The 4th Dimension - 7 Ways to Let Go

  • Cynthia Johnson

In the previous blog post, the 4th Dimension: Letting Go, we explored why it can be so hard to achieve the fourth step of our programme. In this blog post, we discuss seven techniques for letting go.

  1. Know what it is that you are letting go of.
    To free yourself you need to let go of the negative emotions associated with the experience, not the experience itself, and certainly not the work you may need to do as a result of the experience. Negative emotion might take various forms: feeling hurt, feeling angry or frustrated or guilty. Having let go of the negative emotion there may well be some lessons for the future or work that still needs to be done, for example, acknowledging that the piece of work you submitted could have been done better.
  2. Make a decision to let go.
    Perhaps mark the decision with a “ceremony.” Burn your business cards; delete that email; cut up an old rates bill; write a letter and throw it in the fire. If the experience comes back into your mind, make a decision not to attach to it, in other words do not get involved in the thoughts and emotions in your mind, and decide to let them go. They may well cycle back and intrude again, and you might have to repeatedly make the decision, but try not to feel defeated by that – just make the decision again, now.  People in addictions programmes make a decision not to drink today, that afternoon, right now, without succumbing to the thought that that they may relapse.
  3. Find a way to feel heard.
    Maybe you can talk to the other party, maybe not.  One of our clients told us that she was shocked when her role was made redundant and the career transition agency she was referred to specifically told her that she was here not to talk about how she was feeling, but to develop her CV and job search skills.  This was in fact wise moving-on advice, but her attachment to her role meant that she wasn’t emotionally ready to follow practical advice.  Family and friends might help, but may only be offering sympathy – beware of reinforcing your misery by endlessly repeating how upset you are.  This is verbal rumination, and will only serve to consolidate it.  Better to try to get to get to the Nelson Mandela perspective as quickly as you can, and remember, he was walking away from years in prison – how does that compare with your situation? 
  4. Write about your experience.
    There is a body of research which suggests that reflective writing may be beneficial.  Writing about our experiences, especially their emotional impact, may help to place them at sufficient distance to allow us to resolve them.  One illustrative example is a woman whose home was badly damaged in the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, and who found that journaling the emotional impact it had on her and then writing about the rebuild of her house a very helpful way to resolve her experiences.
  5. Find something else to value and attend to.
    We tend to think that we value only positive things.  In fact, when we are on the ground floor of the house of the mind and we choose to stay there we’ve actually decided to value suffering – if we didn’t value it, it wouldn’t stay! Try to invest value in something else instead: happiness, health, today, the future.
    It is more important to me today to value my freedom and the family I do have, then to hang on to the mess of the separation.
    My health and fitness are more important to me than staying with resentment.
  6. Remember that you’re not alone. 
    Everyone has tough times they struggle with, and everyone feels hurt or confused at times.  Say things to yourself like “everyone finds divorce a painful experience; everyone has some fear when their role has been disestablished; feeling nervous before a presentation is typical; all parents have times of guilt; it’s natural to feel upset.” Putting your reaction into a shared experience means you no longer feel so isolated.
  7. Explore forgiveness.
    When you read the quote from Nelson Mandela above, were you in awe at how momentous an act of forgiveness it was?  You may feel that someone like that is exceptional, but closer to our experience, have you ever wondered how people who have been the victims of heinous crimes can forgive the perpetrator? They recognise that holding on and not letting go is like drinking poison and hoping the other person suffers. You might say that wronged parties who hold on to their hurt often succeed in getting justice done, but there are two routes to that end: from the ground floor or from the loft.  Justice will still be done, but without incurring the ground-floor misery.  While we remain trapped in misery it is us that suffers, not the other party. Forgiveness frees us, so find a way to forgive and let go.

Read the 4th Dimension: Letting Go

Photo by Thomas Peham on Unsplash

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