There is a catch phrase in both therapy circles and religious and spiritual circles alike. That phrase is "let it go", or "give it to God or to the Universe", which is the same thing honestly. But what is it really? I mean, I can't just overlook mistreatment of animals or children. I am frustrated when I have to work late. I want something to come into my life really bad, like a new way to make money or a new lover. I mean there are so many things that I am invested in, involved in emotionally or physically, and there are things I care more about on this earth than anything, like my children. How do I just let everything go? Really?
Let's back out a minute, and then I will answer that very question. I think you might enjoy how this unfolds.
Why do we even want, or are we told, to let things go or give them to the power of the universe that some call God? Why? You might say that your parents told you to or your religion says it's right or something like that, but what is underneath that? The answer is that you want to feel better. Period. You can't sleep if your mind is racing, your heart hurts when you see others suffer, and your anxiety is through the roof. You see your parents stressed out, and you scream at your children and significant other. You want to quit your job, not because you don't like it, but because you're too exhausted and not happy. You want to feel better. Let me write it again - YOU WANT TO FEEL BETTER!
Second question - why can't you just let it go? Why can't we let ourselves find ways to feel better even when stressful things are happening around us? We are taught, by both example, as well as verbal messages, that we all need to suffer. Suffer now, and things will be better later when we get married...when the kids are in school...when we buy a new house...when the kids grow up....when we die. Wow, we really are taught that suffering is a part of life. Then, we wonder why we feel so bad, and we start projecting our terrible feelings onto our life - my spouse doesn't do enough, my parents are on me again, a loved one is sick, it's too hot, it's too cold....it's something all the time.
So, what is letting go and how do we do it? First, letting go is not ignoring your life, running away, pretending your loved one is not sick, pretending you like the temperature outside, or whatever. Letting go is a process of finding ways to feel better NOW. It is living NOW. It is ultimately caring more about how you are feeling than anything else...more than being right...more than being the one with the most information about the problem at work...more than causing someone else pain because you are suffering. Letting go is a practice of finding peace and ease now, and now, and now.
Here is a process of letting go that is worth practicing:
Step 1 - You have to decide you absolutely care about how you are feeling, and you know that you are responsible for taking care of your feelings, 100% of the time.
Step 2 - You have to believe that you deserve to feel good. You have to allow yourself to come to the idea that you do not have to suffer.
Step 3 - You will want to understand the emotional scale. You can picture it as linear, either north/south or east/west. Draw a line. Put the worst feeling on the bottom or the left, and the best feeling on the top or the right. Then, start noticing what feelings feel best. It is likely that oppression, without choice or control, feels pretty bad. Anger, relative to oppression, feels better. Relief feels even better. Satisfaction, even better. Joy, ecstasy, and love are somewhere near the top.
Step 4 - Now, start noticing how you feel (not what someone else did or what is happening in the news), but how YOU feel in any given moment. Do NOT go into why you feel that way. What is happening may be real, but that is not the point. Blaming others or circumstances just keeps you from being responsible for how you feel. Get really good at noticing when you feel excited, and when that shifts to sad or relief. Just get really good at noticing YOUR feelings.
Step 5 - Once you notice you feel some kind of way that is not satisfying, you now have the chance to make yourself feel better. Analyzing why or what made you feel bad has NOTHING to do with this exercise of letting go. Your goal is to focus on something that makes you feel better now, and thus letting the negative feeling go. You are not letting go of the fact that someone was rude or whatever, you are letting go your attachment to a feeling that is not good for you, by focusing on something that will make you feel better. Once you feel better, you may need to talk to a friend who said something, but only after you feel better. Then your conversation is more real and authentic and not driven by the fact that you feel miserable and need someone else to take the blame for it.
Here is an example: You notice you are starting to get anxious on your drive home from work. There is a lot of traffic and things are taking longer than usual. It does not really matter why though; you just notice you feel yuck. Figure out what you need to do to feel a little bit better, up the emotional scale. That could be putting on a favorite song and singing with the others in the car. It could be making a phone call to mom or a friend on your drive to hear a wonderful voice (not to complain). Whatever will make your feelings shift upscale, is what you do. Maybe you can't do anything until you get home, but you decide to meditate or take a shower before making dinner, so you can shift to feeling better before doing anything else.
Then, notice when your feelings shift. You did that. You have the power to feel better. That does not mean that what was making you anxious (eg an accident on the road with a lot of backed up traffic) did not exist. It just means you cared about how you were feeling. You let go of worrying about the bothersome traffic and focused on something that brought your feelings up the emotional scale.
This goes on all day everyday, this letting go. And why? Because you DESERVE to feel better NOW.