Once our discomfort is magnified by sadness and physical pain we shift our direction and begin to hold onto things. It’s a very clever way to hide our distress. Toys, clothes, locks of hair, elementary school papers--anything that might fill up the hole. Now we have complexified our situation. Our bodies are in pain because of emotional holding and our homes are cluttered with stuff. We’re stuck.
Can you imagine the downward spiral if this continued? It’s a wretched cycle. And the worst thing about it is our lives are constantly changing. We are experiencing some kind of loss on a regular basis. Which makes the threat of getting stuck all the more real. Loss of loved ones, loss of job, changes of job definition and serious injury are devastating. Interruption to routine, illness and disappointment are frequent changes. What can we do about it? I wish there were an simple way to ease the pain. If you want to get unstuck the only way is to learn to adapt. Try taking these steps towards letting go:
- Turn and face the pain instead of running away. This is the most difficult choice. I get it. But it’s also the most direct path towards letting go. A wise woman once told me that a feeling only lasts about 30 seconds. You may face excruciatingly painful feelings--but you can make it for 30 seconds. Practice with the little daily occurrences and you’ll be better prepared for the big ones. This is so challenging and contrary to our nature that you may spend a lifetime practicing. It is worth your time.
- Start your day with 20 minutes of uncensored, stream of consciousness writing. Giving yourself the time and a private place to note your darkest thoughts or celebrate your victories will help you let go. Don’t overthink this. Go buy a spiral notebook, put pen to paper and keep it moving. That’s the important part. The motion of the pen will connect with the flow of your subconscious and you will let go. No words? Write blah, blah, blah until the words come. You may have to write a half page of nonsense before words begin to flow--and that’s ok. I first read about this method in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.”
- Evaluate your mementos. Identify the things you’re holding. My mother kept both her children’s bedrooms preserved--as if we’d never left. I did the same when my older son left for college. It wasn’t until my younger son moved out--six years later--that I realized I was doing exactly the same thing. Is there a space in your home that you tend to avoid? For example, my son’s preserved bedroom--I kept the door shut and I felt anxious about going inside. That’s a hint you need to handle it. Take an afternoon and make piles--toss, donate, keep, and cherish. Yes, absolutely keep the items that have meaningful sentimental value. Don’t hold onto every scrap. You won’t lose your children or your memories; you will gain yourself. Give yourself time and have a box of tissues handy. It will be emotionally exhausting work but letting go will make you free.
- Fill the space in a positive way. Look for the possibility instead of the loss. I’ll talk more about this later in the week.
- Review my coping strategies. Try my strategies for coping with loss. Making a plan for handling life’s inevitable losses will empower you and that will help you let go. Edit my list with the strategies that work for you.
- What works for you? Add your steps for letting go and getting unstuck in the comments section below.