Here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re experiencing our typical autumn weather—which is sometimes warm and sunny, and sometimes cold and snowy. And through it all, I find myself admiring the beautiful trees as their leaves color, darken, and eventually fall. Any time the wind blows—even just a little bit—the trees around me drop a few more.
Trees have no problem letting go when the time comes. And yet, this tends to be a difficult thing for us humans to do. Instead of letting go of things we know we should—like uncomfortable, painful or scary feelings—we oftentimes find ourselves stuck to them instead.
How To Let Go
First thing’s first: We must understand that we don’t actually let go of feelings; they let go of us. When, how and why this happens is not always within our control. In fact, the process can be a bit of a mystery. Feelings have their own natural flow; they must run their course, in their own time, before they eventually let go of us. I realize that can be frustrating, but coming to terms with this is the first step. After that, there are things we can do to encourage an unwanted feeling to quickly pass and let us go instead of holding tight.
The trick is to learn how to anticipate the feeling in order to get ahead of it. If we pay close attention, we’ll likely notice a physical sensation that comes with the feeling—even before the feeling. This may be a contraction in the belly, or a warmth that spreads throughout the entire body. Sometimes, it’s a tickle at the back of your neck. As soon as we feel that initial sensation, we attach a story to it and give it meaning—and this is the part we want to let go of.
What To Let Go Of
Okay, here’s the thing: We can’t let go of the story, either. But if we investigate the story—if we dig deeper, to understand the real meaning behind it—we allow it to let go of us.
Angeles Arrien once described a tribe that was studied a great deal because of its complete lack of violence. One notable thing that researchers discovered about the tribe was how everyone within the tribe honored and worked with their dreams. First thing each morning, everyone talked about their dreams—and let the previous night’s dreams inform the following day. Even more interesting, the members of the tribe—even young children—also paid attention to their waking dreams (what we call daydreams).
Whenever someone had a negative waking dream (like, say, imagining themselves driving over a cliff) they would say to themselves, “That’s a story that doesn’t need to happen.”
Meanwhile, if they had a positive daydream (like imagining themselves coming into great fortune, or helping a friend in need) they’d say, “That’s a healing story.”
I remembered this tribe when my children were teenagers, and they and all their friends were learning how to drive. Their friends’ cars would pull up in front of the house to pick them up, and my mind would immediately conjure a car crash. And I would say to myself, “And that’s a story that doesn’t need to happen.”
Now, I invite you to try it for yourself. Pay attention to the stories that you tell yourself—and also tell yourself that they are stories. The negative scenarios that play out in your mind are simply stories that don’t need to happen.
You’ll see that something shifts within you when you can recognize the story—and the fact that you are the storyteller and the story keeper. Once you understand that you hold the power, the story will let go of you and drop like a leaf that has run its course.
I would love to hear from you.. What stories have you told yourself?