I’m sure you have heard of the “art of acceptance or learn to let go,” and thought what the hell does that mean? this isn’t tangible, so there’s no way I can apply it to my life. I thought the same thing too. I go to a 12 step program, and they threw around the word “acceptance and letting go.” But, I thought to myself, how do I accept and how exactly does that help me?
So, before I show you how you can learn to accept, I’m going to tell you how it can help you. Here’s a real life example that I’m currently going through:
Why Letting Go Heals Your Life
My boyfriend and I have been doing fantastic as of late, but there was one problem that I had, and it was that I couldn’t see him as much as I wanted. He wasn’t off goofing around; he had work that lasted most of the day, training for his fight, and a son to take care for. But, because of my low self-esteem, I felt that I needed validation of our relationship by seeing him more often when it was impossible for him to do if he was to keep his sanity by maintaining a healthy balance of his life.
I brought it up with him and because of our lack of communication skills, it spiraled into a huge fight. A fight that ended up with me saying something I didn’t mean, and because of that it may have cost me my relationship with him. As much as I’ve tried to convince him to see me, so we can fix this, he won’t have it. And, I’ve tried everything: bribing, threatening, crying, trying to guilt trip him, pretty much everything. The only thing I did was made the situation worse. Because I have this illusion that I can control his actions (to make him see me), I’ve created more distress by trying to make him do something he won’t do. I’ve also suffered because I’m hurt that I can’t fix this the way I want.
So, this is where letting go comes in. I have to understand that I can’t force him to reconcile with me, and let go of the illusion that I can. Letting go will allow me to stop behaving unhealthy, and I can stop hurting my boyfriend and myself. I can then begin to focus on myself, and my actions, and improve my life the best way I can.
How can we learn to Let Go?
We are powerless. Many of us are deceived that we do have power, that we are in control of our lives, but there are so many external factors that alter our lives daily. Our actions, and our will cannot always grant us our desires, and as much as it may pain us that we do not have control of our lives, I guarantee you that there is power in accepting that we are powerless. Though, I can say we do have power in one area of our lives, and that is over our own thoughts and actions. And, the illusion of being in control of external factors is what causes us our suffering. We may deal with pain in our lives, but we do choose to suffer.
- You may try to be nice to everyone, but some may still not like you
- You may discipline/ praise your child, but still their behavior is unmanageable
- You may try to reason your friend to go to an event with you the most friendly and most convincingly way, but still be rejected
- You may leave the house extra early to get in line, but find that there are many people still ahead of you
- You may experience a death
- You may get a personal tutor to help you apply to a college, but still may not get accepted
- You may try to be the best employee, but may not get a raise
What can you do to help you recognize when you are powerless?
A) We can easily say, “okay, I’m going to recognize I am powerless,” but as our life happens, we easily forget to do so, and our reactions to powerless situations may become unhealthy. So, here I have an exercise that will help you. Try to do this at the end of every week for a month or so, so you can identify any patterns. I’ll have an example below, and you can download this w/s here: venndiagramtemplate
- Write down any recent events in the past week that stressed you out, upset you, or made you anxious in the middle of the diagram.
- Now write down how your choices and actions that affected the event on the left side of the venn diagram
- Lastly write anything else that contributed to the end result on the right side of the venn diagram.
- Now look over your diagram and see how your thoughts and actions could have in no possible way changed the outcome of the event.
B) Ask others to help you
- Your Higher Power through the Serenity prayer:
[Insert Higher Power] grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
- Your Higher Power through Meditation: there are guided meditations on youtube for acceptance and letting go
- 12 Step Programs: All 12 step programs address the issue of powerlessness through steps 1-3: “We admitted we were powerless over ________ – and our lives became unmanageable,” so you can check out Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, and so on.
- Therapy: Although this may not be the most viable option if you don’t have health insurance, this can definitely help you with deeper issues if you barely begun your journey to healing
So, we know we are powerless. What do we do now with ourselves? Do we accept our defeat?
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, it does mean we have to give up on our endeavors. That is, if it is causing you or others suffering. For instance, with my real life example, it is best for me to give up on trying to make my boyfriend reconcile with me. He isn’t ready to do so. He is in pain, and me trying to make him do what I want is causing him more pain, and thus, ruining our relationship.
- You try to control your child’s behavior, so they “don’t make the wrong choices,” but your child ends up rebelling or ignoring your control tactics, and your relationship starts to deteriorate
- You keep bugging your friend to join you camping during the summer, but they continue to insist saying no, and they start to seem bothered, or you start to get annoyed with them
- You lost your job and you continue to berate yourself that you are worthless
But, just because you’ve accepted defeat, doesn’t mean it has to end up in bitterness. You have the choice to think negative or positive thoughts. For instance with the relationships issues mentioned above, if you choose to empathize the other person, and accept their choices, it may result in an improved relationship. They may also surprise you by doing something that you wanted, or maybe something even better, even if you did not try to control their behavior. You can also choose to look at the loss of a job as an opportunity for great change.
Sometimes though, giving up doesn’t have to be an option. Maybe it isn’t the right time yet, maybe we just have to keep on trying till it happens. So, if you are applying for a job, and you know in your gut this is your dream job, that only means it isn’t the right time or maybe not the right place. Keep on pursuing your dreams, and I’m sure a better opportunity will present itself.
So, appropriate action depends all on your situation, but in the end, we are learning to let go what we can’t control, and it makes our lives plenty easier because now you don’t have to worry about it, and you can allow the universe, or your higher power work their magic.