You know if a phrase starts to appear on Instagram feeds, casual conversations and as coffee shop/Christian bookstore/strip mall yoga studio chotchkies, it’s become a cliche. Such is the the case with the now reduced-to-pablum phrase of “let go”. “Let go” has joined the ranks of “everything happens for a reason”, “YOLO!” and “follow your arrow”.
“Let go” is often well intended but poor advice (as most advice is) that encourages the recipient to suppress emotions and experiences — all in the name of “moving forward”. But you can’t let go of memories. Our brain doesn’t work that way. You can’t let go of feelings. Our heart doesn’t work that way.
Of course, I get the intention of “letting go”. We shouldn’t hold on to things. It’s part of being human. But “letting go” has also contributed to the mis-understood concept of non-attachment. Non-attachment is also humanly impossible. Like wearing wool socks through a sticker patch and not picking up stickers. We attach to people, ideas, things, beliefs, symbols. (The solution is aware attachment — but that’s a different post).
So what the hell does “let go” actually mean?
Let’s introduce a metaphor that will help explain a healthy, realistic type of letting go …
The physical world is made up of solids, gases and liquids. Metaphorically, universal truths are solids. Everything produced by the ego is gaseous. And feelings are fluid. In their liquid state, feelings follow the same laws of fluidity as in nature. When held on to, water becomes first still, then stagnant, then toxic. Feelings are the same way. They are meant to pass through; to flow. But we hold on to them (that whole attachment thing, again).
Let’s examine this further with common emotions and feelings …
When suppressed or contained:
- Anger becomes resentment. And by my observations and internal wars, resentment is the most destructive of human emotions.
- Desire becomes destruction which becomes shame or regret.
- Hate becomes apathy which becomes violence.
- Pride becomes loathing which becomes arrogance.
- Envy, fueled by comparison, becomes greed.
- Worry starts off as control and becomes anxiety.
- Loneliness begets isolation which begets madness (and extremism).
- Boredom produces numbness which then leads to the death of joy.
Even positive feelings are meant to pass on through …
- Happiness trapped in a holding tank becomes lost expectations.
- Reverence retained becomes idol worship (and when given a business model becomes a literal or figurative religion).
- Gratefulness gathered becomes unworthiness.
- And love (not Love, that’s different) can become obsession.
So a much more accurate use of “letting go” is this …
Feel it all.
But don’t hold on to the feeling.
Let go of the holding on to the feeling.
If it’s a negative feeling, it will pass. If it’s a positive feeling, another one will soon come.