~ October 2007~

The Gifts of Letting Go

What does letting go really mean?  Why is it difficult to let go of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, roles, people, places and things?  What are the benefits of letting go?

Roberto Assagioli, MD, the founder of Psychosynthesis, said that “we are dominated by whatever we identify with.”  This idea is similar to Buddhist philosophy and other Eastern traditions which propose the notion that the root of human suffering  is attachment.  Attachment binds us.  When we become stuck in a role, for example, and life throws us a curve ball like an accident, illness or any unexpected change, we can spiral down into fear or meaninglessness because we’ve lost an aspect of our identity or something that we thought we must have. Dorothy is a mother of three, devoted to her children and to being an exemplary Mom.  When Josh, her youngest, left home for college at age 18, she faced an identity crisis, commonly known as ‘empty nest syndrome.’  “I don’t know who I am anymore,” said Dorothy.  She had not developed other parts of herself for many years other than her identity as a mother and now her life looked bleak.  Jerome, once a triathlete, suffered a serious injury following a biking accident and was told he would not be able to resume the activities that had given him the most meaning in his life.  Like Dorothy, he felt lost, unable to find purpose or direction. I worked with Jerome to help him unhook from his former identity as a triathlete and turn this loss into an opportunity to develop heretofore unrealized seed potentials.  He was able to move on and is now an antique dealer and does volunteer work for the Special Olympics.

Identification keeps us from being able to access our full potentials.  Some people are so identified with their bodies, feelings or mind that they have little, if any, connection to spirit. On the other hand, we can even be overly identified with spirit, neglecting to honor our humanness, which includes our bodies and feelings.  John Welwood, Ph.D. coined the term ‘spiritual bypassing’ to refer to the tendency to turn to the light as a way to override feelings or, perhaps, turn our backs on uncomfortable realities that we don’t want to face.  I call this ‘the flight to light.’  Of course, it is important to cultivate our spiritual identity.  As the unchanging, infinite core of our being, spirit is not subject to the unpredictable world of impermanence.  But if we ignore or deny or humanness, we will feel split instead of whole.  A whole spirituality is an embodied spirituality where we say Yes! to our human nature as well as our transcendent nature.

We easily become attached to thoughts, which often spin quickly into catastrophic stories or frozen mind states that we become glued to.  I heard a noise in our backyard last week.  Instead of simply waking up my husband and asking him to check it out, I lay in bed with horror stories running in my head about a prowler breaking in.  It all started with one fear thought that I latched onto and which quickly spun out of control.  Within two minutes I was firmly convinced that there was someone in the yard.  (The prowler turned out to be a neighbor cat).  We get caught in thought many times a day, tending to believe most of what our thoughts tell us. We weren’t taught how to listen to our hearts, bodies or intuition.  We also weren’t taught how to let go. In addition to being distracted throughout the day by our busy minds, we frequently grab onto particular desires with great fervor and then act impulsively on them.  Darren thought he must have that new car stereo and he must have it right now!  His $600 purchase started with a thought and quickly became a reality that he had to act on.  Later, he questioned his ‘impulse purchase’, realizing his money would have been better spent repairing his computer.

Letting go means unhooking from identifications that limit us. When we let go, we experience freedom and the potential to access so much more of who we are. We regain a sense of choice and direction. We shift from trying to control life, which is ever-changing, and often beyond our control, to letting life move as it does, not insisting that everything and everyone conform to our expectations.  We learn how to shift from demands to preferences.  Then, we can fully enjoy what we do have because we’re able and willing to let go if that is what is required of us.

Try This

Choose one identification in your life that is limiting you.  For example, are you so attached to being productive that you have no time for rest or play? Or perhaps you live mostly ‘out of your head’ and rarely experience feelings.  Are you unable to let go of a past relationship that ended months or even years ago?  Are you identified with beliefs that you can never………or will always……….? (fill in the blank)

Write for 15 minutes in detail about how this attachment is affecting you on the levels of mind, body, feelings and spirit.

List at least 3 activities that could help you ‘unhook’, e.g. meditation, exercise, asking a friend for help.

Choose one and write down a specific commitment for the next week.  When you accomplish this goal, record your success and make a commitment for the following week. Be patient about this process of letting go.  It takes time to establish new patterns.  


If you would like to learn more about more about my coaching services and hypnotherapy/visualization sessions, you can call (415)721-0766 or send me an email at susannewest888@yahoo.com.  If you’d like to contact me for a free consultation, just click on the link below.  You will also find information on this website about my programs for writing, creativity and psychospiritual development.


Upcoming Events

A six session course Transformational Writing: Personal Writing for Spiritual Growth and Transformation’ will be offered in San Rafael, California on 6 Tuesdays from 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm October 30 – December 18.

A one-day workshop Claiming Your Bright Shadow: Living the Life You Were Meant to Live’ will be offered on Sunday, December 2 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm in San Anselmo, California.




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