Nature has so much to tell us about letting go.
I’m looking out of my window here in London, England and I can see some evergreens, but some of the most striking trees are bare. They let go of their leaves some time ago, stripped bare by the winter wind, now naked and vulnerable.
And yet they stand tall.
Letting Go Of What’s Not Useful
Trees let go of the leaves without fear or lack and in the knowledge that when the spring comes new buds, leaves and blossom will emerge.
Simply, trees actively shed their leaves because there’s no use for them anymore.
Doing this also ensures the tree’s long-term survival. Leaves die during the winter months. If those dead leaves stayed on the trees, and new, working ones didn’t grow in their place, the trees would have no way of processing food for themselves and would die.
So they let go with ease. Sometimes the leaves fall of their own accord. At other times it just takes the gentlest of winds.
We can be like that. Sometimes change comes easily. At other times, something life-changing like an illness, bereavement or an accident needs to shake us to our core before we are willing to let go of what we have known for a long time isn’t working.
And this week we let go of 2020. It’s been a year of the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, political and social upheaval, a looming mental health crisis and the ongoing urgent environmental challenges.
And nature says that the cycle of this year has come to an end.
So as we let go of 2020, what does nature have to teach us about letting go, particularly in relationships?
Endings seem hard for us, especially when we have feelings that come up. We can get stuck. We get stuck in the emotions and think that there is no way out and we have to hold on.
We don’t let go with ease; we put up a fight.
Holding On To The Baggage
Holding on is a critical way we keep ourselves stuck, especially when we hold on to someone we need to let go. Clinging to a relationship that has become toxic or holding on to memories from a friendship, we all do it.
But how come we have so much trouble letting go and moving on?
Paradoxically, we like to hold on to things, situations and especially people because we find comfort in what is familiar, even when based in a negative experience. That comfort doesn’t mean that your relationship is healthy. What it means is that unconsciously you know how it works and what to do. You’ve likely learnt that in childhood.
That comfort comes from certainty and not being plunged into the fear of the unknown.
Like the trees letting go can leave you feeling naked and vulnerable. So here ere are three things you need to know about letting go.
1. Your Feelings Are Normal
Usually, we know what we want to let go. It’s our feelings that get in the way of cutting the cord.
Your feelings of fear, isolation, and hopelessness tell you that no-one will love you again if you leave the relationship. Or your feelings of guilt and terror tell you that you’re a ‘bad’ parent and you need to stay for the sake of the children. Perhaps you’re feeling weary and don’t think that you have the energy to let go.
But here’s the thing about feelings. They pass, just like the waves. They pass. When you learn to sit with your feelings, you will notice the ebb and flow.
Try this as see what happens:
- Sit with your feelings by noticing what you are experiencing physically. Are you stopping yourself from crying? Do you have tightness in the throat? Are you feeling hot and clammy, or is your chest constricted? Perhaps you have back pain.
- Accept the feeling. Don’t judge your experience as this will bring in other emotions such as guilt and anger, which might mask the root feeling.
- Label the feeling. Is it mad, sad, scared or glad?
- Ask what the feeling is trying to communicate to you. Does your tight chest let you know that you are feeling trapped?
- Move your body
Sitting with our emotions can be difficult. But it’s a skill you can learn and practice. Give yourself the space to try.
2. It’s Okay If You Don’t Feel Positive
One of the biggest fears can be that your lives will disintegrate. You fear that you will not survive the loss.
It can be challenging to remember that you do have the inner resources to let go. The brain is wired to be fearful as that is what kept our ancestors alive. Because of this negativity bias, we are very vulnerable to fear and anxiety. So we remember the pain of letting go and forget we all experience necessary losses in our lives and survive.
You forget the resilience, grace, strength and courage that you have within. This is the time to remember the things that you are good at and that you can do.
Rick Hanson PhD says:
Repeatedly savouring positive experiences can train your brain to internalise them increasingly rapidly – in effect, making your brain like Velcro for the positive and Teflon for the negative.
Try this and see what happens:
The next time you experience or create a joyous moment, take a little longer than you usually would to enjoy it. Next, please write it down on a post-it note or piece of paper and pop it in a jar. Try and do this every week. Soon you will have a jar of experiences and attributes that you can draw on to remind yourself of your inner resources.
3. It’s Not About Will Power
Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis, describes the concept of will. Of will Assagioli says
….one keynote of the will is freedom – freedom to choose and to act the way we want to.
Assagioli notes four aspects of will as strong will, skilful will, good will and transpersonal will.
You might be familiar with the notion of will power but will as Assagioli describes it is different. Yes, when we make a determined physical or mental effort to overcome life’s hurdles, that’s engaging our strong will. But what’s missing is the other vital components of our will. Skilful will, for example, means that you recognise when you need to be strategic and considered.
To will does not mean to be willful but rather to gain gradually the power of increased judgement and decision in the application. Erikson E. (1)
Sometimes your will is in your won’t. You’re not willing to let go and cling to the benefits of the relationship. Sometimes will is absent, which makes life painful because you’re stuck.
We all can engage our will and make choices in our life. Will goes through phases’ no will’, ‘will exists’, ‘I have will’, and ‘I am will’.
Where is your will?
Try this and see what happens:
If you’re wanting to make change and letting go, try making daily entries in an evening journal. This simple act will begin the process of rekindling your healthy will, which will develop and strengthened over time.
Letting Go Of What’s Not Serving You Anymore?
What do you need to let go of with 2020?
A friendship that no longer serves you
A job that drains your soul
A belief that keeps you playing small
A habit that isn’t healthy
A persona that depletes you
A car that’s no long congruent with your environmental values
A family member who is manipulative or abusive
The out of date stories you tell yourself
Nature lets us know that when we let go, new things are given life. It might take time, and I’m not going to pretend that it might be painful, but you give space for new things to emerge in letting go.
Over To You
Are you struggling with letting go? If you want a safe space to discuss and explore the things in your life that are no longer serving you, get in touch, and book your first counselling appointment. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform. Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t need to put your therapy sessions on pause.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
Enjoyed this post? Use the icons below to tweet it, share it on Facebook, and send it to specific friends via email.
© Sandra Harewood 2020
Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship.
(1) Erikson E. Insight and responsibility. New York: Norton; 1964.