On my blog entry entitled New Year’s Resolution: Letting Go, a reader posted the following comment:
Ahh, “letting go” – the advice psychologists, family and friends have always given: “Just let it go.” And my standard answer to them as well: “I’d love to let it go if it would only let go of me.” ~jeffssong
Just as how society’s distortion of what “forgiveness” means interferes with many child abuse survivors’ ability to forgive, society’s warped view of “just letting go” can erect barriers to this natural process for child abuse survivors. Let’s explore what “letting go” is and what it isn’t.
First, there is no “just” to letting go. Whenever someone adds the word “just” to “letting go,” what that person is really advising is living in denial. The other person cannot handle the child abuse survivor’s intensity, so the person gives out pat advice that will make him or her feel less uncomfortable.
Someone in my life asked me multiple times why I couldn’t just “stuff it all back inside.” While that question made me angry, at least it was honest. “Just let it go” is a dishonest way of pressuring a child abuse survivor to “stuff it all back inside” or pretend it didn’t happen. That’s not healthy.
“Letting go” is not a moment – it is a process. “Letting go” is a conscious choice to stop “stuffing it all back inside.” It is the choice to feel whatever you need to feel to get to the other side of the pain. Another word for “letting go” is grieving.
Grieving is another concept that isn’t honored in the Western Society. You might get until the funeral to cry, but then it is time to “let it go” and pretend like you didn’t experience a loss. When I was 16, I actually had someone tell me it was time to “get over” my father’s sudden death when it had only been six weeks! My response was, I have even begun grieving him yet!
My favorite definition of grieving is the process you go through to accept your new reality. For example, grieving my father’s death involved whatever I needed to do to stop thinking about what my life should be like right now and, instead, accept that life without my father is my reality.
Let’s circle back to “letting go” – It is the process of letting go of what I think my childhood should have been like and accepting that my life is exactly the way that it is. Part of this process involves letting go of the emotions I have bottled up, letting go of judgments and expectations about who and what I am, and letting go of the need to dwell in the past. “Letting go” is the process I need to go through to look forward in my life rather than always looking back.
Photo credit: Hekatekris