I just had a dream that reinforced this insight I had the other day: Experiences that are troubling, intense, or traumatic cannot just be “let go.” They need to be processed, digested, and integrated. Then, we grow. But this idea that we need to “let it go,” does us and our experiences a disservice. Sure, the momentary upsets—someone cutting you off, not giving you what you want, or displaying a character trait that upsets you—by all means practice letting go on that stuff. Do your breathing, imagine it sliding off of you, whatever.
But the big stuff is a full meal that needs to be enzymatically processed—with movement, therapy, prayer, writing, art, talking, ritual, etc. Usually with more than one of the above. And possibly over years, with regular re-do’s as the new old fragments surface. Let’s be clear, though: There is no sealing off, either. When you seal off the old stuff, it costs you the suppleness of your self; it ferments and then explodes or seeps toxins into your life. Sorry for the icky digestion metaphors, but a) I have a one-year-old, so it’s right there and b) it’s apt—we truly digest our lives or we don’t or we do it halfway—whatever we can bear. That is fine. But we do not “let it go.” It’s our life, possibly the only one we get, not a red ballon we can release, which we now all know just pops eventually and hurts a dolphin.
We are all holding something that we think we should have let go of already. Can we all agree on this?: No beating ourselves up over it. No “letting it go.” But no holding it tight and sealing it off, either. Acknowledge its presence and be tender toward it—if it’s such a big deal that it didn’t just evaporate, it probably requires your attention and your care. What does it need? What is it trying to tell you? Listen, write, move, talk to someone OK with dark and tender things, and digest a little bit at a time. I’m pretty sure this is how we get more wise, more loving, and more magic.