The Pain of Holding On, The Beauty of Letting Go

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Most of us had at one time in our life or another experienced loss or the threat of loss.

How did it feel at that time for you? Which had been a more excruciating pain, the threat or the actual experience of loss itself?


It seems to me that the threat had a more powerful negative energy. This takes us to the question of as to why.


Is it because of the nature of uncertainty? What is there in uncertainty that calls up a strong energy within us? The only thing I can think of is fear. While you are faced with the threat, there still is fear of loss. Once you've lost that which you have formed an attachment to, there's nothing to lose. Although you still have to deal with the other emotions during stages of grief (e.g. denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance) after the loss, the accompanying emotions seem to have a lesser intensity.


Thus, during those times that status quo is being threatened in our lives, it would be important to examine whether we are alright with living with an ongoing anxiety or we would be better off letting go.


One concrete example is of a friend whose boyfriend cheated on her for the first time. She was so attached to the guy that she would do practically anything to keep him regardless of the intense hurt that he has caused and continues to cause. Due to this act of 'infidelity', a breech in trust has been committed and the nagging thought comes that the same act may be repeated in the future. This would a difficult situation to be in: there now becomes an uncertainty in the relationship. And with uncertainty the accompanying fear with its strong negative energy.


Another friend decided differently when her boyfriend of five years committed unfaithfulness towards her: she decided to break off with the guy. This came with a great sense of loss and grief for the relationship that has been nurtured for such a long time. But apparently this friend decided it would be difficult for her to keep the nagging thoughts that the guy may be cheating again and keep the relationship going on uncertain terms.


Who can say really which person did the right thing?


I heard there really is no right or wrong, only what works or not.


Maybe the first friend was too attached to let go but courageous enough to go on even on uncertain terms. Courageous enough to live with the fear of the guy becoming unfaithful again.


Maybe the second friend was not creative enough to explore solutions but courageous enough to let go.


Either ways, I see both friends courageous enough to take the pain---the pain of holding on and the pain of letting go!


How does one decide between letting go and holding on? When is there wisdom in letting go? Courage in holding on?


Based on the stories related to relationships we hear and read about, it seems that a good basis would be to ask:


What would one be without the boy (/girl) friend? If one can honestly answer that one will go on being the usual self and one's world will turn its usual way, I really think that either holding on or letting go could be an objective choice.


On the other hand, if one would feel entirely lost without the boy (/girl) friend, this then is a signal that soulful work has to be given a more careful consideration. Perhaps we have not assigned ourselves the correct value that we are worth?


Before loving someone, we first need to learn to love ourselves.


That is the opposite of being happy only when we are with our special someone. We need to be happy whether with others or alone by ourselves. We need to be able to base our value on our self-judgment and not on how others see or treat us.


If we haven't found a way to love ourselves and base our value on our self-judgment, courage in holding on is misplaced. Only in letting go will there be true wisdom.


There will be much pain in letting go when much attachment (or addiction to the person or relationship) has already been developed. The sooner we notice that we put more importance to the other person than to ourselves, the better and the lesser the pain.


As we deal with the pain of letting go, however, the beauty of our soul emerges. Eventually, we realize we are strong after all and worthy, with or without the other person. Once we have arrived at this place of worthiness and self-love, we should be able to go back to a relationship (this time making sure that we don't forget self-love in the process). With this new sense of self, surprisingly, we are able to develop richer and more rewarding relationships.


The process of getting a new perspective of self in relationships is a difficult task, easier said than done. But it's an exercise worth experimenting with for at least twenty-one days, the period of time they say one needs to develop a new habit. In this twenty-one day period, simply develop a program of learning independence and self-love. Several materials have been written about overcoming addictions, such as those for Alcoholics Anonymous and about co-dependence (which can be considered as an addiction to a person). It may help to explore these.


In the end, we have to be compassionate towards ourselves with the understanding that whatever losses we experience, the body's natural reaction is to grieve. It would be counterproductive to force yourself out of grieving or, on the other extreme, linger in it. You will know when it's time to move on.


Three Steps. In whatever pain or setback we experience, I remember a priest teaching me: we can always:


"Accept, offer to God, then let go."


Note that he said "accept" first before anything else. We begin the three-step procedure with the power of acceptance. When we work from the mindset of acceptance, we diffuse our resistance which fuels and reinforces the strength of the sadness accompanying the experience of loss.


From acceptance, we can step into a the humble posture of offering to God, something that is outside of our power to control, but definitely within his Almighty Power to take care of.


Let go. The mere decision to let go or release the feeling somehow gives the body the go-signal to relax its tensed up muscles. This along with "Accept, offer to God, ..." can be practiced every time the accompanying sad thoughts arise, with the determination to do the three steps every time sadness is noticed.


Once we become experts in letting go, we realize life isn’t that difficult after all. In contrast to struggle and trying to control outcomes and results, letting go not only of feelings but attachments and expectations as well, does open our lives to infinite possibilities and make each step of the journey a lighter one. Promise!


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Epilog

Maturing five years later, beyond what was the level of the original article, a more profound truth became apparent:

All our earthly partnerships and relationships are simply to establish the context of the ideal, God.

It thus becomes imperative for us to be loved and loving to each other to evolve into a fullness of understanding of the type of unconditional love that He has for us, the one kind of love that fulfills the depth of our longing, the thirst of our soul.

Each relationship on the earth plane is bound by physical laws and is thus eventually impermanent, so unlike the ideal that we think we might find here on earth, where the only thing that is permanent is change.

There will be pain in holding on and beauty in letting go.

Only the soul is eternal. The beauty in letting go is in its gift of letting God manifest other experiences in our life to give birth to a view, while on earth, of how it is in heaven.

“Your soul will never grow old. It’s evergreen.” – From the song, Thinking Out Loud

When we are able to connect with each other beyond the expectations and attachments of our ego-based personality, we give ourselves the chance to establish soul-to-soul encounters.

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What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – From the book, The Little Prince

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