When “Let It Go” Doesn’t Cut It
”Let it go.”
They’re right. Letting it go is the thing to do.
The problem is that letting go is a process. It starts here……and ends way over here, and has all kinds of phases in the middle.
How long it takes somebody to “let it go” is really dependent on the thing in question, how big of a deal it is, and how big of an effect it has. Small things, like, say, an argument with the clerk at the gas station. Sure. Let it go. In the grand scheme of life, it’s not worth your time. Somewhat bigger things – spat with your husband, perhaps – might take a couple of weeks to let go.
Other things, like your best friend abruptly cutting you out of their life without a word, or discovering that someone in your family isn’t who you’ve thought they were for the entirety of your life – those are the sorts of things that can take months, maybe years and a whole lot of therapy.
You wouldn’t tell someone whose child just died to simply, “Let it go.” That would be a ridiculous sentiment to someone who was just thrust into the midst of a psychological and emotional trauma.
The same applies for all of the “big things.”
We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there. I know I’ve done it. We’ve all probably told someone to “Let it go,” after they shared a problem with us, as though it were that simple. And while letting it go may be what they need to do, eventually, they have to go through the process first.
You wouldn’t tell the guy who just got stabbed, “Let it go” while he’s still crawling on the floor with the knife in his back. You’d call a fucking doctor and try to stop the bleeding – that’s the immediate need.
What people are really looking for when they come to you is not advice. Most likely, they already know they need to let it go. They’re looking for emotional validation. Support. They’re looking for someone to just stop the bleeding. To just get them to the point that they can begin to THINK about healing.
Over the last five months, I’ve been hit with numerous emotional blows…so many, so fast that I can’t even finish processing one for another one coming along. And every time someone told me to just “let it go” I felt like I was walking into a wall. It actually made me want to STOP trying to talk about what I was feeling. All I really wanted was for somebody to just be there to support me and hold some space for me wherever I was instead of trying to tell me what I needed to do, think, or be. I couldn’t believe how incredibly hard it was to find that.
In some ways, telling someone who doesn’t know any better that they should just let it go could encourage them to suppress their emotions instead of process them. And then they’ll drive themselves crazy wondering what’s wrong with them and why they can’t just “let it go.”
We’ve got to start acknowledging that it’s ok to feel our emotions. And it’s ok to to need help every now and then. It’s ok to feel whatever you feel, especially when you’ve still got the knife in your back (metaphorically speaking). Empathy is our greatest ally in these situations, not logic.
Sometimes a simple, “You’re going to be ok,” is a hell of a lot less condescending than “Let it go.”
I don’t mean to upset any of my friends who may be reading this who might have used the phrase. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, it was just a theme that I recognized recently overall, particularly among my spiritual friends. It took me a while to figure out what it was that I was feeling about it and realize what it was that I really needed in that moment.