THE LETTING GO
By letting go, we actually allow more
of the mystery of life to come in for us.
By Leslie Karen Lobell, M.A.
Isn't that what we wanted all along
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Freedom like a stone
Maybe we were wrong
But I can say goodbye
Now that the passion's died
Still it comes so slow
The letting go
Excerpt from the song, "The Letting Go"
Written & Performed by Melissa Etheridge
Letting go. It is difficult for us in so many ways and on so many levels. Yet life calls upon us to do it, over and over again. Letting go is part of our growth process. We cannot move on to the new while continuing to cling to the old.
There come times, in the context of love and romance, when we must learn to let go. For some of us, as described in the song, we must let go of a past romantic relationship. Maybe the relationship was not meant to be: perhaps it was hurtful to us, or perhaps it was hindering the personal or spiritual growth of one or both partners. In this case, even when there may still be feelings of passion, or attraction, or just the comfort of the familiar, we must be strong in letting go of something that is unhealthy for us. … Perhaps we have no problem leaving the person behind, but we continue to harbor animosity. In this case, we need to let go of the anger: holding onto anger does not serve us - and it might even serve to create problems in our physical health or emotional well-being. … In the realm of romantic relationships, some of us need to let go of unrealistic expectations. Whether we have idealized a past relationship or just read too many romance novels, some of us need to let go of the myth of the perfect lover: the fantasy of a relationship that requires no work and just brings us "happily ever after." By letting go, I am not implying "to forget" or "to ignore." By all means, we should carry with us the happy memories and the lessons we have learned from our past relationships. However, we need to let go in the sense of releasing emotional baggage we may be carrying around with us, so that we may be open to, and present for, a new relationship.
Some of us have difficulty letting go of a friend or loved one who has passed away. I have known mothers who have lost a young child who never seem to cope with this loss, emotionally: they carry it with them for years, like a dark and ominous cloud that -- even on a sunny day - looms on the horizon. Children can have as hard a time losing their parents, even when the parents have lived long and full lives. Often adult children who have lost a parent before working through interpersonal issues, or before having an opportunity to say goodbye, have difficulty letting go of unresolved issues or guilt. Sometimes we may need to go for some counseling or do a ritual (some act with personal meaning) to allow us to release these emotions.
Many of us have trouble letting go of old ways of viewing people who have been part of our lives for an extended period of time. They may be changing, and yet we do not let go of viewing them in the same way, and/or we try to discourage that change. We refuse to let go of the labeling, categorizing, and pre-set expectations we have of those we know, and of ourselves. This seems particularly true of many parents of teenage or young adult children. Many parents have a difficult time letting go of them as children, and allowing them to grow up. It is hard for parents to make that transition from treating their children as kids, to treating them as adults and more like friends. Many of these same parents have trouble letting go of viewing themselves, primarily, in the role of parent. For instance, some mothers are afraid to let their kids become grownups, because they are afraid to let go of their own identity as "mother." They have become so identified with that one role, that they no longer are sure who they are, outside of that role. When we refuse to let go of old ways of identifying and viewing ourselves and others, we hinder the growth and change that is occurring.
There is a saying: Let Go, Let God. For most, if not all, of us, the letting go that we most need to do is a type of surrender. We need to surrender to life, itself. This means that we need to let go of our illusion that we actually can control most aspects of our lives. In many cases, rather than to fight "what is," we need to learn to accept and to be at peace… Too many of us are trying to keep a tight grip on things that are out of our control. This is like trying to grip the water flowing in a river. Put your hands into the river. If you try to get the water by grabbing it and clenching your fists, it goes right out of your hands. If you relax and open, gently cupping your hands, the water flows into your palms. By relaxing, opening, and trusting, we can hold onto more of what is precious to us. By letting go, we actually allow more of the mystery of life to come in for us.
Copyright ©2001 by Leslie Lobell