Thoughts on Letting Go

What’s Your Libretto?
Relating — it takes two to tango

Synopsis: Thoughts on Letting Go — letting go is all about learning what you can control, and what you can’t. And not whining about it.

Looking for more to read on this topic? Check out Wayne’s book, This Endless Moment 2nd. edition
letting go

Recently I found a series of quotes from Susan Campbell, a California therapist and trainer. Susan used to work with Ben & Jock, back in the “old days,” and had a hand in the creation of their Communication Model. Her “stuff” is quite elegant, and the quotes are thought-provoking.

I also found one from Darbella — one called “Let Go.”

  • to “let go” does not mean to stop caring; it means I can’t do it for someone else.
  • to “let go” is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization I can’t control another.
  • to “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
  • to “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which mean the outcome is not in my hands.
  • to “let go” is not to try to change or blame another; it’s to make the most of myself.
  • to “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
  • to “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive
  • .to “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • to “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
  • to “let go” is not to be protective, but to permit another to face reality.
  • to “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.
  • to “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
  • to “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
  • to “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
  • to “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.to “let go” is to fear less and love more.
  • ~~~ Thomas Allender, S.J. ~~~

And here’s a Susan Campbell quote:

Basing our self-esteem on the ability to control people and events actually keeps us feeling out of control.”

All of this is really about control.

And coupled with that are other buzzwords: powerlessness, “can’t control another,” “not to fix,” outcomes, regulate.

One of the goals of therapy is helping people to learn the difference between what is possible to control and what is not. The best way to do this is to introduce them to their own skin, so that they start working only within that wrapper.

Here’s a “truth” for you, which explains why we need a list about “letting Go.”

When people attempt to “control” — attempt to exert influence either on the world around them or on the others who occupy the world — they do so to push back our fear of irrelevance, meaninglessness and death.

This is not to say that we admit to our games. No, we point fingers; we blame:

  • But… but… it’s my (marriage, business, relationship, job, family) and I “should” be able to control what happens!”
  • But… but… I’m special! Everyone knows how special I am, and if they don’t, they should! If they really loved me, they’d want to make me happy by doing it my way!”
  • But… but… I’m here for a higher purpose! Why is the world thwarting me? I’m only trying to make it better for everyone!”

In other words — we lie, we deny, we cheat, we play manipulation games, we pout, we whine — and boy do we complain, all because the world will not cooperate in our attempt to get others to give our lives meaning. What we conveniently forget is that all the other people in our lives also have lives, and want us to give priority and meaning to theirs.

Everyone is “Waiting for Godot” to come along and make it all better. Life will be fun and things will get done, when all the external ducks line up and stay that way. And we wait… and we wait.

And then we die.

The key to the list and to the Campbell quote is external vs. internal control. External always requires the cooperation of another thing or person. Internal is where I have a modicum of control. I can look at my methods of interpretation and my actions, notice which ones are working for me and which ones aren’t — and I can “work” on the ones that aren’t. Any other route is a sure path to disaster.

To assume that I am here to “make” other adults behave according to my pre-conceived notions of how they should behave is both arrogant and naïve. If I assume that other adults should put my needs ahead of theirs, either because I am more powerful or more needy than them (more special) then I am both egotistical and foolish. 

Paradoxically, however, unless I retreat to a cave, all of my actions and life are lived both “in here” and “out there.”

The question, then, is not an either/or one, but rather a question of how. For me, I see the approach that works as: 

A rigorous, self-responsible, self-discipline coupled with honest communication and a willingness to let others be equally self-responsibly self-disciplined.”

To let go in many respects means to get out of the way.

Self-esteem is an “inside job.” I am free to express my opinions, attempt to influence situations and others, and to state consequences for “failure to perform.” If, for example, I am someone’s boss, I have the right to expect a certain level of performance from an employee, and have the right to fire him or her for non-performance.

But here’s the key: I am silly if I connect my feelings of self worth to another’s compliance.

To go back to my internal vs. external comment: what we’re talking about is the acknowledgement that my internal representations of the world are just that — mine. As we look at the “Let Go” list, we see that what is being proposed is another frame of reference.

The “old” frame is all about treating others, (as one of the points says,) as “things” to be fixed. This “old” frame of reference can be restated,

I know better than that object over there how it should function in the world.”

Now, if I am talking about a refrigerator, in general I do know better than the refrigerator what it ought to be doing. I once remember having a refrigerator in an apartment that got stuck on defrost. When I opened the door, everything had melted and liquids were well over 100 degrees F. Pop bottles had “popped.” There was oozing stuff everywhere. Needless to say, I didn’t go, “Well, I thought a refrigerator was supposed to keep things cool, but hey, obviously this one has other plans and knows what it is doing.”

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who would turn to their partner and scream, “What did you do to break the refrigerator?” But I sort of digress, again.

A more viable frame of reference is to remember that people are not objects.

Have a look, again, at the list above, about letting go of the need to fix others to fit your erroneous representations of how they should be. Let go. Work on you. People aren’t refrigerators, and they aren’t roles. They’re autonomous human beings. 

Keep to your own package, your own skin. God knows there’s enough to do in there for a lifetime.


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web’s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever.  See: –The Phoenix Centre Press
What’s Your Libretto?
Relating — it takes two to tango

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