If You Love Something, Set It Free: Letting Go And Moving Forward
For some people, letting go is a profoundly emotional and transformative experience. Navigating the challenge of releasing deeply held attachments often requires a gentle, empathetic, and informative approach. Although letting go can look different for each person, a few actionable steps might help you cope with any feelings that surface for you during this process.
By exploring the reasons behind the difficulty of letting go, recognizing when it may be time to move on, and discovering practical tips for embracing change, letting go is a process you may be able to conquer. In addition, support is available if you struggle to move forward on your own.
Understanding the concept of letting go
Letting go often appears challenging due to an emotional attachment to a person, situation, or object. Fear of change and a sense of loss often factor into an individual's reluctance to move forward. However, understanding that everything in life has its cycle could help you accept that change might be a natural part of life.
In addition, there are often benefits of letting go, depending on your situation. For example, you might experience the following:
- Personal growth
- New opportunities
- Emotional health
When you learn to let go, you may feel more open to future possibilities. It may allow you to make room for fresh experiences and relationships while helping you release any emotional baggage that could hold you back from your goals.
How to know when to let go
There are a few signs that you might benefit from letting go of a situation, person, or idea, including the following:
- Neglecting personal needs
- Unhealthy behavioral patterns or habits
- Extreme fear or emotional distress in your current situation
- A desire to change your life
Although it can be tempting to resist your reality or feel that nothing in your life can change, acceptance is one way to actively decide to make a change. You can start with the following steps:
- Being honest with yourself
- Evaluating the pros and cons
- Seeking external perspectives
One way to further accept your situation is through the dialectical behavior skill called radical acceptance. To practice radical acceptance, try the following steps:
- Observe how you might be questioning or fighting your reality.
- Remind yourself that your reality cannot be changed in this situation.
- Try to note any causes for the reality. Acknowledge how many people do not have control over who they fall in love with, but you can control how you proceed.
- Practice acceptance with your mind, body, and spirit. Use positive self-talk to tell yourself you are willing to accept this situation, even if it is difficult.
- List all the behaviors you'd partake in if you already accepted this situation. Then act this way until you find it aligns with your reality.
- Cope ahead by thinking of ways to accept the situation if it worsens.
- Attend to your body sensations using mindfulness or meditation to connect with yourself.
- Allow disappointment, sadness, grief, or anger to arise if they do. Note them and do not act on them. Give them the space to exist.
- Acknowledge that life can be worth living, even when there is pain.
- Create a pros and cons list if you are resisting acceptance further.
Practical tips for letting go
When letting go, it can be valuable to embrace your emotions. Embracing your emotions might mean acknowledging your feelings, allowing yourself to grieve, and seeking support from others. Talking to someone you trust about your emotions could also provide relief and understanding. You can also create a new narrative by reframing your thoughts and focusing on the future. Instead of dwelling on the past, set new goals and concentrate on what you want to achieve moving forward.
Finally, establishing boundaries might be crucial when letting go. Setting boundaries might include reducing contact or disengaging from specific behaviors or conversations. Decide your limits, communicate these boundaries with the person or situation involved, and remain consistent.
Coping with the aftermath of letting go
After you've let go of a situation, object, person, or idea, you might experience emotional changes as you cope with the difference in your life. During this time, try to remember that healing can take time. Be patient with yourself, practice self-compassion, and recognize your progress. Healing may not be a linear process, and it can be normal to have setbacks if you keep moving forward.
If you find it challenging to cope with the process of letting go, seeking professional help might be beneficial. Contact a therapist or counselor, participate in support groups, or consider online therapy options. Even if you feel shame about asking for help, a therapist may provide the tools and support necessary to navigate these feelings.
In the aftermath of letting go, it might also help to reconnect with your interests and passions. Rediscover old hobbies, pursue new interests, and engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment to your life. These pursuits could help you rebuild your sense of self and foster personal growth.
Building resilience for the future
Developing a solid support system might be crucial for building resilience. A robust support network could provide encouragement, understanding, and assistance in times of need. Try to cultivate meaningful friendships, strengthen family bonds, and make connections within your community.
You can also take a few lessons from letting, such as those about yourself or your life. Reflect on the lessons you've learned from the experience and apply this newfound wisdom to future situations. Try to be open to personal growth and embrace the opportunity to evolve because of your experiences.
Finally, practicing mindfulness and self-care could help you build resilience for the future. Engage in regular self-care activities, practice mindfulness through meditation or yoga, and prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. You might be better equipped to face future challenges and make healthier decisions by taking care of yourself.
Moving on can be challenging for many people and might feel like a mental or physical block. For others, mental health and wellness are barriers to moving forward. Regardless of your situation, therapy can be a tool for letting go. In addition, if you find traditional therapy doesn't fit within your budget or schedule, you might try online therapy with a therapist who can work with you from home.
One benefit of internet-based treatment through a platform like BetterHelp is that it may allow you to gain professional guidance when experiencing difficult emotions. A therapist can offer a safe space to express and process your emotions. They can also provide you with tailored coping strategies and tools to manage the challenges that may arise during this transition. With an online platform, you can also have flexibility in your schedule, as you can meet with a therapist outside of standard business hours and choose between live chat, video, or phone sessions with your therapist.
In addition, a study by Lindsay L. Barber found further evidence of the effectiveness of online therapy in facilitating recovery from a breakup. It showed significant declines in participants' anger, loneliness, and drinking to cope when they used an online chat or journal intervention compared to a no-treatment control condition over 12 weeks. The results suggest that tailored online interventions can be a valuable resource for those seeking to move forward with resilience.
Professional support could be a valuable resource if you're struggling to let go on your own or feel unsure about your decisions. Consider reaching out to a therapist for further guidance and compassionate advice.
Who said if you love someone set them free?
There are numerous variations of the phrase “if you love someone, set them free” attributed to a number of sources, including the musician Sting and the writer Richard Bach. While it can be difficult to say who first created this exact phrase, one possible origin for the sentiment it describes may be found in Jess Lair’s 1969 book I Ain’t Much Baby– But I’m All I’ve Got. The book states the quote was turned in by a student on a card that read, “If you want something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.”
Is the saying true if you love someone, set them free?
The old saying “if you love someone, set them free” likely has less to do with letting go of a person simply because you love them and more with the circumstances surrounding some relationships. If you are in a healthy, loving relationship and there is no reason to break up, leaving someone you love is likely an illogical and even harmful decision to make.
In reality, the phrase “if you love someone, set them free” typically refers to a situation where you may still love someone, but certain circumstances have made it difficult or impossible to be with them. This can be seen in situations where a partner has died, is struggling with addiction and unwilling to get treatment, or has expressed their wish to end a relationship. In these cases, the healthiest thing to do may be to “set them free” instead of being unable to accept the situation.
Can you love someone enough to let them go?
Yes, it can be possible to love someone enough to let them go. The process of letting go of someone you love can be difficult, but in certain circumstances, it may be necessary. If a partner breaks up with you and doesn't wish to reconcile, passes away, or is otherwise unable to be in a healthy relationship, love alone may not be enough to keep them with you. In these cases, you will likely need to spend time processing your feelings and accepting the situation before you can let them go. This may be challenging and could require the assistance of loved ones or a licensed therapist.
Does true love come naturally?
Whether true love comes naturally will depend on a variety of factors, including your personality, experience, and your personal definition of “true love.” In some cases, what we consider “true love” can come about with little effort. This can be seen with long-term partners who find each other early and remain together throughout their lives. In other cases, finding true love may take considerable amounts of effort, and may involve years of searching for a partner. In addition, loving relationships can require work from both parties, which may not fit the traditional or romanticized idea of “true love.”
How do you detach from someone you love deeply?
Before you detach from someone you love deeply, it may be helpful to first identify why you feel detachment is necessary. You can do this by taking a moment to contemplate your feelings, writing down your thoughts, and discussing the subject with those that you trust. In some cases, there could be solutions to interpersonal struggles or healthy coping strategies that circumvent the need for detachment, which can be a complicated process.
If you realize that you need to detach from someone, you will likely have to decide whether you are physically detaching or emotionally detaching. While physical detachment can be necessary in cases involving abuse, other circumstances may make it impossible to completely remove someone from your life. In these situations, it may be helpful to emotionally detach, which involves reducing the effect a person’s behavior can have on your life and emotions.
Does love ever go away?
Love can go away, but the process can be lengthy and challenging. If you are in a relationship and don’t want love to fade, you may want to discuss your feelings with your partner if you start to notice this process is happening. If a relationship has concluded and you wish to move on, there are several methods of letting go that could be beneficial.
- Give Yourself Time: Letting go of love is rarely a quick process, and it can be helpful to be patient when entering this transitional period. During this time, it may be beneficial to establish distance with your former lover and avoid looking at their social media, as doing so could trigger negative feelings or lead to an attempt at a potentially ill-fated reconciliation.
- Focus Your Energy Elsewhere: After a significant relationship, it can be beneficial to shift your energy to other areas of your life. While you may wish to return to romance at some point, you could consider spending time with friends, dedicating more time to your hobbies, or focusing on your work. These activities may serve as a productive distraction that will help pass the time as you heal.
- Seek Support: Losing someone you love can be a difficult situation to handle on your own, and you may want to seek the support of others. In some cases, this could be friends and loved ones who you trust. Other times, you may get help from counselors, therapists, or support groups.
Will true love always come back?
Typically, there is no guarantee that true love will lead someone to come back. In some cases, reconciliation is possible; however, some circumstances may prevent a relationship from continuing. These circumstances could include:
- Betrayal: If infidelity occurs or there is otherwise a loss of trust between two people, this may lead to an irreconcilable situation. While love is important, if one or both parties aren’t able to remain faithful, it may not be healthy to let a partnership continue.
- Difference in Attachment Style: Partners with two different attachment styles may have a difficult time continuing a relationship. For example, if one partner has an avoidant attachment style and the other has an anxious attachment style, it may be difficult for both parties' needs to be met. A person with an anxious attachment may need significant amounts of attention and time from their partner; if they aren’t able to meet those requirements, there could be conflict.
- Conflicting Goals: In some cases, two people can love each other but have different goals or values. While it's possible to compromise in some areas, certain parts of life may be essential to a person’s self-image or happiness. The areas that could create conflict can vary but may involve religion, a desire for kids, or the freedom to live in a different area of the world.
What happens when true love happens?
While what a person defines as “true love” can vary, unconditional love typically involves individuals accepting one another without expecting anything in return. Couples in these types of relationships will often care deeply about each other’s needs and put in equal amounts of effort in order to ensure their partnership succeeds. Unconditional love can also include a significant amount of trust and communication, as well as the establishment of healthy boundaries. In addition, couples who love one another will often have respect for each other and a willingness to support their partner no matter the circumstances.
How do you know when to let go of love?
While the circumstances surrounding each relationship will vary, there are many reasons why it may be beneficial to let go of love.
- A Lack of Trust: Healthy relationships will often involve both parties trusting one another. Trust can help you feel safe in your partner’s support and increase intimacy. If you love your partner but don’t feel that you can trust them, it may be best to let them go.
- Your Partner Can’t Meet Your Needs: Another reason you may want to move on from a relationship is a lack of need fulfillment. If you’ve given your own needs but your partner is unwilling to meet them or communicate their own, that could indicate your relationship is not viable long-term.
- Your Relationship is Abusive*: While those in an abusive relationship may feel that they love their partner, it can be unhealthy and dangerous to remain in a partnership involving abuse. These situations can be difficult and will likely require the assistance of loved ones and professionals in order to safely leave of your own free will.
*If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in their relationship, it's essential to reach out for support immediately. You can reach the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
How do I know I actually love them?
Confirming that you are in love with someone is a complicated process and may vary depending on your personal definition of love. According to the triangular theory of love, there are three components to love: passion, intimacy, and commitment. According to the theory, the ideal form relationship will contain an equal amount of all three elements, creating what is known as consummate love.
It may be possible to experience love without an equal combination of passion, intimacy, and commitment, though the results may not be healthy or sustainable. One example can be seen in the phenomenon of “love at first sight.” While a person may experience strong feelings at that present moment, their connection will likely lack the intimacy and commitment of consummate love. That could lead to the other party feeling uncomfortable or one-sided situations like unrequited love.
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