Powerful, Emotional Writings: An Aid to Adult Child Abuse Survivors

The Process of Letting Go

I want to tell you a little about what I know about letting go.  When I first heard about this process, (and for me, it does seem to be a process), I was terrified by what I was told.  In retrospect, I see that fear was not really warranted, but certainly understandable.  I was told about this process, first in a 12 Step Group, flavored with its particular philosophy and agenda, later by various individuals who saw letting go through the lens of religion, native American teachings, new age teachings, probably even other ways that I don’t now recall.  Certain ways of seeing this process were less scary to me than others, but all of them attempted to describe something that is very real and natural.  I will attempt to tell you about letting go, without those prejudices, or diminishments, as much as I can.

This morning I went for my morning walk.  My morning walks are exercises in letting go, in relaxing into the NOW, into forgetting for a few brief moments, all the ways I can see myself; you might say that I’m taking off all the different “hats” I wear at various times.  I followed our dirt road out into a very open area.  On the way, different things would catch my attention – a squirrel here, a bird there, each vegetable area in my garden, a brief glimpse of blue sky and puffy cloud through the trees, the texture of the gravel under my feet, wild grapes hanging from the live oaks, each holding my attention for a moment each time, while I was still aware of the totality of this setting through which I walked.  I walked as slow as a little kid who had much shorter, weaker legs than I have.  I didn’t force that, it just came natural.  I quit thinking about all that was going on in my life, pulling my attention back gradually to just take in my surroundings.  Gradually I settled into the NOW.

I arrived at the field, where I usually “say” my morning prayers.  Displayed before me was a beautiful Robin’s egg blue sky, clean pure white puffy Cumulus clouds, that entirely wrapped the scene before me in every direction above.  Below that was a still well defined layer of fog, thick, textured, grey, and soft looking.  Below that I could see a denser landscape – an uncut summer hay field, horses staring back at me from a farm on the far side of the field, far off farmhouses, barns, fences, the entire landscape wrapped in tree lines of live oak.  Depending upon where my attention was, I could say that it was overcast, foggy, or clear with a few puffy clouds.  Each would be correct, but only a part of the reality that was true.  I experienced the whole scene without prejudice or dissection, just taking it in, seeing the beauty, feeling myself within that landscape, and experiencing a wonder that I cannot quite put into words .  For me, all that is part of the experience of letting go and entering the NOW. Along with my sense of wonder, was the knowledge, that the landscape before me represented the Truth about this Life we live.

One might say, “That’s beautiful!  It feels like what you say is true, but how could I live my life that way?  I have responsibilities!  I have a job, and a mortgage, and bills!  People will think I’m a loon!  I can’t do that!  I’m too screwed up!  I don’t have time!  People depend on me!  I wish I could do that, but I can’t!”

I have said all those things, and asked all those questions, and felt all those fears.  I was looking at a final destination, rather than a journey.  I saw it as something I had to do; something that I couldn’t do, rather than a process I was entering.  In truth, “not letting go”, is what we have done to ourselves throughout this Life; that is where “the doing” is.  “Letting go” is not about “doing”, although within the process, we may have lots to do.  It is more about accepting, awareness, absolute honesty (even about the layers of deception within ourselves that we and others put there), a process of grief for our losses (even the loss of how we have been seeing ourselves), and contact with others going through the same process.

I spent many years in group therapy.  I was looking for answers, looking for resolution, looking for a way to be “okay”.  I changed and healed more in that group, than I had in all my previous years of “one on one talk therapy”, or all the years of my own effort.  The two leaders set boundaries to help us feel safe, but they controlled nothing.  That environment helped some of us to practice “letting go”.  “Letting go” was necessary to get to our injuries in ways that were experiential rather than just intellectual.  Miraculous things seemed to happen on a regular basis.  By “letting go”, I was able to find a lot of resolution for my many injuries.  Others doing the same, helped me to let go.  My “letting go” helped others.  Our injuries as well as our indiscretions scream at us for attention, for resolution.  They grab and hold our awareness, and pull it from the NOW.  In my case, my “Caretaker” role (one of the many hats I wore), and my role as “The Black Sheep” in my family of origin, enshrouded my True Self.  Attending to those needs and dishonesties that were vowing for my attention, has allowed me to have a quieter internal environment.  It’s easier to let go now, after that practice.  I attempt to continue to do what I learned in my group. In a nutshell, I relax enough to let go of my need to understand, and follow my spirit.

I remember during my “crazy days”, where I was most out of control, my friends and I would smoke pot, and listen to an improvisational comedy group called “Firesign Theater”.  We’d laugh like loons at their silly antics, and crazy sayings.  I’m sure most of us remember some of those episodes.  One saying that stuck in my mind, in an odd way was “Everything you know is wrong.”  Everything in our culture or society, praises “not letting go”.  We are expected by family and friends to “not let go”.  We praise control, and see “letting go” as giving up.  They are not the same.  Jesus said that we must lose our lives to gain them.  There is wisdom in those words, because the lives we have built, are based on “perceptions” that are not true.  Those “perceptions” are not perceptions at all, but constructs that have been taught to us.  They interfere with true perception, true awareness!  “Everything you know is wrong.”

You might say, “how can I do this “letting go thing”, when I am married?  My wife and I fight, and I don’t want to give up my marriage!”  I only have answers within my experience, which work for me.  I’m sure you will find those answers that work best for you.  However, let me tell you a story.  Sometimes my wife and I have difficulties.  We get lost in stuff that just isn’t true, despite our best efforts to remain honest and caring, and non-blaming.  Relationships are difficult.  We have had many ups and downs.  During the “down” times, I’m sure we have each wondered if it is worth it, and have despaired.  During the “up” times I’m sure we both don’t question whether it is worth it at all.  We both were abused terribly when we were young, so we have had significant issues, to say the least.  Recently, each time I have experienced one of those “down” times, I have felt some pretty intense feelings of despair, despite a part of me knowing that my experience of despair would pass.  I strove to see what we were doing, what each of our reactions was, what was really true, to the best of my ability to know, noticing anything petty or untrue within me about our difficulty.  I also saw I had NO ANSWERS, other than my  understanding of our interactions.  I did not know how to fix what was wrong.  I can change what I do, but not others.  Many options lay before me, but which one was the “correct” one?  So I prayed to choose the “right” way of handling the situation. To my surprise I received no answer.  Or so I thought.  Each time, I sat with my wife, relaxed, knew I had NO ANSWERS AND WOULD HAVE TO JUST WAIT AND SEE HOW IT ALL CAME OUT (perhaps it wouldn’t come out the way I might choose, and I had to be willing to allow that!).  I’d keep my attention on her, not on solutions, or my fears of finding none.  My mind would be a blank, until the words were there.  The most honest words.  The most honest feelings.  The most honest unpolluted awareness of us and our situation, because it was all there in the NOW.  It all was just there.  I don’t think I can find any words to really describe it.  It has “happened” many times.  It has developed over time from all the little things that I have done along the way, and also, because of all the things that have happened to me along the way as well.

I told a friend recently, that during the “hard times” we let go more, and during the “easy” times, we let go less.  Those of us that choose this path of “letting go” may recognize the truth of that.  I have noticed in me, that I do that, but I also notice that there are far more areas in my life that I do not control anymore, and am allowing more areas of my life that are like that.  I also see that sometimes we will suffer, when we DON’T let go.  Suffering is optional.

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