One of the most frequent barriers to moving forward in life that I’ve seen in my one-on-one work with clients, is the inability to let go of something that wants to be released: a destructive emotion, a painful sensation, an old holding pattern in the muscles, an even older thought pattern.
One of the most popular responses I hear to bringing up this focus of letting go in session is,
“I just don’t know how to let go.”
And, you can totally get why. This intangible idea of letting go can be very difficult for the mind to grasp, and even more difficult to put into practice.Here are the most common wrong turns on the road to powerfully letting go. I’ve discovered them in my 14 years of guiding people to do just that.
9 Common Pitfalls to Letting Go
1. Thinking of letting go as something TO DO
Letting go is not an action, but the absence of action, in fact. Letting go is what naturally happens when you just Be. Notice if your big strategy to letting go is to push something out, with a forceful breath or the shake of an arm, by tightening your body in some way. Against all best intentions, this reaction only strengthens the body’s hold on what you’d like to release.
2. Not fully letting it in, in the first place.
Letting go is not about ejecting something and being rid of it. In order for something to move out of you, you have to let it move through you. (Often this fear and resistance is actually to feeling more deeply.) If we let it in more, we’re afraid we’ll get stuck with it, not realizing that all this clamping down is actually what’s keeping it stuck there. Not to mention, it’s distracting us from the nitty gritty, juicy work required to move on.
3. Trying to control the way it moves (based on what you think it should look like).
Let what wants to happen, happen. Let the most natural course take place. Perceive and receive this as a gift. Expect extra and exciting surprise treasures that you wouldn’t get if you were the one actually in control. (Besides, you’re not anyway. The sooner you get this, the more fun you’ll have.)
4. Believing you can’t do it.
As in, walking up to the high dive, and then chickening out. You can do this. I promise. You wouldn’t be here, presented with the opportunity if you couldn’t. The only way this could actually be true is if you believe it is. Challenge that voice.
5. Getting stuck in the story.
This means, believing any and all reasons for why you’re stuck, how you got there, how this always happens to you, etc. Get out of the story. A story that doesn’t empower or serve your highest excitement is junk, anyway. The mind holds a low priority for your attention in the work of letting go. Stay with the sensation, your highest priority, now. What does it feel like? Trust the intensity. Open to it. Take the risk.
6. Scrutinizing every move (aka am I letting go yet?)
Have a little trust! Just breathe, and put your attention somewhere else for a minute. If you can give it just a lil space and have faith that it’s actually happening, everything will be on its merry way. If you hover over its shoulder, it’ll just end up re-reading the same word over and over, until you can leave it alone.
7. Enabling destructive habits.
Adding your favorite destructive coping mechanism to your system forces your energy and body to first clear and take care of what is most urgent. This might be alcohol, overeating, excess t.v., or whatever habit it is that drains you of your energy, motivation, and true focus. Stop your default distraction reaction in its tracks. Start fresh. Refocus.
8. Beating yourself about the process.
Everyone who has ever gone through a breakup knows you let go in layers. It might take 5 more times around the block to get to where you really want to be. Acknowledge your progress. Remember where you came from. Be good to yourself. Your best is enough. Your pace is fast enough.
9. Deluding yourself into believing you already let go or it’s not important work.
Tricking your self into thinking that sticky old thing is gone, no sweat, just like that, is easier than you think. Pretending it’s gone may seem like an easy way out, but that pile is going to keep growing and growing until you wonder where that awful smell is coming from. How will you know when you have honestly let that old way go? Find a concrete answer that feels true (like when I stop thinking this or when i start feeling that). Then, pay attention to landmarks and breakthroughs.