The concept of letting go of our emotions is something I have heard a lot about in my healing journey. But it always felt like an abstract idea and something that people say without giving guidelines on how to actually do it. After exploring various methods, I finally found one that worked, and I want to share this with you.
At first, I thought I was letting go quite successfully. I was meditating a lot, and when a negative emotion bubbled up, I would recognise it as negative, and then say in my head “I let you go now”. And for a while that worked. But soon I found that old patterns would creep up again and I would find myself circling that dark abyss, wondering how I got there. And then the self-blame would crop up: “how could I let myself get here again?” and “I thought I’d grown out of this, what have I done wrong now!”
This would do nothing for my emotional state. I'd get trapped in cycles of self-blame, berating myself for not being 'better', which simply triggered more negativity, which in turn made me feel guilty. Surely after all these years of therapy and developing my spiritual practices I should be able to deal with my own feelings?
And it was exhausting. Being in this constant cycle of self-criticism meant that I couldn’t grow. I couldn’t do any of the things I was dreaming about because deep down I still believed that I was stupid, incompetant and I wouldn’t amount to anything.
My breakthrough came after I read “Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender”, where Hawkins explains that how we feel about our feelings is our biggest block. If a negative emotion bubbles up and we judge ourselves for having this emotion, we give it more power. We descend further into making ourselves small, because these emotions are “bad” and so it follows that we are a “bad” person. So in order to fully “let go”, we must go through a process of feeling our feelings.
The process of letting go (emphasis on process) requires us to let those feelings run their course. And not in an intellectual sense - thinking yourself out of a feeling won’t give you the result you’re looking for. Feeling them physically in our bodies, letting ourselves cry, scream, punch the sofa cushions! Once you do that, we can open up space in our emotional body for peace, for joy, for love.
So instead of letting go, I invite you to reframe it as “making space.” What is taking up space in your mind and body that is weighing you down? That makes you feel negatively about yourself and your environment? That keeps holding you back and makes you feel small? Once you pinpoint it, I invite you to look at it from a place of nonjudgement and ask your feeling what it needs. And then, open up space in your body to give your emotions what they need in order to complete their cycle.
And I say all this not as a switch that you can flip and be quote-unquote “healed.” But as a consistent practice that enables us to be on our side and understand our internal landscape, so we can make decisions that are aligned with who we are and not who we think we should be. This way, we can learn to exercise compassion with ourselves in all stages of our growth, instead of falling into those patterns of self-criticism. Because we all deserve to live our lives joyfully, so we can make this world the best place it can be.