The Challenge of Letting Go
The Union Path Podcast - The Challenge of Letting Go
Change is hard. Changing is hard.
It can be really hard to face things in our life that we know we need to change, and then beyond that, it can be really hard to actually change them.
We can feel the struggle and strain of really trying to do something different, really trying to be someone different. We can feel the immense pull, the immense gravity of what we've always done. Of our habits, of our routines, of the safe and predictable of the known.
But when it comes to a time where we know change is needed. When we've reached a point where the pain or the struggle or simply the payoff of what we've been doing simply isn't worth it anymore,
that the effects of continuing to do the same thing, have piled up to where the hit will take from making a change seems less, seems more reasonable. Those are the times where we decide to change, those are the times where we decide to act.
But just making the decision, as hard as it is to finally come to grips with how things really are, how things really are for us, what we've really been getting, despite whatever our expectations are, that's hard.
That's hard to face that truth, especially when we had a lot invested in our expectations. Especially when we really wanted things to go a certain way, we really wanted to get a certain thing, we really wanted something to happen, it could be hard to let go.
And of course, the more invested we are in it, the more of an emotional charge this has for us, the more difficult it can be to let go. Because often, strong emotional charges indicate some sort of unmet need, something underneath what we're doing that's being nourished or at least placated through our action.
But even when we've decided to change, even when we've decided to do something different, actually doing something different can be really difficult.
Because these two things aren't the same thing, right? Decisions and actions aren't the same. One is thought, one is behavior. Or to look at it another way, one is conceptual, one is practical. One is an idea, and one is actually a lived experience, they're different. Almost as different as one is purely theoretical and the other is purely evidence.
And when things get real, they often change. And the degree to which they change is obviously dependent on how important it's, how big of a deal it is, how high the stakes are, how much fear is involved , how much pain is involved, how much need is involved.
But when we've reached a point where we've decided to let go of something, and we've done all the work to really be honest with what this has been like for us, what we've really been getting, what our needs really are, who we really are,
and we've decided to do something different, there's still things that come up when we actually start to walk that path, when we start to change our behaviors.
And the way I like to think about this is, whenever we encounter something that is in any kind of way a coping strategy, is something we're doing to make up for or to calm and satisfy something else, it's not as simple as just doing something different. If we're doing something to help us feel better, because we feel bad for some reason, just changing the behavior doesn't automatically make us not feel bad.
And sometimes can actually make things more complicated, because it could feel like now we have two problems. Now we have the problem of having to change our behavior, but we also have the problem of these unmet needs, these things that we're driving are coping behaviors in the first place, getting stronger because they're not really being addressed.
We can see this in any sort of addictive behavior. That whatever the activity is, whatever the substance is, whatever we're doing to backfill the void within us, just by changing the behavior doesn't really do anything about that void, that void persists. Even though he was connected to the behavior that we were doing, it doesn't mean that it in any way is filled in or healed by us just deciding to not feed it the way we've been feeding it anymore.
And so that's really hard, that's really hard when we notice some sort of unproductive, unhelpful, or even destructive behavior in our life. That when we decide to change the behavior, it's really critical to look a little bit deeper and ask ourselves why?
Why were we doing this? Why are we engaging something that was, especially in hindsight, so openly and clearly not good for us, not what we wanted.
Well, that's the thing about unmet needs, that's the thing about pain. We can spend a lot of time trying to distract ourselves, trying to stuff that pain down. Trying really hard to not directly look at it, not directly engage with it. And so our behaviors and actions around it can really fall into ignorance, can really fall into ignoring, because that's what we're doing.
This hurts so bad, this is so uncomfortable, this is so difficult, I don't want to think about it, I don't want to feel it, I just want it to go away. I just want some relief. I just want to feel okay.
And of course these desires are perfectly understandable. Of course we would, of course we do. Suffering by nature is not enjoyable. Persistent suffering is something we should change. That's not how it's supposed to be.
Suffering is obviously unavoidable, but it's depth and duration are definitely modifiable.
We can work on these things, we can heal these things. And if the pain is really great, if the unmet needs run really deep, we may not be able to heal them as good as new, but we can definitely heal them. We can definitely get to a place where this pain and unmet needs aren't constantly haunting us, where we're not as possessed in our thinking and our behavior, but that takes work and that takes time. It's hard to let go of hard things.
So as we walk through our lives and we've decided to change something, we've decided to stop doing something, even when we've made peace and we've really accepted the reality of the relationship that we have with whatever this is. We've made the decision to do something different, and now we've even walked the path of doing something different, we can still encounter that void. We can still encounter that loss. We can still encounter some sense of grief or discomfort.
And these are things we need to walk through as well. We need to continue to heal on the way. We need to pay attention to what comes up and deal with these things fully. We need engage with ourselves on exactly where we are and exactly what's happening.
Because again, if we were doing something to satisfy or calm or soothe something inside of us, and now we're doing something different, if that doesn't seem to immediately contradict those fears, immediately soothe and heal that pain, then fear can creep in.
On some level we can think, oh no, I had this thing fairly dealt with,I'd gotten things to a level of where these needs or this pain weren't completely taking me over, and now that I'm not doing what I was doing, to hold these things down,
they're gonna come rushing up and take over me. Or maybe in not so dramatic way, maybe we're worried we're wrong. That's the thing with sticking to the familiar, there's not a lot of risk of the unknown there. Yeah we may not necessarily like what we've been getting or what's been happening, but at least our expectations can usually be met. The more familiar we are with something, obviously the more accurate our predictions will be about how this will be to live with.
But that's the thing about change, it's intentional growth, and there is no intentional growth without strain. Intentional change is hard. It's hard to break momentum. It's hard to do something different. It's hard to be something different. But if it's change that we're trying to create, that's what has to be done.
And as we're walking the path of change, it's important to pay attention to whatever comes up for us. Because if we're engaging in some sort of unwanted behavior, if we're continuing to do things we don't actually want to do, then one of the ways we can really get at whatever was driving those behaviors, is to stop doing whatever we had been doing. In some way that forces a confrontation with ourselves. That forces whatever is unmet or un-dealt-with, unacknowledged, to come rising up, to get louder, to get more obvious.
Especially when any sort of substance is involved, which we can often use to mute or blur these needs or this pain. Once we stop engaging with these substances, it can cause these needs or this pain to get a lot louder, to get a lot sharper, to be a lot more in our face.
But the truth is, no matter what comes up, we can deal with it, we can handle it. It's been my experience that a big part of addictive behavior has been the belief that whatever it is that I'm trying to soothe, if I don't manage it, it's going to take me over. It's going to take me out. It's going to be too much.
My experience of actually walking through dealing with what lies underneath, is that's not actually true. It's not actually true that whatever that is will be too much. It's almost like by ignoring that pain, ignoring those needs, I'd built up a bit of a legend. I'd built up this incredible story of this unstoppable, insurmountable giant that lived within me. I had expanded both grandeur and power, these energies that were within me, that were driving these unhelpful behaviors.
But my experience is by actually confronting and engaging and addressing these parts of myself, doing it slowly, one step at a time, dealing with things as they come up, it's not insurmountable at all. It's not easy, it's not enjoyable, but it can be dealt with one step at a time.
Because that's the thing, this belief that there's something inside me that could either take me over or even destroy me, if dealt with all at once, that might actually be true. If all that pain, all of those needs, everything else were to come rushing up all at the same time , that might actually be too much.
But the beauty of awareness, the beauty of walking through things one step at a time, is I didn't have to deal with it all at once. I could deal with it step by step, piece by piece. Whatever came up, I could address it in that moment. I could sit with it.
Sometimes that pain and those needs would come up and I would act in a way I didn't really want to. I could be a little bit more angry than I wanted, I could be a little bit more reactive than I wanted, could be a little more aggressive,
I could be all sorts of things that are far more prickly unsavory version of myself that I myself probably wouldn't really wanna spend a lot of time around.
But when these things come up, these things happen, they can be addressed. That's how change happens. We notice something, we decide to do something about it, and then we do. And all those three steps are required in order to create change. We can't create change of things we don't notice. We can't do something different until we've decided to do something different. And we can't actually create change until we actually do something different, until we're different.
It's just the way it works. And it can be really easy to lament or feel bad about the awkward and clumsy ways that we walk through change, but especially with something big, especially with something painful, that's how change happens.
The way we change is the way we change. We have to find an ability to give ourselves some amount of grace, some amount of patience to be able to walk through change and the way that we need to be able to walk through it.
We need to have the tolerance and the grace to allow ourselves to walk through what we need to walk through, in the way that we need to. We need to have the patience and the resilience to be able to deal with things as they come up, to be able to know that change isn't accomplished in one step, especially with anything big. It's a path that we have to walk, it's a journey we have to go on. And we have to accept and deal with whatever comes up along that path, on that journey.
We don't really get to dictate how we go through change. But we do get to dictate how we deal with what comes up, and what we decide to do next.
Just like life, in a lot of ways, we don't choose the immediate events of our lives, but we do choose what we do with that information. We do choose how we respond. We do choose how we continue. We may not always get to choose what's happening, but we do get to choose what we do next.
And so when we're walking through our change, when we're walking through letting things go, and having feelings of fear or regret or doubt or just pain come up, it's important that we learn to reassure ourselves. It's important that we learn to be able to find some amount of soothing through our own knowing, through our own awareness.
We can remind ourselves that we decided to do something different on purpose, that we have very good reasons. And that the reasons for doing what we had been doing, we've decided aren't very good anymore, and we've decided to act with better reasons, do something different, because we've decided on some level to be different.
And so we walk ourselves through change by being open and aware every step of the way. By continuing on with what we decided to do in dealing with what comes up along the way. And when we do and we're met with fear or doubt, we can remind ourselves why we decided to change in the first place. We can remind ourselves this is what we really want. we can remind ourselves that our desires, our deep on the inside in our heart desires, can be trusted, are good, are right for us.
We can also remember that with any sort of change, there's always an in between. There's always an uncomfortable valley we have to walk through where the change doesn't seem to either be happening or doesn't seem to be working yet.
That can be a really lonely place. That I can feel like we're stuck in between two realities. Stuck between the past that we've known, that for some reason want to break away from, and the future that we want, that we really want to experience.
Walking through that valley can be really hard. If it's something really big, if it's something really important, walking through that valley can get pretty dark, can get a little scary. But we can keep going.
We can find the resilience to deal with whatever comes up because these things are feelings, and feelings are meant to be dealt with. They're meant to flow through us. They aren't meant to be captured and concentrated and confined deep within us. They're meant to be freed. They're meant to be experienced, they're meant to be felt. Feelings are energy and energy needs to move.
And as with change, we need to keep moving as well. We need to keep moving towards whatever it is we've decided to move toward. We need to keep becoming whoever we've decided to become.
If this matters to us, we really do need to keep going, that's our job. And we can really aid this process and finding a way to be gentle and understanding with ourselves, finding a way to balance persistence with patience. Finding a way to balance fear with faith. Finding a way to balance grace with drive.
Walking a path of change, especially a challenging one, is oftentimes the mix of different qualities. Is the ability to experience and engage with different energies, it's nuanced, it can be complicated, it can be hard.
But it is possible, and it gets more possible by the more we realize, the more we really believe that this change, whatever it is, is not only possible, but it's good.
That on our path of change, when we're confronted with things that make us uncomfortable, make us weary, make us afraid, make us doubt, we can remember we're doing all of this for a reason. We're doing all of this for a good reason, and we can keep going. We can survive some doubt. We can survive some pain. We can survive some suffering. We can survive some discomfort. Because whatever it is, this pain is worth it. Whatever we're doing, whatever change we're creating, when we decided to do so, when we decided from a point of self-awareness, when we decided from a point of awareness, awareness,
we can know this is exactly what we're supposed to be doing. We can know that whatever's happening is exactly what is supposed to happen. We can know this is what it is and this is good because of this is what we've chosen, and then we continue on.
We won't remain in the valley forever. We won't feel fear and pain and doubt forever. These things are temporary. These things are part of the process, part of the journey, part of what we signed up for when we decided to change. When we accept that, these things are just all part of the process, these things are all included in the change we've decided to create, then that in and of itself makes the path that much easier.
A lot of fear and a lot of doubt is triggered by our belief that we've done something wrong. But what if we try to believe, especially with the change that's really important to us, that we didn't do anything wrong? What if we withhold judgment until any reliable evidence actually indicates that a mistake has been made?
What if we going to change with the assumption that we're right, and that this is good, and we will continue to believe this until proven otherwise? We can trust ourselves to pay attention, we can trust ourselves to know when something isn't right for us. And when we've landed on a change that we know is right for us, we can learn to persist. We can learn to walk through the fear and the doubt, through the not knowing, through the not being able to see exactly what's gonna happen before it happens.
We can feel guided and buoyed by our own sense of knowing. We can find confidence in the trust in ourselves, in the trust in the deep part of ourselves, that knows where we need to go, and is subtly yet persistently guiding us there. We can trust our feelings. We can trust our intuitions. We can trust ourselves.
We can trust ourselves that we're doing the right thing, and we can trust ourselves that if we need to do something different, we'll know. We'll know because we're listening, we're paying attention. We're not ignoring anymore. We're open and aware. We're seeing fully, we're listening fully, and we're walking intentionally.
So when we know these things, when we really know these things, that we're doing this on purpose, that this change is good, this change is right for us, and we'll keep walking in the direction we're walking until proven otherwise,
we can be calm, we can abide, we can deal with whatever comes up, and just keep going.
Because in order to achieve the change we're trying to achieve, we have to keep going. We have to get there. We have to finish in order to get the full benefit of change, the change has to be complete.
There really is no partial credit. If there's a change that we want to create, we really do have to go all the way, and we can go all the way, when we do it with our full selves. When we do it as open and aware as we possibly can be. We do it through courage. We do it through knowing. We do it through an openness and willingness to really look at ourselves, really look at our lives, and really deal with whatever comes up along the way.
Doesn't instantly make change easy. Doesn't instantly give us all the answers that we'll need, but everything that needs to happen will happen along the way. And we can trust when we're walking the right path, when we're in-tune and in-line with who and what we really are, and where we actually need to go, then we will actually get there eventually.