Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Letting Go Imperative"

im·per·a·tive [im-per-uh-tiv]
1. absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we learn to let go.

How about the conclusion first this time? Until we let go, we stay victims.

I was talking with a friend the other day who's having a hard time letting go of a previous relationship. She's worked through many of the stages of grief, like sadness and denial, but is still feeling a lot of anger about what happened. A lot of anger at the other person for what they did. She doesn't want to let go of the anger because then the other person will 'get away with' what they did.

I have another friend who tells a story about making amends to the stepfather who molested her. She made amends to his grave.

There was a newcomer at a meeting once. He was a cool guy. He came in, ready for change. He attended meetings regularly, was active in working his program, and managed to put some time together. At one point, he had a fight with his girlfriend and got drunk over it. The words of his sponsor? Wow. You sure did give her a lot of power over you.

One time, I complained to my sponsor about someone in the program who wasn't working it, who was continuing to feel terrible, and continuing to cause chaos and destruction in their life. I was angry about it. Frustrated. 'Why don't they get it?" I moaned to my sponsor. He laughed. Then he pointed out how much energy I was expending over it. Over something that was none of my concern, none of my business, that I had no control over. I was obsessing.

There's only one way out: letting go.

It takes time to understand. When we try to control others, we give them power over us. If I'm angry at something someone else has done (or didn't do), they have power over me. If my ability to let go of my anger is dependent on someone else's actions or reaction, they are in control of my anger. If my ability to feel happy is dependent on making others happy, then they are in control of my happiness. We try to make others happy, so that we can feel happy. We try to make others pay for or own up to what they've done, so that we can let go of our anger. Then we watch in horror as the world around us and the people in it refuse to act the way we want them to. We become even more frantic. We try even harder to make others act the way we think they should, the way we want them to. Then they don't and the cycle repeats itself at an ever-higher pitch. We try again, over and over, and we refuse to accept that they don't have to. And then we wonder why we feel crazy.

We give our power away, and we don't have to. We don't have to spend our energy trying to make others feel or act or say the things we want them to. We don't have to obsess over what (we think) other people need to do, say, or feel. And we really don't have to lay blame on others for refusing to live their lives the way we think they should.

When we focus on how others aren't the way we want them to be, when we hold on to things because of others' failure to comply with our wishes, we are giving them power over us. We are thinking and feeling, saying and doing, according to them. We are allowing them to control us. We are victims.

We don't have to be victims. We can let go of others. Maybe we are angry about something someone else has done. We don't have to be. We can let go of the anger. We can accept that we can't make others own up to their actions. We can accept that it's not our job to make others happy. We can accept what has happened to us in the past, look at our part, and take responsibility for it. And we can let others have the choice of being responsible for theirs.

We don't have to take on others' responsibilities. We don't have to waste our energy trying to make someone else happy or sad. And we don't have to waste our energy obsessing because someone else won't feel or do what we want them to.

We get to choose our actions. Other people get to choose theirs. We can focus on them, become obsessed or stuck, and allow our lives to become unmanageable, or we can stop being victims and choose instead to let go.

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