Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Hardest Thing

I've been talking a lot lately about letting go and moving forward. It is simply an essential part of discovering oneself and creating a happy life.  It's also the step we resist the most. It is truly so hard to let go of things, people, even traits within ourselves. We're accustomed to the life and self we've come to know, and relinquishing pieces of that, even the negative pieces, can be incredibly difficult. I'll discuss saying goodbye to parts of ourselves in a future post. For this post, I'm going to focus on letting go of others.

Among the most dreaded actions, at least for me, is letting go of people in my life. My friends, family, and loved ones are my life-blood. Or so it often feels. I truly don't believe I would be making this journey without them. It is so helpful to have a strong support network while I transition my life. Sometimes though, we have to let people go, for one of two reasons: 1.) They are a constant negative influence in our lives, and far from being supportive, we realize they can be destructive or  2.) They've let go of us. This might be overt (like a breakup), or we might realize it as a result of their actions, or in some cases, lack thereof.

I'm honestly not sure which of the above instnaces makes the task more difficult. I'm sure in part it depends on the circumstances. Whichever the reason, this process is, without a doubt, painful. It also, once we conquer it, offers relief, and the opportunity to rid ourselves of the destructiveness that holding on to the person brings.

If the person hasn't intentionally done anything destructive or hurtful, talk to them first. They may not realize what they're doing, or how it's affecting you. Give them a chance or two to adjust. If you don't see them making an effort - and genuinely give them the opportunity to do so, it probably won't be an overnight fix - then it may be time to start pulling away. See how it feels, and how they feel, if you rely on them a little less, or have a little less contact with them. If they reach out or try to adjust their behavior, then perhaps they're getting the message. If not, then it's possibly time to let them go. But everyone deserves at least one chance to correct, so make sure they understand just how badly they're affecting you before you walk away. It's possible the person has some place in your life, it might just not be the place you thought. They might not be the close personal friend you'd hoped, but they may be ok in a group or on a limited basis. If they're intentionally being destructive, that's a whole other story. In that case, they've let you go, whether they intended to or not, and you need to treat them as such.

Letting go of someone who has let us go is more straightforward. You don't have to tread lightly - they haven't. That doesn't mean it's less difficult, it just means that it's more black and white. The one thing that I've learned, and it's been a very slowly-learned lesson, is that the quickest way to let someone go in this situation is to realize they are not the person who you thought they were. The reason it's so tough to let these people go is because we often have all these images, ideas, dreams (in the case of a personal relationship) of who we thought the person was and what we thought the relationship was (friendship, personal, even business). And maybe, at one time, they were and it was. But not anymore. They forfeited the right to be put on that pedestal when they chose to let us go. It doesn't mean they didn't have a legitimate reason, but they are no longer that idealized person - because at that moment they have chosen not to be, whether we like it or not.  Once you realize this and let it sink it in, truly believe it, you can more easily let them go. Because the person you're letting go doesn't really exist anymore. This isn't intended as a negative on the person per se. People change. I've walked away from situations and relationships because I changed, or because the situation itself changed, and I realized it wasn't fair to myself or the other person to stay. But I can honestly say, in those situations, the person I was walking out was not the same person who had walked in, for better or worse. And had the other person had every right to let me go just as I let them go.

Letting go isn't easy. But the more you focus on this minute on, moving forward, the less painful it becomes. It doesn't always mean letting go forever, but you have to accept that it might never be the same again. And when you stop making that a goal, when you stop hoping some day the situation will correct itself and you can go back to the "old way", then you truly will be able to start moving forward. Because at that point, you're not doing it for them - you're doing it for you.


  1. Beautiful, thank you!

    Letting go in connections has been a challenge in my life; however, I have come to see that merely allowing them room (energetic and/or physical) is a barrier to abundance and peace. Instead of "letting go", I focus on love and gratitude and *vesting in* enriching; allowing that which no longer resonates to naturally slough away.

    When I think in terms of "embrace my life" fully present, letting go becomes a beautiful gift and an honor of flow, nothing to fear (as I did) but to simply honor. In my experience, when I cling, I invite struggle, tension, pain; when I did let go, wonderful, resonant connections were perfectly placed, inviting more ease, joy, depth.

    1. Hi Joy,
      I love that you view letting go as a gift. You are very right, when you cling, there's struggle and tension and pain. When you let go, though I know for me at times there's the initial pain (ie a breakup or something) then you can watch things start to smooth out. I think this can be just as true with ideas and characteristics of ourselves (when we try to let go of a long-held trait that's hurting us but we're so used to it, for instance). I'm planning to blog about that end of things soon. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. I really liked this post. I especially got a lot from the concept that the person or relationship that you are clinging to may be one that no longer exists. I haven't done this exercise from Artist Way, but maybe now I will.
    I think you should send your letters. If they are written without blame or judgement, they would probably really have a positive impact. Who doesn't want to know that someone has been thinking about them and that they have made a positive difference in their life. Besides, maybe they can find some closure too.
    But, if you are breaking up with me, I take all of that back.

    1. Ha Melissa, not to worry! As for the letters, I think it depends on the kind of letters. Sometimes, I think people need to just write to get things out, and it's everything they wanted to say to the person but can't. If it's blame or judgement, then perhaps sending isn't the best idea (unless you understand the person may never want the chance to be in your life again and are ok with it). If nicely written and with respect, then I agree. Some of the letters I've written are from the artist's way, others just those I decided to write.

      I agree on the clinging to someone that no longer exists. It took me a long time to realize that. Whether they existed or all, that's up to you to determine, but it truly isn't all that important. What matters is they don't now. Doesn't mean they never will again, but right now, they do not so you're holding on to an idea or concept, not an actual person. It was a hard lesson to learn, and I'll admit made me feel a little silly/embarrassed/stupid but it was a very valuable one. And one I'm still learning with and working actively on. Thanks for the comment and the insight as always!