There is a saying that is very popular in psychology and with the self-improvement crowd: "Let go or be dragged." This advice tends to apply to relationships in one form or another. But, what does that phrase really mean? What are we supposed to let go of and how do we know when it is time? That is the tricky part. However, there are ways to know when to let go. Here are some examples of when it could be time to move forward.
A Bad Relationship
Many people stay in bad (or unhealthy) relationships much longer than they should for many reasons. For example, maybe you do not want to upset your children's lives. You want to wait until they get older. No one can make a decision to stay or go other than you, but there are sometimes other aspects of staying to consider. It is possible that staying could hurt the kids more by making them live in a toxic household where the tension can be cut with a knife. Children can tell when there is something wrong, even if you think you are hiding it really well. Pretending to be happy is hard on all of you and can damage your relationship with your children in the long run. There are many factors to be weighed when making the decision to stay or go in a serious relationship.
In other cases, people may stay in an unhealthy relationship because of low self-esteem or because they have normalized an abusive partner. Some people stay for financial reasons or because they are worried about being alone. Some people stay due to religious beliefs.
Let Go of Emotional Baggage: Both Excess and Hidden
The term ‘emotional baggage’ typically refers to the lingering emotional effects and contents that are left over from a previous relationship or experience. It can become extremely heavy. Still, many people do not even realize the amount of emotional baggage they have been carrying. They do not know what is wearing them down mentally and physically. Your previous relationships, mistakes, painful incidents, guilt, regret, and anger from the past all could be impacting how you are interacting with your world in the present moment. There can be excess baggage that you may recognize and hidden baggage that you may not realize is there.
Everyone carries some of the weight of past pain forward. These are the issues that you have pushed away. They are hidden somewhere inside you, ready to drag you down right when you are done getting rid of the excess baggage. The only way to get rid of hidden baggage is to find it and address it. You can talk to a close friend or family, but it is usually better to speak to someone who is impartial. Friends and family tend to want to agree with you to make you happy. That might not be the response that propels you to grow. There are professional mental health professionals you can talk to online without even having to make an appointment if you would like some guidance. In fact, you do not even have to leave your home.
Cannot Let Go of the Past
It is not easy to change your way of thinking, but sometimes it is the only way to get rid of that emotional baggage that is dragging you down. This includes letting go of your past mistakes or past actions done to you by others that caused hurt and anguish. Sometimes we do not even know we are holding onto resentments. We may keep thinking of the past, comparing our old life to our new one, blaming things that happened to us before for what is happening to us now.
You may even be blaming yourself for the bad choices you made in the past. Maybe you have regret about the secrets you kept, the relationship you should have stayed in, or the job you should not have left. Regardless of the past, our future is what you make of it. You cannot go on living by what happened to you in the past. It will drag you down. This is what is meant by ‘let go or be dragged.’ To let go, you need to talk about your past, try to understand your feelings and choices, learn from them, and move on.
The only way to let go of your regrets and live in the present is to accept the past. There is no use in trying to dissect past problems and look for answers; you do not really need answers. The human brain seeks understanding when something negative happens by asking questions. We want to make sense of why we are hurting in order to try to prevent future pain. But pain cannot be prevented, and sometimes the most healing thing to do is to accept your feelings about what happened. If you knew the how and why of every negative event that occurred in your past, there is still no guarantee they would never happen again. You cannot change the past. The only productive thing you can do is accept it and let it go. A helpful question to ask yourself is "What did this teach me?" instead of "How can I change what happened?" This can help focus you on yourself in the present and on your personal growth.
The act of forgiveness can be an important component in letting go of the past. Forgiveness is an action. It involves a conscious choice to forgive yourself for your mistakes or another person for the pain they once caused you. Forgiveness is a choice that you make for yourself. It allows you to set down the heavy burden of your pain. It is not about forgetting what you learned from the past. Instead, it is about letting go of painful feelings. This act can seem more complicated than it actually is, and there is no mystical way of deciding to forgive. The process involves acknowledging realistically what happened and how you felt about it. Then, decide to accept that people are flawed and make mistakes. You can choose to forgive yourself or someone else for past hurts so that they do not have to keep taking up space in your current life.
Who Can You Talk To?
There are many different websites now where you can speak to a licensed therapist or counselor about what is bothering you. BetterHelp is a great option. You can talk face-to-face, on the phone, chat online, or text on your phone or other devices.
Events from the past can live on in ways that can be difficult to understand. Sifting through the past to find the roots of your current issues can be a highly stressful, long, and difficult process. But until you learn to let go, you will continue to be dragged by them. The good news is that psychologists have studied the ways in which you can recover from past traumas for decades. Treatment can be successfully delivered online. For example, researchers have spent a good deal of effort testing the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with online therapy. As early as 2007, counselors had developed a means by which their subjects could learn to ‘let go’ and show significant results in recovering from their condition.
Licensed mental health practitioners at BetterHelp can aid you in moving beyond your past. What’s more, they can administer treatment to you all from the comfort of your own home. Online therapy is easy and convenient. Hear what others had to say below about their experiences with BetterHelp in which they worked on getting a handle on their past.
“I've only had a couple of sessions with Laura so far, but she really helped me get through some tough times recently. Great advice and just a really amazing listener. Lets me kind of just vent but has ideas that can help me and a bevy of coping mechanisms. It's helpful to hear her perspective on things that I'm struggling with and just a huge weight off my back to have her as a support system. Her bio is impressive as well and she has a lot of experience with stuff that I've had problems with in the past and present. Sorry if there are any typos--I've been in the process of moving and my brain is totally fried. Thank goodness for Laura! Looking forward to our session tomorrow (:”
“Alan Kahn is a warm and likeable person. He is knowledgeable and strategic in his attempts to get to the foundational issues. I came to him not quite understanding the reason I felt the need to get therapy so we are exploring my past together to come to some sort of determination of what's needed. I have enjoyed our sessions thus far and look forward to getting closer to my awareness.”
Sometimes letting go is not as simple as the self-help books suggest. It can take time, support, and oftentimes some new skills in order to start to reframe your past and move forward. This can be especially true for people who have experienced traumatic events and experiences in the past. Remember: the way you have been trying to move forward could be causing you more pain and complication. Trauma can impact the brain and the way that it incorporates new learning. It can impact sleep and memory and cause feelings of anxiety and depression. If you have been trying to move forward with your life after a traumatic experience or childhood but cannot seem to, you are not alone. It is recommended that you speak with a doctor or therapist about what you are going through.