, I asked him a very important question: did he want to let this go and feel better, or did he want to hold on to the anger and feel badly? That stopped him in his tracks. He calmed down a tiny bit, looked at me, and clearly said – I want to feel bad. I’m not ready to let this go.

Do you think I tried convincing him it was better, for himself and everyone else, to let it go?

I did not.

I said, “Great! I’m proud of you for being honest with yourself. Go stew. Let me know when you’d like to feel better. Until then, do you think you could not disrupt everyone else?” He realized that by CHOOSING to feel bad, he had more control of the situation. Instead of it happening TO him, he was choosing how he wanted to feel. He no longer needed to keep stomping around the middle of the office floor and yelling about how he didn’t get what he wanted. He went back to his office, closed the door, and hung on to his wronged feelings for a while as he started working on something else. A little bit later, he acknowledged he wanted to let it go and move on and realized he was only punishing herself. Then he was able to celebrate and get excited about what he DID get accomplished.

I love this story, not only because it illustrates how being honest with ourselves is empowering, but also because it demonstrates how easily we can laser focus on the smaller, negative parts instead of being happy or grateful about the larger stuff that’s going right.

So, now you’ve pinpointed how you feel, and how you want to feel. The next step is the toughest: who do you need to forgive? It may be someone else, but often it is ourselves. Even when someone else wrongs us, we still blame ourselves for letting it happen. The question is, are you ready to grant that forgiveness?

If the answer is no, that’s fine. As much as you want to let go, you may not be ready yet. Again, this is not for big, traumatic things that have happened. This is for everyday issues, like the jerk who dinged your car door in the parking lot, or the co-worker who took credit for your work, or the significant other who forgot your birthday.

If the answer is yes, you’re ready to forgive, then take a deep breath. I advise writing down and/or saying out-loud who you’re forgiving and what for. You may be surprised what comes out. You may be ready to forgive the other person, but not yourself. You may be ready to forgive yourself, but not someone else. If you’re ready to forgive anyone involved – including the Universe, in the case of things like natural disasters or bad traffic – then say it. Give it. Then take another deep breath and go back to the first step: how do you really feel? Is it closer to how you want to feel? Does it seem like you’ve made progress toward letting it go?

Typically, the one thing I find I’m missing at this point is this: what’s already happened is in the past. Nothing can be done to change it today. We can move forward from where we’re at, we can forgive, ask for forgiveness, make amends, learn our lessons, change things for today and tomorrow, but we can’t undo what’s already been done or said. Ever. (Unless you have a time machine, in which case, I wanna know! Lets go buy some Microsoft stock in the early days!) Remembering that doing our best to let go means moving forward from this moment is often the secret sauce that helps all of this come together.

If you find you still can’t let it go, break it down into smaller pieces. Can you let go of one thing your boss said, but not another? Can you forgive yourself for putting your foot in your mouth two weeks ago but not yesterday? Take it one thing at a time, repeat the steps, remember all the power you have is in the present moment, and try to get yourself closer to that feeling you DO want. Repeat the steps with each piece that's bothering you.

My favorite part of letting go is feeling the shift in my energy. Often this happens when I remember what’s good. Being grateful for all the other things in life that are going right, the things that already bring me peace and joy, really drives home why I’m doing the work to let something go in the first place. So, a gentle reminder after you go through the steps, shift your focus to the bigger picture and give thanks. Sometimes I’m surprised at how grateful I am for the thing I’ve just let go; either that it happened, the lessons I’ve learned, or what part of it never went sideways in the first place. Sometimes I’m just grateful I can see and feel all the other great stuff in my life again, because I've hit the "stop" button on my laser focus of the negative. In either case, our lives end up working better when we can let go of the thoughts and stories that no longer serve us and focus on the good instead. Good luck!


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