Why Telling Yourself to “Let That Go” Doesn’t Work

2022-05-07T20:44:30-06:00October 28th, 2017|

Have you ever felt like you needed to let something go? Maybe it was a friendship, a job, a spouse, a grudge, or a cherished opinion. If you have, you know that telling yourself to let that go doesn’t often work.

And then there are the well-meaning people that say, “You need to just let that go.” Immediately when I hear that, I find myself thinking I know I need to let that go, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to do that. If it were that easy I would have let go already.

I recently listened to a beautiful four-minute meditation on my favorite meditation app – Insight Timer. It was based on the poem, She Let Go written by Safire Rose, as spoken and composed by Jac Godsman. It was extremely moving and I would recommend that you listen to it. You can listen HERE.

After listening to the poem, I began to reflect on the process of letting go and how we can arrive at that place that brings deeper peace to our lives.

I’ve noticed in my own life that letting go can be quite challenging.

Why is letting go so challenging?

The quote by Pema Chodron from her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times pretty much sums it up:

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Human beings are meaning-making machines. We have the ability to reflect and learn from our experiences and then create meaning out of them.

The psychiatrist Victor Frankl in his memoir Man’s Search For Meaning described how he created meaning in his experience of living in four different death camps, including Auschwitz between 1942 and 1945. Frankl believed that as human beings our primary drive isn’t for pleasure, rather it’s the pursuit of meaning.

Frankl said,

“In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

What does this have to do with the ability to let things go?

We usually want to let something go that is causing us some degree of suffering.

If it wasn’t bothering us we wouldn’t want to let it go. As Frankl suggested, suffering is transformed when we create meaning out of the experience. When we’ve extracted the meaning from the situation, we then transform the energy of feeling stuck into something that propels us towards deeper meaning and connection in our lives.

Here’s a concrete example from my own life:

Ten years ago I decided to leave a career in Nursing. I LOVED being a Nurse. After I left Nursing, I had a hard time letting it go. Why? Because I really loved it and it gave me a sense of purpose in my life. And yet… at a deeper level, I knew I needed to let it go so that I could move on to something that had yet to be created in my life.

Over time, I was able to let it go but not because I told myself to let it go. I was able to let it go by creating meaning out of my experience as a Nurse. As I began to understand why Nursing had meant so much to me, I was able to channel my energy into a new path.

The same could be said for our relationships. If you’re in a relationship and decide that you need to let it go, and you haven’t learned the lessons that the challenges of the relationship, you will repeat the same pattern in a new relationship.

I share a number of other examples from my own life in, What My Soul Taught Me – 10 Lessons For Living A Meaningful Life. 

This also goes for forgiveness.

So many people say they’ve forgiven and yet still hold the feelings of anger and resentment in their hearts. Forgiveness is the ultimate of letting it go. And yet, in order to let go of the anger and resentment we need to create meaning around the experience. For women, that’s often about learning How to Honor Your Boundaries to Prevent Resentment.

Wanting to let stuff go before we’ve extracted the meaning and soul lessons from the experience is what keeps us stuck.

In the process of creating meaning, we grow and evolve. The fruit of that growth is the realization that we have let something go. We let it go when it had taught us what we were meant to learn. And until the experience has taught us what we’re meant to learn, we’re not meant to let it go.

So perhaps as a mantra instead of saying, “let it go” we need to ask, “What does this mean?” and “What am I meant to learn from this experience?”

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About the Author:

As a Spiritual Life Coach and Meditation Teacher, Bev guides awakening souls around the world who are on a journey of self-discovery and want to live vibrant, connected and meaningful lives. Bev's coaching integrates meditation-focused practices and Enneagram-inspired wisdom that enables you to let go of what's holding you back and move forward with greater clarity and courage. As a professionally trained Associate Integral Coach™, Certified Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher, Enneagram Practitioner, Masters prepared Nurse, and author of Awakening a Woman's Soul, Bev guides you in becoming your future empowered self.

6 Comments

  1. Anne McGraw-Daigle January 1, 2019 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Do you know the author of that four minute meditation? I’d like to find it on Insight Timer.

    • Bev Janisch January 1, 2019 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Hi Anne! Thanks for the question. My apologies that something happened to the link. I’m grateful that you sent me the note so that I could go back in-fix it and then expand on the credits!! The poem was written by Safire Rose and was spoken and composed by Jack Godsman on Insight Timer. The link should be working now. Thank you again and enjoy!! Bev

  2. Elissa December 29, 2019 at 7:27 am - Reply

    So good. Someone sent me that poem and as lovely as the poem is, I felt bothered by it. I recently started a new turn in my journey. One that entails really understanding my own pain versus trying to subdue it or “let it go”. I’ve faked letting it go for years wondering what was wrong with me. This sums it all up perfectly and I will be sending this person your essay as my own response might be a tad less objective. Thank you!

    • Bev Janisch December 29, 2019 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Elissa! Thanks for your comment and for sharing why this message resonated with you. It’s interesting that I felt the same way when I first heard the poem. I’m so glad to hear that you are turning towards your pain. I know that that isn’t an easy thing to do. Much love for your journey! Bev

  3. Sarah January 4, 2021 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Thank you Bev! This was very insightful and helpful.

    • Bev Janisch January 4, 2021 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Sarah- You’re so welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful! Much love to you-Bev

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