Why Letting Go of What We Want Enables Us To Get What We Need

My latest blog post on Paradox and Letting Go is now up on Tiny Buddha.  This was a very challenging one for me to share about, because it is incredibly personal, but I've been meaning to do it for some time.  Living in Truth and Vulnerability.  Read full article below:


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“The most exquisite paradox: as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” ~Ram Dass

The first time I felt this paradox was in the middle of savasana after a challenging yoga class. I always say that yoga is a metaphor for life, and this is exactly why.

Savasana is the final resting pose in which you lay flat on your back, close your eyes, and do nothing. A super yummy savasana is just so due after your work throughout the class.

The more you are challenged throughout the yoga flow, the more likely you are to be pushed to a place of brokenness. You gave your all, and now you are spent. Dizzy and exhausted, you settle into savasana and release your entire body into the earth.

Lying on the cold, hard ground never felt so good. You lie in silence, let your thoughts and breath go, and completely release. You feel deliciously blissful. And you might actually be feeling emotions for the first time all day, or maybe even all week.

A slight smile spreads across your face as the sweat beads drip from your forehead. Or tears quietly stream from your eyes as you feel absolute joy and gratefulness. By the end of that savasana, you feel incredible. You feel like yourself again. You know you are whole.

And it’s a good thing they have you do savasana at end of class, because you need the build up of tension during your yoga flow in order to allow yourself to really let go and just be.

Could you imagine doing savasana at the beginning of class? Mind buzzing from a long, stressful day, thoughts racing. It’s possible, but much harder to do.

This was how I came to understand the paradox of letting go in order to become whole. And trust me, it took many years of therapy, meditation, reading, seeking, and savasana to get there.

We often cling to our desires and fight for them because we think we’ll be happy if we get what we want. But when we let go and accept what is, what shows up for us are often the things we need. 

These things tend to be the ones that really count, creating true happiness and meaning in our lives.

But let’s face it, letting go on some issues is easier said than done. When it comes to deeper issues and matters of the heart, letting go can feel downright impossible. And on some issues, letting go may never happen. Some burdens may be too important not to bear. That is okay.

However, even on the more difficult issues you may be facing, there still may be places in which you can soften your grip.

I have had a strained relationship with my father since birth. From about four years old, I knew that he did not love me.

All throughout my childhood, my father was both physically and emotionally abusive. My mother was loving, but also put in a position of trying to appease her husband, while at the same time protecting my siblings and me. This inevitably led to a lot of confusion and chaos in the household.

Things finally came to a head when I was about ten. I was severely depressed, expressing passive thoughts of suicide, and displaying classic behaviors and symptoms of trauma. 

After a couple years of therapy and attempting to repair things in the home, my mother decided to divorce my father.

Due to the history with my father, the court granted my siblings and me the opportunity to decide for ourselves whether or not we would like to visit him. Perfect timing too; my twelfth birthday was right around the corner as the divorce was being finalized.

So, it was at the age of twelve when I decided to no longer participate in weekly visitation with my father. I would still see him occasionally for family events and holidays, but I kept my distance and he kept his.

In my mid-twenties, I had little to no contact with my father, only seeing him about once a year for the holidays. However, I confronted him via email, defending my younger sister on an issue she was dealing with.

She was only sixteen at the time, and was devastated when my father packed up all her belongings from his home and dropped them off on my mother’s doorstep without any warning. Apparently, she was no longer welcome in his home, and their relationship, too, was ending.

In my father’s correspondence to me, he verbally confirmed what I had know all along, and stated outright that he did not love me and did not need me in his life.

I was devastated and inconsolable. Although I had known and felt this since I was a small child, I had not actually heard these words before. Something about those words broke me wide open.

I spun out of control and began a turbulent phase in my life in which I became severely depressed and anxious.

I immediately began doing work in therapy, finally addressing the years of trauma that I had experienced, coming to terms with my broken relationship with my father. It was here that I began the long process of healing.

Ten years later, I am significantly stronger. However, trauma is stored in our bodies, in our tissues, and in our brain chemistry, reminding me at times that it’s still there, but a mere shadow of what it used to be. Like an onion, the layers of trauma must be pulled back one at time.

Looking back on my recovery process, the most challenging part for me had to do with my clinging to questions of what happened. 

I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I was unloved by my father. I needed to have answers. I had been wrestling with these questions my entire life, and was bruised and broken time and time again, with no end in sight. This deep need and clinging only lead to more pain and hurt.

Through therapy and yoga, I have come to let go of this ideal. I now know that I may never have the answers to my questions. I likely will never fully understand why this happened, why I had to experience this, or why my father behaved in this way.

Now, instead of wrestling, I stand beside my questions, I cradle them in my arms, I offer them support, and I show them kindness. The questions, the injustice, the memories of hurt can be there, and I lovingly accept them into my life.

More than this, I know that I am loved, that I am deserving, that I am kind, that I am a survivor, and I am whole. I always have been.

In order to find acceptance and wholeness in my life, I had to release my death grip on my ideal relationship with my father.

Whatever ideal outcome you’re clinging to, could you be open to the possibility of releasing it so that you can breathe, yield, and expand into something that is bigger? Could you give yourself time and create space so that you can become concise and clear about your being?

If you can do these things, you will get what you need.

Not unlike that challenging yoga flow I spoke of earlier, the real work comes when your body, mind, and spirit has been fully broken, your heart has been ripped wide open, and there is nothing left to do.

And, no this is not easy. It will be hard.

Letting go will make you question your identity, leaving you wondering if you give this one thing up, who will you be? What will you stand for? Will all your stress, worry, pain, hurt, sadness, be in vain? If you let go, who will believe your story? What will others think of you? What else will you have to let go of? What will you do next?”

And here is where the paradox begins!

“What will I do next?” is a tough question that can be scary to even consider. But it is here that change happens, and you do have a choice. Wholeness is knocking at your door, and you know what they say, “When one door closes, another door opens.”

All that is required is to let go of the past and step boldly and bravely into your true self, your beautiful, loving, compassionate, deserving self. It is from this place of being that you may know wholeness.

What Therapy Has Taught Me

Ok Ok, I'll admit it, it has been a long time since I have been in the client's seat.  I'm a Therapist, so of course I believe in the power and the process of therapy, but I've recently also become a client in a whole new way, which has allowed me to rediscovered my love for the therapy process.  

And FYI, if you didn't already know, being a client is hard work!

Many people are afraid of therapy, and I can understand why.  However, most people who are not open to therapy act as if they don't need therapy because they are self-aware enough to handle things on their own.  That may be true, but there is so much to be learned about yourself in therapy and so much more to be gained with a fresh perspective.  As a therapist, who has recently taken to the client's couch, rather than my usual comfy therapist's chair, I know this all to well.

Just like you, sometimes I don't want to go to therapy, because it's just really hard.  I have had moments of feeling defensive towards the therapist when they offer a new perspective on my life, which is particularly difficult to hear.  I've also felt at times that I wanted to run out of the therapy room, because difficult feelings were being triggered.  

As I always say to my client, and now to myself as a client, "you must respect the process."  The difficult feelings, the defensiveness, the denial, all of it is a part of the process.  These are the qualities that help you to grow in therapy.  

And, It's so worth it!

Here are some things that I have learned in therapy as a client, which I believe are to be gained in the therapy process, that makes it all worth it.........

1. No matter how much awareness, intelligence, or lived experience you have, the insight and perspective of a third party person (the therapist) is invaluable to your growth and development.

When you enter into therapy you are relying on the therapist to give you insight and knowledge into your presenting problems to increase awareness and perspective.  

Well, ask and you shall receive!  This will definitely happen in therapy.  It should be noted that it's not all roses either. This is a very difficult process.  But you know what they say, "Nothing worth having comes easy."  

The therapist's input is utterly priceless.  Also, it is undoubtedly very different from your friend's or family member's input, likely more well-thought-out and balanced, but most importantly unbiased.

Even as a therapist myself, when I have been sitting on the client's couch, the insight and perspective offered by the therapist has been extremely helpful, leaving me at many times saying "I never thought about it like that before."

The truth is that when you are involved in your problems, as you always are, your mind becomes cluttered and you cannot see things clearly.  That's true for everyone, even for those who are extremely wise and self-aware. 

2. It's OK to let go of control and perfectionism.

As a client, one of the most helpful things that can happen in the therapy process, is when  your therapist offers alternatives to your preferred or regular way of being.  

Therapists do this in a very simple way, by holding the space for you as the client.  They hold the space by allowing you to be who you are, accepting you as you are, and also offering thoughts on how you can also hold space for yourself and learn to love yourself, flaws and all.

In the therapy process, when you let go of control and perfectionism and just allow yourself to be who you really are, and even make mistakes from time to time, you begin to feels safe in the therapy process.  More than that, you begin to feel safe in life because the therapist offers a corrective experience in which you begin to understand that you are always whole and complete, no matter what.

3. Acceptance.

Isn't this the thing we all want?  To just be accepted?  

One of the best parts of the therapy relationship is when you come to realize that your therapist accepts you for who you are.  No judgment.  Just pure acceptance, warmth, and regard.  When the therapist accepts you for who you are, while at the same time offering suggestions and alternatives ways of looking at the problem, you are able to work through some serious issues, some of which may have been plaguing you for years.  

It is here in acceptance, where you allow things to be as they are, without attempt to change them, that a paradox of change happens.  This is the kind of change that is cathartic and utterly transformative.  

4. Mental health is equally important as physical health.

Enough with the stigma already!  

When you are sick due to an illness or disease, you likely go to the doctor and start the recommended treatment for your physical health (i.e. medication, exercises, diet, etc).  So why is this process any different from your mental health when you are suffering from depression, anxiety, change of life issues, or a broken heart??

When you neglect your emotions, affect, mood, and psychological ailments, they only serve to manifest in other ways, often physical ones.  Maybe these will show up as nightmares, panic for no apparent reason, a feeling of dread, unhappiness, reoccurring stomach aches or other body aches, being 'stuck' in your professional or personal life, tearfulness, etc.

Therapy attends to somatic, bodily issues, that are being affected by psychological problems, as well as helps you to take care of your figurate heart.

You must take into consideration your mental health and emotions in order to be the best version of yourself!

5. Forgiveness.

This is a hard lesson to learn. Anytime.  Anywhere.

Choosing to forgive is a choice that you need to make for yourself.  No one, not even the therapist, can push you to do this.

However, as a client, my therapists have been able to point out to me areas where forgiveness may be helped.  Sometimes this means forgiving others, but usually this means forgiving myself.  Either way, the experience and process of learning to forgive is paramount to your wellbeing.  

I remember being a very young person, who believed that forgiveness was a waste of time and never imagined it as a possibility in my life, because I wanted to be sure to always make those who wronged my pay for their transgressions.  With time, maturity, and with therapy, I have learned otherwise.  

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you condone the wrongs that people have done to you.  It also doesn't mean that you forget such wrong doing.

Forgiveness is simply a willingness to no longer hold onto contempt and anger, or any other negative emotions associated with wrong doing.  

Really, forgiveness is about freedom.

6. Emotions are tricky little suckers.

Some of us are able to control our emotions beautifully.  More power to ya!  

Others of us feel emotions strongly, these emotions change often, and we have a hard time understanding how these suckers work.

I put my self in the latter description.

You are not alone. 

Although my training as a therapist has allowed me to have a great understanding of emotions and skills to use to manage these, this process does not come easy to me, especially when I am acting as the client, rather than the therapist.  Sitting on the client's couch I have felt such complicated emotions, which have been very difficult to understand, even with much awareness and understanding.  I am humbled by the fact that no matter what position you are in, emotions demand to be felt.  You must experience these at their fullest in order to move through them.

 

Consider therapy as a treatment to help you gain insight, awareness, and manage difficult feelings. There is so much to be gained in the process.