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Live Life Fully: How do you let it go when it's out of your control?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Let it go. Everything happens for a reason.

How many times have we heard that phrase -- or said it to someone else?

My favorite twist is: "Although we wouldn't have scripted things this way, the end result will be better." And I truly believe that. Because it often takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough.

Left to our own devices, though, we tend to just meander through the muck. Change is hard, and releasing the need to control a situation is even harder.

The Serenity Prayer nails it: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

But that's the thing. Sometimes we don't know the difference, and then sometimes we just beat our heads against the wall anyway.

We think if we try hard enough -- or manipulate the players long enough -- we can will the result we want.

Why do we beat ourselves up in our minds so much? If this were allowed to happen externally, we could all be charged with abuse!

"We replay past mistakes over and over in our heads, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape our actions in the present," says author Lori Deschene. "We cling to frustration and worry about the future. That creates stress in our minds and bodies, potentially creating serious health issues -- and then we accept that state of tension as the norm."

Now hear this: If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thoughts.

A technique developed by author Bill Austin, the "Let it Go, Forgive, Surrender, Forget and Move On Cycle" applies to a lot of areas. Maybe you need to let go of a relationship. Or release a painful life experience like losing a job, coping with the death of a family member or ruminating over being "done wrong."

This can be very painful because we usually don't decide to release things until the pain of holding on to them becomes too unbearable. When we're in this space, we're not only releasing the past, but we're also mourning. It's critical that we're as nurturing to ourselves as possible.

The "Let it Go" phase is about taking responsibility. Decide to let go of the person, event or circumstance, reminding yourself that resentment is like drinking poison -- and expecting someone else to get sick!

The "Forgive" phase is about healing yourself on the inside so you can be happier on the outside. Forgiveness doesn't mean you condone the other person's behavior. You forgive other people because it helps you heal yourself and move on.

Many forgiveness issues originated in early childhood. If we have issues that need re-examining, we'll often attract someone into our lives to mirror that. So, the person who infuriates you is giving you a heads up that you need to look at something. And that something may not be the person himself, but the issue he or she brings up for you.

How can you know the difference, though? Try using "The Four Questions" developed by author Byron Katie. When you really examine these, you may find some surprises:

 

  • Is this true?
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  • Can I absolutely know it's true?
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  • How do I react -- what happens -- when I believe that thought?
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  • Who would I be without the thought?
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    The "Surrender and Move On" process is likely the hardest. It's about embracing the change on all levels. If we don't heal this situation, our souls will often re-create the lesson for us to learn in another way.

    You'll know you've reached the final stage, "Forget," when the event no longer has that intense emotional charge on you.

    Check out these tips, suggested by Deschene, for coping along the way:

     

  • Write down your frustrations in a journal. Get your feelings out.
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  • Use the silly voice technique. According to Russ Harris, author of "The Happiness Trap," swapping the voice in your head with a cartoon voice will help take back power from the troubling thought. Remember the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher? Or you could just say, "Thanks for sharing, Babbler."
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  • Put yourself in the offender's shoes. We all make mistakes, and odds are you've slipped -- just as easily as your husband, wife or friend did. Compassion dissolves anger.
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  • Help someone in need.
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  • Look for your role in the situation. It's so easy to point the finger at someone else. In doing so, though, you give away your power. Acknowledging your role helps you emerge -- feeling more empowered and less bitter.
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  • Move -- exercise decreases stress hormones and increases "feel good" endorphins.
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  • Express yourself creatively -- blog, paint or dance.
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  • Practice deep breathing, meditation or prayer. Get out into nature.
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  • Watch a funny video on YouTube for five minutes -- switch up your energy.
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  • Wear a rubber band on your wrist, and gently flick it when you start obsessing. This trains your mind to associate that type of persistent negativity with something unpleasant.
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  • Identify what the experience taught you -- to develop a sense of closure.
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  • Post this statement where you'll see it: "Healing myself means letting go. And I'm worth it."
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    My favorite affirmation, which I repeat every night while going to sleep and sometimes during the day, comes from a mentor, Louise Hay:

    "All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. And I am safe and protected always."

    'Nuf said.

    Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 2530l or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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