One of the rock solid foundations of any re-booting process is 1) extracting the valuable lessons from our painful experiences and 2) letting the rest go. Far easier to say than do… I’ve addressed this topic on more than one occasion, but it’s a message worth repeating since getting tangled in the messy cobwebs of our lives is a common experience. There is always something beneficial for us to extract from painful moments, but only if we have the good sense and sanguinity to search it out. The rest, however, should be dispensed with asap.
What pain are you allowing to hold yourself back?
(Yes, I said allowing.)
For understandable reasons, most people cling to their pain because they believe that letting it go will somehow diminish the power of the experience—an irrational belief based on the fear that doing so will somehow erase or invalidate the injury. Having something feel like it’s disappeared is confusing. I know because this is what I worry about, too. For us to effectively let something go demands both intellectual understanding and emotional acceptance—the former is useless without the latter.
So, so hard to do.
Previously, I’ve written about protective vigilance which has become one of my favorite phrases of late. It encapsulates so much. We are protective of so many things, some of which hurt us. We nurse the pain. We probe the wound to see how much it still throbs. We fixate on the ugliness of the scar, wincing as we extract new blood, taken by our own hand. The idea of somehow removing all that thickened tissue from our awareness is unsettling. “Is excising part of our past a good thing?” we wonder. “Doesn’t doing so invalidate something important?”
No, it does not.
This is a super hard lesson to learn, but we’ve all seen examples of people who refuse to let go of their pain. We’ve seen the damage that clinging can do. We hold ourselves back—even injuring those around us—as a result. I know someone who suffered the devastating loss of her son to suicide. I can’t imagine a greater pain than that, but in the intervening years, she has made this loss the centerpiece of her life. Her two other kids exist in the shadow of daily, hourly mentions of the deceased. Nobody is allowed to move on. Now, it is not for me to assess the grieving process for others, I know this. But, what I see from the outside is how this mother’s fear that her son will somehow be forgotten is poisoning the existence of her two remaining children. It makes my heart ache for them all.
This fear of forgetting is real. But what we fail to understand is that moving on does not diminish us or negate what happened. Moving on allows us to take the very best of it that we can…and do better.
Why don’t we want to do better?
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,” wrote Shakespeare. This quote resonates so much with me that I’ve made it the underlying motivation in my next book. Finding a way to extract the good from difficulty is the best way for a re-booter to move forward to a better existence. Wallowing in our pain is sick. It’s toxic. And it’s not how we are intended to spend our time. Doing so accomplishes nothing productive, and ultimately diminishes us.
Does what I’m saying make any sense?
I know how hard this is. I know what’s involved. I know the fears that get provoked. But taking these leaps of faith are the only way we will cross this chasm. The bridge is there—we just have to cross it. We’re the only ones who can.
You know what it is you need to let go of. Maybe today is a good day to start…