Have you ever had a disagreement with someone and even after a resolution came you had a hard time letting go? Or maybe you inadvertently said or did something offensive and you only found out after the fact… yet you hold on to the hope that you’ll be able to make it right even when that may not be possible. Now, I’m not talking about the “big offenses” in life – that’s for another post.
What I’m talking about are those distracting ruminations that continue to gnaw at you long after an embarrassment, a misunderstanding or what some might call a ‘faux pas.’ You know, those things of everyday life: a harsh moment, a critical statement, forgetting to do something you promised, a misunderstanding, an eye-roll or a few words that could have been more empathic….
Are you holding on to all those thoughts and feelings because —
- IF you let it go, do you think the other person will win?
- IF you let it go, do you know the other person was right?
- IF you let it go, do you believe you are accepting what happened?
Letting go isn’t about victory or defeat. Interpersonal relationships are not battles to be won or competitions to the finish!
A-HA TIP: Don’t underestimate the power of perception! For any event, remember: it’s what you MAKE it mean, more than what it really meant.
For example, years ago, I did my very first training, it was a co-training with a trainer whose style was completely different than mine. We had to blend our styles for an entire day for a large group. Long story short, I personally thought the training was far less than it could have been – not a disaster, but near disaster in my mind. A few months ago, I bumped into the person that had hired us to do the training — here it was years later and I realized I was still sweating inside about that less than perfect training… “What will he say and how will I respond? ran through my mind. I was sweating….
To my relief, he only remembered “the good stuff” he had learned. Funny what we make things mean in our mind — that near disaster taught me many lessons on becoming a better trainer. And he had a great training memory too.
I didn’t mention my previous feelings about that fateful day to him because they changed in that very moment… right then and there years later I just let it go — he was pleased, and had been all along, that’s all I needed to know. The lessons from that first near disaster day and this latest day were both great learning moments for me. I realized what I make something mean isn’t what others make it mean. We each create our own reality (or story) about events.
The older I get, the more I realize there is no one reality.
So Why Are You Holding On Instead Of Letting Go?
What are you afraid will happen if you let it go? In what other ways did the situation benefit you in what happened? Are you still mad, sad, embarrassed, ashamed… at the other person(s) and/or yourself?
3 Tips For Letting “It” Go
Tip #1 Focus only on what YOU can change – yourself. Know that everything you do or say affects the emotional state of the other person, but the only person you can really control is yourself and your own choices. Letting “it” go is not about forgetting, it’s about forgiving you and the other(s) involved.
Tip #2 Focus only on the now, this moment. The more we focus on the present, the more we stay engaged with how we are currently thinking and feeling. If you are feeling or thinking about any of this just partial listed of possible feelings below, you are not experiencing what is happening in the present moment. You are in the past or the future.
Can be both the past and future:
- Seeking Excitement, Thrill or Pleasure*
The reason I have an asterisk by seeking excitement, thrill, and pleasure is not that either is less than helpful, it is the seeking that takes us out of experiencing the moments of thrill, excitement, joy, and pleasure.
#3 Focus only on one thing, one action, one thought that you will change right now. What is that new you being, doing, thinking right now that will lead you to a different, more productive outcome? Write it on a post-it note and place the note in a location that you will see often. Visual reminders are important to reinforce the change.
Bonus TIp: Focusing on your breathing is one skill many have found to be helpful to stay present in the moment. Whenever a negative thought arises, stop and take several deep breaths, and examine whether the thought, feeling, belief is true and/or helpful. In what ways can you learn and move forward with new insights and perspective?
Holding on keeps you stuck, just as the words “HOLDING ON” imply.
Note that life is in constant motion. No matter how hard we try to stay in the moment, there will be situations that test whether we will flee into our own self-doubt or even self-flagellation, which is a huge component of holding on…or move through it.
Holding on too tightly to an offense, whether you were the offender or the offendee is like feeding yourself poison and waiting for the other person to die.
It just doesn’t work. Letting go of holding on releases you to enjoy the moment and have a more peaceful now and future.