Letting Go: The Way to Happiness

Letting go – or getting rid of emotional baggage – is something all human beings should endeavor to accomplish unless of course they are already in a state of extreme happiness that nothing can take away!

If you have difficulty understanding this concept, consider the following examples:

a. After losing her son, Esther buried herself in sorrow and decided she would spend her life in mourning, therefore denying herself any possible happiness.
b. Charles left Peggy 20 years ago. Peggy still refuses to meet Charles’ "new" wife, even though this behavior is hurting everyone, including her children and grandchildren.
c. While intoxicated, Oliver insulted his cousin John and hit him. A few months later, Oliver joined Alcoholics Anonymous, became sober and presented his apologies to John. Many years have gone by and John still shuns Oliver.
d. France finds her younger sister Sandra spendthrift, conceited and selfish. France, who was an only child for six years, deeply resents Sandra for taking their mother’s attention away from her at Sandra’s birth, and constantly quarrels with her.
e. No man can ever please Barbara, or maybe she subconsciously attracts men who can never give her what she wants. She continuously re-enacts the childhood trauma of her father abandoning her mother and herself when she was only five years old.
f. David and Harry are always attempting to outdo each other, in their jobs, accomplishments, houses, marriage, children, etc. The two younger boys of a large family, they desperately tried to receive their parents’ approval. As they grew up, the competition never stopped.
g. When little Celine was sad or upset, her mother used to give her cookies and cake to make her feel better. As an adult, Celine eats sweets to deal with her negative emotions, and she is obese.
h. Diego is very forgetful: he actually arrived one hour late at his wedding ceremony. Maeva, his wife, keeps hoping he will change. Every time Diego forgets something, Maeva takes it as a personal affront and becomes enraged.

All those situations that require some "letting go" have common elements. They all involve an original trauma, followed by the passing of time, often many years. But despite the passing of time, the emotional reaction occurring now is still based on the original circumstances. Also, the person holding on to the suffering feels entitled to act this way and believes he or she is right to do so, without realizing that today's reaction is keeping the wound open for no valid reason.

The Reasons for Holding On

When we hold on to our old patterns instead of letting go of them, we don't need to change. As human beings, we usually don’t like to change and we try to stay with what is familiar and appears safe. This comes from our ancestors, the cavemen who were struggling to survive and trying to avoid danger. Times have changed, but the reprogramming is lagging behind.

Because of the original hurt, we feel it is reasonable to keep doing what we are used to, even if it hurts our loved ones and ourselves. We are entitled to keep the pain alive because we have been victimized and everyone should know it! We often believe others have to pay for our suffering.

Holding on to our anger gives us an illusion of strength, sometimes confused with a reason to keep living. Letting go would put us in a vulnerable position, so we don't even want to think about it.

Finally, having initially endured a loss of respect, we want to save face at all costs, without considering what those costs may be.

The Benefits of Letting Go

Letting go allows life to flow. Instead of being rigid and stuck in the past, we become flexible and open to opportunities.

When we are rigid, all our energy is used to fight the natural flow of life like a rock slowing down the current of a river. Since our energy is busy fighting a war elsewhere, our immune system is weakened and leaves us open to a plethora of physical conditions and diseases. Letting go, and therefore freeing up some energy, often improves our health.

The problems created by holding on to our negative stories frequently involve many people – generally family members or close friends – with whom relationships become unhealthy or blocked. Letting go allows more harmonious relationships and creates more love.

When we let go, we take charge of our lives. We take responsibility for our reactions and ourselves and we develop internal strength. This in turn brings us more happiness.

How to Let Go

Short Term Techniques

If you find yourself caught in a situation where you have difficulty letting go, the following techniques may prove useful. Depending on your willingness to let go, these techniques may help in the short term. They will work on the effect but not on the cause, and you will eventually need to apply longer term remedies if you really want to let go.

The Realization Technique
You have to "realize" that the main person suffering from your negative reaction is you, not the person having this effect on you. You are basically punishing yourself for something outside yourself. Your pain (anger, sadness, guilt, etc.) is not going to change the situation, nor help in any positive way. By choosing to let go of the pain, you can find immediate relief.

The Kaufman Method
This method is suggested by Barry Neil Kaufman, of the Option Institute. It consists of asking yourself a few questions that force you to gain perspective.
1. What are you unhappy about?
What do you mean by that?
What about that makes you unhappy?
2. Why are you unhappy about that?
What do you mean by that?
3. Why do you believe that?
Do you believe that?
4. What are you afraid would happen if you weren't unhappy about it?
5. What do you want?

The Sedona Method
This method is also based on questions that you may want to ask yourself.
1. Can I release this negative feeling?
If your answer is "yes", then ask "when". "Now" is the logical answer.
If your answer is "no", then ask:

2. Do I want to release this feeling?
If your answer is "yes" then ask "when". "Now" is the logical answer.
If your answer is "no", then ask:

3. Would I rather suffer than release this feeling?
If your answer is "no", then go back to Question 1.
If you answer is "yes", then enjoy the suffering!

Long Term Remedies

Understanding how our negative past keeps us from enjoying life and going forward will go a long way in helping us with letting go.

First, we have to be willing to let go and to admit that holding on doesn’t serve any positive purpose. Talking to a counselor or a therapist can be very useful.

No one can help us if we are not ready to let go, and telling someone to "relax", "chill out" or "forget the past" will only promote frustration. We can only help someone who asks to be helped. Sometimes, the pain of holding on becomes heavier that the original hurt, and letting to comes naturally.

Quite often, we would like to release the original pain but we have no idea of its cause or reason. Other times, our pains and memories are so buried in our subconscious mind that we are not even aware of holding on to the past... while it may be obvious to our friends and family!

When you cannot work on definite information but want to release past hurts, there are various therapies that can produce great results. I use a technique based on guided imagery that deals with blocks without having to bring them out, in an enjoyable and unobtrusive manner (see sample below). I listen to Letting Go, A Healing Journey through Symbols and Imagery on a regular basis. Each time, the pictures I create in my mind's eye are different, and I know that over the years I have released a lot of emotional baggage.

Whatever method you decide to use to heal your past – as well as your future – remember that being honest with yourself, within your private internal space where no visitors are allowed, is of the utmost importance in letting go.

In summary, be willing to change, to do what is unfamiliar, to be vulnerable, to go from entitlement to responsibility, from past to present, from sickness to health, and from hurt to happiness! Come on, let go!

A sample of the Letting Go session.
The mp3 audio version has no photos, in order to allow you to create pictures in your own mind

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