A friend of mine is going through a very difficult custody battle for his daughter, and a wonderful site called Ponder Central had recently posted an excerpt from our book, Life, on detachment. My friend responded to the post by saying he didn’t agree with our philosophy. He explained that he was in the middle of a terrible, painful fight and he couldn’t just let go of it.
Here’s part of the post: "Detachment is the art of letting go...When people think of detachment, they think of being insensitive, cold or emotionally void – a kind of numb, nonchalant, indifferent attitude, where we walk around and interact with people projecting an image of being aloof and uncaring. That is not the detachment I want you to embrace...” Let me also add, that detachment is also not about ignoring difficult situations in our lives, or pretending they don’t exist ... as if we could. Detachment is about letting go of the pain, and negative energy and emotions, that tend to accompany these difficult rites of passage. We cannot let the pain fester.
I explained that while we may not be able to change our current situation, (at that exact moment), we can’t allow the pain to consume us. He responded by saying, pain was the only thing motivating him to fight for his daughter.
I responded gently by suggesting that perhaps it was really his love for his daughter that was truly motivating his actions.
His pain, however, is keeping him locked in a cycle of suffering. It is very difficult to focus clearly, and find objective, productive ways to move out of a difficult situation when we are knee deep in the pain, essentially only seeing red. All of our actions, thoughts and words take on a particular slant/tint when they are filtered through that anger and pain.
During one of my recent yoga classes, a student asked how to deal with anger. The key is to understand that by telling everyone how miserable we are, by talking about our ‘story,’ our ‘plight,’ by complaining, by rehashing, ruminating upon, reflecting on and in general letting the anger and pain consume us, we keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of negative energy ... which if we prescribe to the motto ‘what we get is what we project’ ... we will only draw more and more negativity into our experience.
The trick is to catch ourselves in the act: be conscious of our negative thoughts, words or actions. I remember, a long time ago, thinking to myself how easy life would be if I just had amnesia. I could forget all the pain, all the negativity, all the painful memories, and all the injustice. What I realized years later, was that we all have a choice. The past, the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, it stays in our life because we let it ... we give it room to breathe and grow. We nurture it with our thoughts and our tenacity to cling to negativity ... after all misery loves company.
The wild thing, the exciting thing, the extraordinarily wonderful life changing, weight lifting thing about all of this is that we can choose to let it all go. Pain hinders us, makes us ill, makes us unhappy and unfulfilled. If we can take a leap of faith and try letting it go, try letting the pain slough off of us ... for even a moment ... the lightness, the peace and relief that follows will give us the confidence to let it go for good. We don’t need pain to live, we don’t need a negative past, or difficult memories. They hold us back, they keep us from thriving.
Letting go of negative emotions might involve speaking to a counsellor, (someone who is objective, as opposed to a well intentioned, but nonetheless biased friend), or something as simple as writing about it in a journal – without censuring ourselves. The key to writing anything down is to never let anyone else read it. I find it is easiest to get it all down, moan, scream, cry, swear, spit out the injustice and pain in big block letters of indignation, and then burn it, rip it up ... destroy it. The process is meant to be cathartic. It is an emptying of pain, not holding on to it—in any form. Perhaps you enjoy kick boxing, or running. Maybe you like yoga or meditation. There are as many ways to release negative energy as there are ways of collecting it. Try to find a method that works best for you and make a commitment to releasing the pain once and for all!
Do you have a tried and true method for letting go of negativity? We’d love to hear about it!
P.S. To check out Ponder Central: Click Here
P.S. To check out Ponder Central: Click Here