HOW TO LET GO [COMPREHENSION GUIDE]
We humans really like to cling to things, even things that we know are bad for us. One reason is likely because the more we feel like we know ourselves, the more we like ourselves (Baumgardner, 1990). If we already know ourselves as someone who’s in a relationship with a certain person, we might not know ourselves as well if that relationship ends. Or, if we quit a job—even a job we hate—who will we be then?
Knowing ourselves is such an important part of our well-being that letting go of something central to the way we see ourselves can be scary. We are uncertain of who we’ll be or how we’ll feel. And as a result, we can get stuck, clinging to both good and bad things in our lives, unable to practice acceptance and move on.
The thing we probably have the hardest time letting go of is the past. We might be going through something challenging and wish for “the good ol’ days.” We might long for someone we loved to be in our lives again, miss a good friend that we drifted away from, or even wish an important person was still alive and with us today.
Here are some tips for letting go: Below there are 17 tips and advice from me for how you can let go of someone or something. Don’t feel bad about what you are doing for yourself as we know that we need to be happy and be at peace with ourselves based on the choices to make. Remember as I keep sharing that it starts with us and ends with us.
1. Expect the best
When letting go, try to think about the good things to come in the future and expect the best. If we expect to fail, we are actually more likely to fail (Bénabou & Tirole, 2002). When we do let go of what is holding us back in the past or even some situations that we can’t control, we will feel freer and be able to do what we want when we want. We’re the author, painters, and creators of our life, and we can do what we want to see in it in the present and future.
2. Let go of blame
When we blame someone we make assumptions about the intentions behind what they’ve done (Malle, Guglielmo, & Monroe, 2014). Maybe we think they were intentionally cruel to us with the goal of hurting us. But wishing that the other person acted differently does us no good. Instead, we’re better served by thinking about how we might act differently to get what we want in the future. When we let go of the person or situation that we blame that maybe we need to turn our thoughts around and ask ourselves why it happened, how it happened, and what could have been the other situation if that didn’t happen in the first place and if we change that mindset of ours then everything should fall back into perspective and place.
3. Practice self-compassion
Practicing self-compassion can be a useful tool to help heal wounds and move forward effectively. So try to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself for any mistakes, and accept your needs as they are.
4. Look for silver linings
When we get stuck in fear, we often only see the potential bad outcomes without looking for what could turn out well. Try to shift your mindset to let go of fear or anxiety and replace it with hope or optimism.
5. Try journaling
I don’t know about you, but I’ll often hold onto fear just because I don’t want to forget all the things I “think” that I need to be worried about. I can’t relax knowing that things are up ahead and that I might not be prepared enough. That’s why daily journaling can be a big help. Consider writing down a list of things to let go of. Once they are down on paper, commit to letting go of them in your head. You can always go back and look at them if you feel you need to, but the interesting thing is that you often don’t—writing them down gets them out of your mind.
Create a positive mantra to counter the painful thoughts
How you talk to yourself can either move you forward or keep you stuck. Often, having a mantra that you tell yourself in times of emotional pain can help you reframe your thoughts.
For example, says clinical psychologist Carla Manly, Ph.D., instead of getting stuck in, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” try a positive mantra such as, “I am fortunate to be able to find a new path in life — one that is good for me.”
7. Create physical distance
It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that you should distance yourself from the person or situation that is causing you to be upset.
According to clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., that’s not such a bad idea. “Creating physical or psychological distance between ourselves and the person or situation can help with letting go for the simple reason that we are not having to think about it, process it, or being reminded of it as much,” she explains
8. Do your own work
Focusing on yourself is important. You have to make the choice to address the hurt that you’ve experienced. When you think about a person who caused you pain, bring yourself back to the present. Then, focus on something that you’re grateful for.
9. Practice mindfulness
The more we can bring our focus to the present moment, says Lisa Olivera, a licensed marriage and family therapist, the less impact our past or future has on us.
“When we start practicing being present, our hurts have less control over us, and we have more freedom to choose how we want to respond to our lives,” she adds.
10. Be gentle with yourself
If your first response to not being able to let go of a painful situation is to criticize yourself, it’s time to show yourself some kindness and compassion.
Olivera says this looks like treating ourselves like we would treat a friend, offering ourselves self-compassion, and avoiding comparisons between our journey and those of others.
“Hurt is inevitable, and we may not be able to able to avoid pain; however, we can choose to treat ourselves kindly and lovingly when it comes,” Olivera explains.
11. Allow the negative emotions to flow
If your fear of feeling negative emotions is causing you to avoid them, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, Durvasula says that many times, people are afraid of feelings such as grief, anger, disappointment, or sadness.
Rather than feeling them, people just try to shut them out, which can disrupt the process of letting go. “These negative emotions are like riptides,” explains Durvasula. “Let them flow out of you… It may require mental health intervention, but fighting them can leave you stuck,” she adds.
12. Accept that the other person may not apologize
Waiting for an apology from the person who hurt you will slow down the process of letting go. If you’re experiencing hurt and pain, it’s important you take care of your own healing, which may mean accepting that the person who hurt you isn’t going to apologize.
13. Engage in self-care
When we are hurting, it often feels like there is nothing but hurt. Olivera says practicing self-care can look like setting boundaries, saying no, doing the things that bring us joy and comfort, and listening to our own needs first.
“The more we can implement self-care into our daily lives, the more empowered we are. From that space, our hurts don’t feel as overwhelming,” she adds.
14. Surround yourself with people who fill you up
This simple yet powerful tip can help carry you through a lot of hurt. We can’t do life alone, and we can’t expect ourselves to get through our hurts alone, either, explains Manly. “Allowing ourselves to lean on loved ones and their support is such a wonderful way of not only limiting isolation but of reminding us of the good that is in our lives.”
15. Give yourself permission to talk about it
When you’re dealing with painful feelings or a situation that hurt you, it’s important to give yourself permission to talk about it. Durvasula says sometimes people can’t let go because they feel they aren’t allowed to talk about it. “This may be because the people around them no longer want to hear about it or [the person is] embarrassed or ashamed to keep talking about it,” she explains. But talking it out is important. That’s why Durvasula recommends finding a friend or therapist who is patient and accepting as well as willing to be your sounding board.
16. Give yourself permission to forgive
Since waiting for the other person to apologize can stall the process of letting go, you may have to work on your own forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to the healing process because it allows you to let go of anger, guilt, shame, sadness, or any other feeling you may be experiencing and move on.
17. Seek professional help
If you’re struggling to let go of a painful experience, you may benefit from talking to a professional. Sometimes it’s difficult to implement these tips on your own, and you need an experienced professional to help guide you through the process.
To let go of past hurts, you need to make the conscious decision to take control of the situation. However, this can take time and practice. Be kind to yourself as your practice refocusing how you see the situation, and celebrate the small victories you have. Letting go is a surprisingly hard mental challenge. It takes time and practice to get good at it. Hopefully, some of the suggestions in this article will help you to let go and move on with your life in ways that make you happier