"It's time to let go". "You've got to let go." Letting go is one of the clichés of the new agey spirituality and holistic healing scene. I've lost count of how many times I've heard people utter those words. But what does it really mean, to let go? How do you let go?
Here are some thoughts.
As Danial Odier has said, " How do you let go if you, don't hold things, if you don't touch things in full consciousness with a totally open heart.... Everything begins there; touching the universe deeply" (D Odier, Tantric Quest).
Letting go without, fully tasting, touching, seeing, feeling is denial or suppression. Odier again: "If you let go before touching deeply, that can bring on severe mental turmoil".
Acceptance is not a passive lying down and taking it. Acceptance is being real, being with what is. Being real means recognizing that everything is impermanent, imperfect and incomplete. There is a moment in one of Robert B Parker's novels where a psychotherapist says to a new client, "Here, all we are interested in is the truth". That is it! Here are some things to accept.
ACCEPT THINGS AS THEY ARE
Whatever is happening IS happening. Things ARE as they are. Not to accept things as they are is a colossal waste of energy. Yet so often we do not live in the truth of things, but in some non-existent dream world where everything is "better". The psychologist Albert Ellis, spoke of the hubris of demanding that the universe conforms to our every wish and whim. Get real! Nearly every therapeutic session I hold with a client begins with the inquiry: "What do we have here?". "Here, all we are interested in is the truth" Accepting things as they are means, too, accepting people as they are. That's tough. One of the biggest sources of distress is wanting, demanding even, that people be other than are.
ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS
One of my great inspirations is the Zen inspired psychotherapy of S Morita. (A much neglected Japanese contemporary of Freud and Jung). Morita points out that we have virtually no control over our feelings and emotions, Feelings come, feelings go. That is as it should be. That is the natural way of things. We do better to accept our feelings than to try to change them. It is OK to feel sad. It's OK to feel mad. It's OK to feel afraid... This flies in the face of modern attitudes which suggest that we should feel happy all the time. I for one, feel sad that the mental health (I hate that phrase) authorities are on a mission for us all to be blandly happy all the time.
ACCEPT YOUR SELF
What is at the heart of acceptance is non-judgment. Yet most of us have an overdeveloped inner critic ever ready to shame and blame and even undermine our value as a human being. Albert Ellis had a theory of "One unit of human worth". We come into this life with one unit of human worth. Nothing we do in this life that is amazing and virtuous adds to that one unit of human worth. Nothing we do in this life that is despicable or dastardly takes away from that one unit of human worth. We leave this life with one unit of human worth. This applies to Mother Theresa or Hitler as it does to you and me.
At a stoke, Ellis demolished the entire Self-Esteem bandwagon. Good man! Most people are a little shocked when they first hear this theory. Maybe you too. But think about it. There is liberation there. One final thought. Truly, radically accepting oneself opens the question of who, or what exactly is the self that is being accepted. An interesting question that one.
This is the bit that so often gets missed out of therapy. You've got to bring the body in.... and do something with it.
One way the body gets involved in letting go is relaxation. I'm talking about actual physical release of tension. Everything we are not letting go of, we are clinging on to, literally clinging on with muscular tension. We need to find, feel and release that tension. Sometimes, through deep bodywork we can let go of stuff we have no words, no images and no concepts for. Alan Watts has even suggested that our illusory sense of an "I", that is permanent, unchanging and separate from everything else exists deep down as a core tension in the body. That would be a very interesting exploration.
But action is more than that, action is Doing something. Morita's key idea is that we can't change our feelings, but we can change our actions and actions can transform feelings. In my sessions with clients, after we've made the inquiry "What do we have here?", the question that so often follows is, "What needs to be done?". Sometimes, there is a direct action: go tell her you're ending the relationship, quit that job etc. Other times the action is less clear. My formula here is to ask, "If you had let go of this, if you were free of this, what would you do next?" Then go do it!
And remember: doing is doing but deciding to do, is not doing. A decision to act is only a thought. Only an action is an action. One of Morita's principles is: when you know what needs to be done, do it, do it now even if you don't feel like it. Your feelings can be a locked door - "too high you can't get over it, too wide, you can't get round it, too low you can't get under it". Your actions can be a sled hammer.
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Who Am I?
I am Nicholas Hudis an author and mentor dedicated to the path of self-cultivation. After 25 years as a therapist/coach, I see that the need is not for therapy but for cultivating the skill to live wisely, ethically and purposefully. I am no "sage" but the wisdom of Confucius, the Buddha and the Stoic philosophers guides me on a daily basis. My desire is to share this inspiration, through my writings and personal mentoring, and make a difference to your life too.