Letting go of what’s familiar is pretty difficult to do. It means something has to open in your head and in your heart, but that shift never comes easy. Even change for the better is still change, but it’s often initially dreaded and avoided, and it’s always uncomfortable, at least in the beginning. We are creatures of habit, so the immense human reluctance to change is always the most difficult. Letting go fights more than the powerful magnet of the current situation. It also comes into conflict with compelling or distorted thoughts that make holding on appear reasonable and right. Every thought pattern is a shrewd argument against letting go; each needs to be directly challenged and re-scripted before your heart and mind truly open to a completely new state. At its deepest level, the possibility of letting go forces us up against our three strongest emotional drivers: love, fear, and rage. Human beings are emotional creatures and our emotions drive our behavior.
By understanding an individual’s primary emotional drivers, we know their ultimate motivations. When you ask someone if they want more money, while they may say yes, it’s typically not the money they want but what they believe the money can buy, whether it be security, significance, or achievement. The leading drivers determine how a person acts or reacts in a particular situation with another individual, to a significant extent. Actions and reactions to your surroundings vary with different primary drivers; every individual has specific ways to satisfy their own.
Letting go means confronting these invisible emotional barriers, bringing them into your awareness and then struggling against them. It means challenging irrational, unproductive thinking until you get your head on straight; facing up to your fear and then calling on your courage and your character to face it down, and it also means confronting your passionate attachment to the past and reducing it from a boulder to a pebble.
The greatest positive action steps to take are to anchor yourself in the future, discard, repair, transform your narrative, forgive, and learn to be present in the here and now.
It’s hard to let go of the past, especially in the absence of a positive view of tomorrow. You need a vision of the future. An investment in, a distraction through, or an excitement about something ahead will help to push you beyond the past, but creating it requires careful mental focus.
Pushing actively beyond the past starts with discarding. Emotionally discard when you are suffering and try to make amends; this generally involves reaching out to someone, face to face or in writing, and expressing your remorse. It’s a manner in which to put past history tightly behind you.
One single, powerful strategy for easing the pain of the past is to rewrite key aspects of your story from a more balanced, empathetic perspective. A healthy rewrite makes you feel less victimized, less devastated, and much less lost. It reduces the deep rage, loss, and fear that have been holding you back. Simply put, we are our own story and we are the only ones who can rewrite it. Rewrites do not attempt to change the facts of the narrative. They simply see those facts through more mature, more empathetic, and less injured eyes; those eyes then help you let go.
The transformed narrative is a step along the rockiest of paths towards forgiveness. It’s a lot to give up for the sake of mercy and you must come to believe that there is more to be gained by forgiving than by staying angry. Forgiveness is a decision, not an admission of defeat. There is nothing more powerful than the ability to be present; a technique better known as mindfulness. It’s an acquired skill and there are several positive, emotional, and spiritual side effects. As your ability at mindfulness increases, you will, by definition, get past the past!