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Relationship Detox: Letting Go of Those Who Keep Us Stuck Author: Radonda Rowton MAC LPC

We’ve all heard it said:

“If someone wants to leave, let them go"

"The right people will stay"

"People are complicated.”

Being abandoned is one of the harshest realities that we will face in our lifetimes. Low self-esteem, avoiding conflict, feeling the need to strive for perfection or feeling unworthy are all issues that can very well stem from abandonment. Matter of fact, abandonment impedes our ability to trust.

But have you ever watched a trapeze artist? They learn to hold onto one bar, create momentum, and then just like that, they let go. In that moment the choice is made to either grab onto the next bar with both hands, or to keep one hand holding on. If they choose to hold on, it’s possible that one of two things would happen: either they get stuck with one hand on each bar and stretch themselves out until the body gives way, or they are forced to completely let go.

There comes a point in life where we may need to let go. We need to let go of the past: The hurt, unmet expectations, loss, hopes, and dreams. It can become the only healthy way to move on. We cannot possibly continue to move forward in our own lives if we are constantly holding on to that bar from our past.

Some may believe that letting go is giving up, it’s not. Some may believe that letting go is quitting, it’s not. Neither does letting go mean that one does not know what to do or how to do it. Letting go does not imply that one is unstable or inconsistent. Letting go simply means that one is, in fact, aware that to experience anything new, better, or different, they must first let go.

The truth is that for every beginning in life, there is also an ending. Sometimes that is a very painful realization. Often things end before we are actually ready to let them go but holding on to an idea that never was or will never be can actually be mentally and emotionally more difficult than the initial pain of just letting it go.

Why? Because when people hold on, they are giving in to fear. Whether it is the fear of hurt, fear of loss, fear of rejection, and/or fear of pain, the struggle to prevent the hurt will also serve as the struggle to keep them from pursuing any opportunity for change. In other words, when you choose to let go, you choose to take control of your own life. When you are finally in control of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, you have more say over your possible outcomes. And it’s very likely that we will find ourselves in the situation where we need to make the choice to let go of a toxic person in order to remove ourselves from the negativity of that influence. It’s never easy and it may take time to build the momentum needed to do it. However, it is possible. We may need to let go of a friend, coworker, maybe even a family member to care for our own well-being. I have heard people say, “I don’t care about my happiness, I just want them to be happy”. Sacrificing your emotional well-being for someone else’s happiness is not brave, it’s co-dependent, and very likely that neither party will be truly happy.

Letting go of a person does not mean you’re giving up on them. Learning to let go is the first step toward saving yourself. It involves acknowledging the hurt that person has caused you and making an active choice to not let him/her hurt you anymore. It is setting boundaries and expectations for the relationship and recognizing that you are the only person who can give approval of the way you live your life. Think of it as a new perspective on life.

I would never suggest that a parent give up on a child. I would, however, encourage the parent to let go of the negative destructive behaviors of the child by refusing to involve themselves in their bad behavior. What may be more painful is that we may need to let go of the unmet expectations, hopes, and dreams developed for the child and separate ourselves both physically and emotionally. Let go of what you cannot change and embrace what you can. Letting go of a person you love is not easy. The thought of it may be unfathomable at first, but it is so important to recognize that you cannot change anyone but yourself. Letting go of a child, or a family member does not imply that you would ever stop loving them. Letting go can actually be done out of love. It is communicating that you love the person so much that you fear for them, and for you. Letting go is separating the behaviors of the person from the actual loved individual. It’s saying, “I will always love you, but I do not like your behavior/choices right now.”

Maybe you need to let go of unresolved grief, an experience from the past, an unpleasant job, or a relationship. Let go of the control, let go of the guilt, and let go of the unpleasant emotions. You are not quitting. You are not giving up. You are choosing to enable the pain, hurt, and unwanted behaviors no longer. You’re choosing to no longer live in those moments. When you choose to let go of what was, you choose to grab on to what can be. When we enable, we keep ourselves strapped to fear and abuse and we allow that person to never see the need to take responsibility for their actions. Does it take emotional strength? Absolutely, but if we allow others to dictate our emotional health, we have no promise of being healthy an in control of the only person we can control…us.

If you feel that you need a change and struggle with what to do or how to change, reach out to someone who can help you. Make an appointment with a therapist or someone that you know you can trust to help you get to where you need to be. We all need help from time to time. Getting a different perspective may make all the difference in getting us to the life that we should be living.

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