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MAKING IT BETTER: Letting Go…Such A Hard Thing To Do

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Monday, July 4th, 2016

I have always thought and even prided myself in having the ability to travel through life as lightly and with as little baggage as possible. Let me qualify that statement by stating that I am speaking metaphorically. In real life I am the traveller from hell! My family, particularly my long suffering husband I’m sure has come close to developing ulcers, and other stress related conditions from living in constant fear that we will either not be allowed to board our flight due to my excess luggage or I would be asked to unload some of the contents of my baggage at the airport. Fortunately this time I am speaking about the emotional and psychological baggage we accumulate over the years, that weigh us down and we carry around like a ball and chain.

In principle it completely makes sense to ‘Let go and let God, forgive and forget, let sleeping dogs lie’ or however else you want to put it; both from a professional point of view as a counsellor/Minister and from a rational position. Holding on to pain, anger and the like can only leave you toxic and hold you back. However the realities of things look and feel a lot more differently and are complex. Sometimes as much as we want to let go, we may not know how to live a life that doesn’t revolve around the pain of the past.

I came to a rude awakening a few weeks ago when following an encounter with a friend that left me upset, I found myself over wrought and my mind flooded with old hurts and a desire to retaliate over feelings I thought I had severed ties with and drawn a line under. I was completely floored by the emotions because they felt so intense and raw. I was unable to make sense of why I was still so attached and impacted in that way.

I was recounting the experience with my friend to my daughters and as I spoke I saw the quizzical look on  their faces and my younger one who finds it very difficult to see me upset in any way asked me why I was still so affected by being around this person. She said she thought I had worked things out and what I was describing was more or less the same feelings I had several years ago. I was truly caught off guard and very surprised that I was still carrying around the baggage of something completely unresolved. This informed me that something was either tied up with this friend directly or was misdirected, displaced and projected onto this friend; whatever the case it was something that I had to address.

Attacking others and taking pleasure in another’s perceived failures is sometimes a reflection of what we dislike in ourselves. Diminishing others in our eyes is a way of trying to resolve our own feelings of low self-esteem. Often the real reason for our judgements of others is our own harsh self-judgement. If we feel confident and are self accepting, we generally have no need to condemn others. Learning to take care of our own vulnerability enables you to recognise it in others and to possibly empathise.

Most people go through their entire lives unable to empower themselves sufficiently to alter the things that are not working in their lives and without ever examining the reasons for those failures. By not taking this proactive step to do the necessary work required to have a different narrative, you remain with the same unsatisfactory results. What you are left with is the urge to blame others for your inability to let go of beliefs, attitudes, emotions that are not serving you well.

Changing the trajectory of your life requires even the smallest step in a different direction from where you are. They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Yesterday is gone, we cannot determine the future and all we have is the gift (a present) of today. Living in the moment is very powerful because you have the ability to actively do something different, positive that can alter your (or someone else’s) life tomorrow. Just think of it, how amazing is that possibility!

There are so many blocks we place in our own way that discourages us from letting go of past mistakes, hurts, failures etc. The unhelpful broken down record that keeps replaying in our head tells us things like; ‘I have bad luck, I’m not good enough, I’m not as good, I’m not as smart, I’m not as rich, I’m not beautiful enough and the list is as long as the day. It’s important to know that as much as we allow ourselves to believe all these negatives are faults, they are ultimately only beliefs that are based on the interpretation of the facts. So we have the power to change the outcomes. How you manage the feelings of being hurt or wronged can actually be more important than the actual hurt itself.

Blaming others for our feelings of hurt leaves us in limbo, and stuck with unhelpful emotions primarily because you are left feeling powerless. Nursing grievances indefinitely leaves you hurting deeper and longer than the person who actually hurt you. This is mostly because you tend to relive your pain over and over in your mind, and every time you relive that hurt you push it down deeper in your heart. We also have the capacity to embellish the reality and truth of what actually happened to sustain the hurt.

When you hold on to old hurts and pain, it’s akin to living in a small, dark, locked room with nothing coming in or going out. Eventually all the oxygen in the room is used up and you shrivel up and ‘die’. The only way to receive new joy (air) and happiness (food) into your life is to open up and make room for it. If your heart is filled with pain and hurt there is no space for anything other than the same.

Make the decision to let it all go. Acknowledge your hurt, your pain (it’s real), then empower yourself by making the choice to be happy. If it’s appropriate, express your hurt to the person you feel hurt you, if not express it to a friend, relative, write it in a journal, speak it out in a mirror. Do what you need to do to be rid of it, get it out of your system, and let it go!

Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. Make the decision and take responsibility for your own happiness and don’t put it in the hands of someone else. Allowing our feelings and beliefs about the past to limit our effectiveness and happiness in the present will only result in regrets, wasted energies and opportunities.


Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a holistic counsellor and an ordained Minister


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