Ending Emotional Pain: Letting Go Part 1

I thought about this statement for a while, this small sentence that stood out to me amongst the business of the day.  “Letting go is love. Holding on is attachment.” I wonder in your world where that might apply?  So much is transitioning in the world that is my life these days.  It’s a little hard to keep up with the details.  That is not a bad thing…it takes a lot to keep this energy of mine occupied and engaged in helping other people.  I feel myself holding on to tightly to moments, to friends…almost hoarding memories.

Letting go is love.

Holding on is attachment.

I have to say that I agree.

Letting go of something or someone isn’t easy for a person to do.   I walked across campus today realizing that, as I trailed past the School of Theology and back to the undergrad building where my final Greek course is held…it’s all nearly over.  The faculty were in their end of year meetings, my graduation regalia is in and paid for … my counterparts are crushed with writing, we’re all making plans for work and life apart.  This is the final push of the final push at graduate school.  Off to a world that is uncharted and unknown past this point.  I am speaking at a church this weekend wehre many people are in the land of transition, too.  Lost jobs, children leaving home, relationship issues…each person has their own set of problems, their own pain.  We all hold on to something, don’t we?  Letting go is love.  At first, I thought of the natural course of relationship breakdown, the place I camp most often in counseling, next to end of life issues for those that I work with in Chaplaincy.

So here is where I landed.  Letting go is love. Granted, the person that wrote this did it in the context of her relationship.   The longer that I thought about it, the more I realized that the statement has a dual purpose.  You can’t leave a room when you won’t cross through the door, or jump out that first floor window.  If you’re unwilling to move on, you cannot be surprised when your pain scenery does not change.  If you’re being held in the room by another person’s emotional energy leaving may be made all the more difficult.

In this, I have experience.  In those first few months of a painful split, you have to measure your time in minutes, not eons.  Maybe you start by leaving the room for a moment – putting all those memories in a box, deleting the emails (even if you have to print them) and putting his/her pictures away.   That is a step.   Letting go is about you, not the other person. It’s showing love for yourself, acknowledging that something has come to an end in your life, giving you the initial space to feel your feelings and grieve the loss.  It doesn’t really matter what the loss is – maybe a realtionship, a educational time, a job, the end of a life.  It’s your first permission to go on, to live freely, to be full of possibility.

Holding on is attachment.  This I know something about, me the queen of don’t-know-how-to-fail.  I certainly have enough experience that failure is not unfamiliar to me, it’s just not my game state.  Failure is the method you use to refine success.  I’ve learned that attachments are more detrimental than the pain that you initially experience in letting go.  They become self feeding monsters that consume the minutes of your life – and, if you’re in a relationship, can or will consume the person that you’re attached to as well.   So how do you break an attachment that haunts your daily life?  Some thoughts to make the day count:

  • Learn a new skill or craft.  DO NOT make it about or in reference to the thing/person that you lost.
  • Volunteer to help at church, hospital, retirement home…make yourself useful.
  • Make a list of ten things that you really like about yourself  ~ and then add something to that list every day.  Read it after 21 days, out loud to celebrate the unique person that is you.
  • Give yourself permission to cry if you need the release, and allow the feeling to flow.  When you’re done with that allotted time, find something that cheers you up and makes you laugh.
  • Get physical.  Plug in some great tunes and go work out.
  • Call up friends….and do not rehash your “story.” Instead, listen about life, the universe and go have really great pizza.
  • If you’re coming out of a relationship remember this:  It is way easier to fall out of love with a human than a hero.  Stop with the wish vision. Be a little more pragmatic than the literal use of “soul mate” and give yourself room to acknowledge that life goes on.  He/She only feels like the best parts of you….but you’re still a whole person, even with out the person that has departed.  If you love…let go and grow from the knowledge that this time will impart.  Learn, be healthy, be ready for the future…the past is closed to us.  We cannot change it.  Accept the pain and allow it to begin to heal.
  • Love yourself….let go.

Often when I write columns like this, I get the letter from a person that declares to me “I lost the only soul mate I will ever have.  We were meant to be together.”  Okay, that is possible.  I know how you feel.  What you need to deal with right now, however, is that your game state does not support life, and life lived in joy.   I can promise you this much….if you’re that super, super rare breed of bird that is actually a matched set, truly and really in love for all time, then you need to hear me.  Go live your life and be healthy.  If it’s real, it will happen…but not if you’re falling apart.  Love yourself by allowing space and time, faith and grace to do what you cannot.  Become well and let love run it’s own course.  Make every day count.

Loss is part of our human journey, along with big mistakes, little faux pas, moments that you might really regret…but there is something to know in all of this.  Part of living a life of hope, of light and grace, is the ability to forgive yourself and see yourself as a redeemed and whole person.  I’m not defined by my past mistakes…gosh, some where made by such an outdated version of me that I hardly remember the pain of them anymore.  Some are more fresh.  All of them have one common thread: I learned from them, and live a better life becasue I was willing to grow.  Life comes from a much more humble place than it did the first time I got my heart broken…and I am sure that there are lessons on my horizion, just like you, that will bring me back to my knees once again.

That’s okay.  I find it easier to pray and meditate down here anyhow. 🙂  It’s all about having a positive perspective.

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