Sometimes it helps to pause a little and reflect where I am going. What do I carry around with me that I don´t need any more?
I learned that life is much easier when I regularly take some time to make an inventory and tidy up the clutter in my life. This is true for material things as well as for intangibles. I not only create time and freedom this way, but I am also more open for change. (You can read this article in German here.)
1. What do we hold on to?
We carry around a lot of things in our everyday lives that we are not aware of. There are three fields to check for unnecessary burdens:
- Material things: clothes, mementos
- People: parents, children, friends
- Intangibles: responsibilities, guilt, injuries, beliefs
2. To let go we need calmness and peace of mind
To identify the dead weight I am carrying around with me I need to pause. Only then I can switch off my automatic pilot and get out of the hamster wheel.
a. The hamster-wheel
Often we rush mindlessly through our days. Our body supports us by producing adrenaline and cortisol. This gives us the much-needed energy but it also makes us tense. I call this the hamster-wheel. In the hamster-wheel we are constantly in survival mode. This is efficient if we need maximum power but it is not supposed to be the norm.
Our body does not recognise whether we are really in need to be in survival mode or whether the stress just exists in our mind. He serves us by fabricating the hormones we ask for. If this goes on too long we are out of balance and our body and psyche suffer. In survival mode our body does not have the time or the energy to regenerate or to heal. Our immune system does not have priority.
I am amazed at how long we can stand the hamster-wheel before we finally break down. For me this is one of the main reasons for burnout and depression. We drive ourselves until we are literally paralysed.
b. The autopilot
As we become adults the circuits in our brain are firmly established. In our everyday lives we are 95% in automatic mode. This autopilot is a clever institution because it makes our life easier. We don´t have to think about how to set one foot in front of the other in order to walk. When we want to change something in our lives however, we have to switch the autopilot off.
3. Making an inventory
I can only take stock when I am present in the Here and Now. Only here I can identify what still serves me and what I want to let go.
When I keep creating problems and conflicts, it is time for an evaluation.
a. Reasons to let go:
- Lack of time
- No opportunities for development
- Constraining limitations
- Searching for new paths
- Our boundaries are violated too much and we become ill as a consequence
- The effects of too much holding on: negative feelings, thought-circles, fears, depression, hate and rage
Why do I hold on to many things far too long? Often my family and friends can see much more clearly when it would be good for me to let go of something. What prevents me? Why do we often keep running in the hamster wheel in spite of the fact that we desperately need a break to regenerate?
b. Reasons to hold on:
- Security and habit
- Old rules: Loyalty, this is the way things are always done
- Basically positive things: Love and sympathy
The Christmas example
A client told me about her horror of the next Christmas holidays: She drives with her family with two small kids all over Germany two visit both her parents and her in-laws. Afterwards everybody is exhausted and cranky.
I asked her why she could not change this Christmas routine and invite both parents home. She could not imagine changing the routine because it had always been this way.
4. How can we let go?
I show a comprehensive letting go process here. Of course this process is individual and different for everybody.
First I need to be aware that I want to change something in my life. Then I can decide how I want to go about it. When I know what is superfluous it is often easy. When I am stuck I ask friends and family for help.
The Process of Letting go
- Becoming aware: Do I still need this?
- Honesty to oneself and to others: Is this good for me, if not why? Since when?
- Recognise excuses: Do I ride a dead horse?
- Do I hold on because I think that nothing better is coming? Do I do this because of low self-esteem?
- Mind games: How would it be without…? I look at my feelings and fears.
- Forgive myself: I have made the best decisions I could at the time.
- I say thank you for what has served me.
- Finding a ritual to help me to let go. For example write what I want to separate from on a piece of paper and burn it.
- Get help: I don´t have to do everything on my own.
- I give myself time for grieving, healing and establishing new habits.
a. Letting go is uncomfortable
When I am thinking of letting go I sometimes feel sadness. This is because I am going to say good-bye to something that I am used to and that has worked for me. It is normal when this process is painful.
b. Monitoring the thought-process
I try not to take my mind too seriously when I let go because it loves the safe status quo. My brain is not enthusiastic about me trying new ways. It signals caution: You don´t have to do this. It is okay the way things are at the moment.
c. Letting go of feelings
We hold on to feelings by fighting against them, suppressing them or trying to forcefully change them. It is exhausting to protect oneself constantly from feelings.
Emotions are signals that we give ourselves. We have feelings, but we are not defined by them.
E-motion is energy in motion, Joe Dispenza writes. Emotions are not fixed, they come and go. When we let them they can be gone in 2 minutes. This is hard to believe since we are so used to reconnecting with them all the time and thereby reactivating them again.
d. Letting go of conflicts
I am vulnerable because I have self-limiting beliefs: I can´t do this, I am not good enough. These beliefs build a bridge that makes injuries and violations possible.
I cannot change other people but I can change the way I react to them.
What I can do is to look at my limiting beliefs and work on getting rid of them. At the same time I need to build up my self-esteem. When I have successfully let go of a conflict the other person can rant and rave and this does not touch me any more because the connection is gone. This process is not easy but it is very much worth engaging it.
e. Fake it until you make it
When letting go is hard, I like to use a trick. I imagine that I have already accomplished it. I imagine in detail how free I feel, how great my life is without the thing I want to let go of.
This works like the well-known one-minute-smile-exercise. Our brain does not recognise that the smile is not real. The smiling mouth signals the brain that we are happy and it complies by producing happiness hormones.
5. Letting go eases your burden and enables change
Taking inventory and letting go is easiest for me on holidays because then I am more relaxed. My experiences with letting go in Iceland you can read about here. Being out of my hamster-wheel I have the energy to regenerate and time to get clear what is really important for me. I can let go of the dead weight I am carrying around and change automated habits.
I have let go a lot of rigidity in my daily life lately. Much too long I bore too many responsibilities and tasks. This was exhausting. Some of them I let go after discussing them with my family. This way I could create time pockets for myself. These are mine and I can fill them with my personal priorities: Family, meditation, work or just relaxing.
Be easy on yourself
Try not to overwhelm yourself when embarking on a journey to let go. When you realise that it is going to be difficult reduce your speed. Letting go is a process that sometimes needs time and please give it the time that is needed. This is a good investment in your health and your future.
Joe Dispenza, Becoming Supernatural 2017
© Inge Schumacher