What if we create and maintain problems in our life because it provides us with a sense of identity and comfort? For example, the way we hold onto the pain of a break up because that’s the only thing we have left of the relationship, or staying angry at someone for something he did because that’s the only means of having a semblance of control in the situation, or worrying about an unknown in the future as an attempt to have some say over how it plays out. These fixations give us an illusion of power and control and perhaps even contributes to our sense of self. Life is far from simple, and we do a very good job of making it more complicated by creating even more problems for ourselves. If we could learn to simplify our life by simplifying our thinking and thus our behavior, we would be a lot happier in the long run.
If we work on creating an identity for ourselves that is irrelevant to external factors and issues, we would find ourselves living less in the past or worrying about the future. Focusing on how you can be the best person you can be today, this week, will give you a new and improved sense of empowerment. By letting go of expectations of shoulds, woulds, and coulds, and focusing on the right here and right now, we can live each day more fully and be open to more positive things in the future. This process starts by letting go of the things that no longer serve you.
The power and sense of identity that we get from holding onto things is born out of perhaps feeling like you’re right and someone or something else is wrong, additionally, maybe playing the victim role feels nice because you get others’ attention, love, and support, and maybe you’re even enjoying the pity party that’s happening inside your own head, and finally, staying in an uncomfortable feeling is uncomfortable, but it’s familiar and safe, allowing you to avoid venturing into unknown territory. While all those are nice temporarily, they hold you back from reaching your ideal goal: a happier, simpler life.
The process of letting things go starts by getting rid of your frustrations with yourself and your life. Talking and/or crying something out can be very cathartic and healing. Processing why you’re holding onto something and unable to move past it can help you gain the insight you need to then shelve it and not allow it to identify you anymore. Once you’ve figured out why you stayed in an abusive relationship you can begin the healing process and no longer be “the person who was in an abusive relationship.”
Channeling your irritation and/or pain into a positive productive action is also helpful in getting rid of a frustration. Whether you decide to volunteer and help others, or you just take care of something personal for yourself that you’ve been putting off for awhile, it’s a good way to not let a frustrating situation hold you back, rather allowing it to drive you forward. By doing this you’re focusing your frustration on something that you can control rather than allowing it to control you.
Express your frustration via whatever creative outlet you have. Whether you journal, paint, write music, video blog, etc., this is a visual manifestation of your feelings, a physical reminder that you’ve officially off-loaded the frustration and it no longer needs to live rent free in your head.
Letting go of anger with yourself and others is another step in simplifying your life. Feel it fully, taking the time to understand where the anger is coming from. Rant about it in a safe place (to a friend, mentor, therapist, or via journaling or the like). Take responsibility for your part of the situation, being honest about what part your actions played. If possible, have a non confrontational conversation with the offender about your feelings. Remember that you cannot control how the other party reacts, but you do have control over how you express yourself in a mature composed way. Try to understand the other person’s perspective; we all make mistakes and appreciate others’ understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Recognize that holding onto anger hurts you more than it hurts the person you are upset at. Make a conscious choice to let things go because you are seeking happiness.
Practice stress management to cope with, reduce, and not allow everyday stress to build up. Use deep breathing techniques to clear your head and elicit a real physiological relaxation response within your body. The endorphins released by physical exercise is another great way to make you feel good and relieve stress. Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive self-talk. Recognize that worrying is an exercise in futility; it doesn’t change the outcome, but it sure takes up a lot of headspace. If you’re having a hard time with this one, speak to someone who can help you figure out how to do this more effectively. Make lists, organize, and prioritize your tasks by breaking them down into smaller manageable pieces. Having an operable plan often makes you feel better.
Once you are able to let go of anger, anxiety, and stress, you open yourself up to receiving more positive things in the future. You can create and maintain a self identity that emanates from a more positive internal place that is then more impervious to external factors.
This post was written by Rivka Rochkind, LCPC