Remember my last two posts, in which I told you about my first two mantras, Be Grateful and No Expectations? They’re the first two in the three-part mantra that I repeat to myself whenever I feel overwhelmed, or like my erythrophobia is about to rear its red-glowing head.
In both those posts, I was leading up to this last one, because this part of my mantras is actually the most important of all three. Both of them won’t work 100% unless you’ve got a handle on this one: Let It Go.
Okay, okay, I see you frowning. I know what you’re thinking. Saying “just let it go” is easy. And it means nothing, because actually letting go is…
The thing is, it’s not just hard, right? It’s impossible. How do you stop thinking and obsessing about something that is a constant nagging worry screaming through your mind? It’s like being told not to think of pink elephants – you immediately picture a pink elephant. It’s impossible not to.
Except it isn’t.
I promise, it is possible to learn to “let go”. At least, I found a way for myself that works, and I hope it will for you, too.
As with the other two mantras before, it’s not an instantaneous cure for your erythrophobia or other social anxiety. It will require you to consciously realize when you need to let something go and to constantly readjust your thought patterns on the subject. But is that really too much to ask of something that will hopefully, probably, finally help you feel better?
Why We Can’t Let Go In The First Place
That’s the crux, isn’t it? Why, oh why, is it so impossible to let go of things in the first place? Be it anger, resentment, sadness or the past; they fill our minds and eat at our hearts so that we can’t concentrate on other things or feel anything else. They’re a constant drain and strain on our life, and nothing can alleviate them. You would love nothing more than to let them go, but you don’t know how, and least of all why.
I know the why.
At least, I know its root: fear.
Fear is the constant companion of socially anxious people:
- We worry about our appearance because we fear what others might think of us.
- We’re afraid of leaving our safe spaces because we fear that we might have an “episode”.
- We resent our exes because we’re afraid they’ll replace us and “win the race”, and we’ll end up alone.
- We can’t enjoy our weekends because we’re afraid of messing up that presentation we have to hold next week.
- We are unable to see past the unrequited expectations [LINK] we have of someone in their actions towards us.
Basically, we fear anything and everything outside of our control – which is anything and everything beyond our own actions and emotions. That desire to control any outcome outside of our influence is, in the end, what we need to let go.
In other words: To let something go, you must relinquish control and stop being afraid.
Well, duh, you say. But how do I stop being afraid?
Which is where I pull the pink-elephant analogy out of my hat again and ask: How would you try to stop thinking about pink elephants even if someone tells you to think of them?Any ideas?
Simple: You think of white elephants. Or unicorns. Or rainbows. Or chocolate.*Pouf* Pink elephant gone from your mind, right?
Overcoming Your Fears
Of course, fear and its immediate effects are more difficult to overcome than the picture of a pink elephant in our minds. But it can be done; you can shift your focus to other, more productive emotions.
All negative emotions can be traced back to fear, just like all positive emotions are based on love. Fear and love are polar opposites.
You might think that hatred is the opposite of love, and of course that’s not wrong. It’s just not the whole truth. Without fear, there would be no reason to hate something or someone.
So, let’s recap.
Your inability to let go of something is rooted in your fear of something or other that you have no control over. So, in order to “let go”, you have to overcome or conquer that fear, that need to control. You must render it meaningless, inconsequential. A non-issue. Turn it into a white elephant, as it were.
But the only thing powerful enough to make you forget your fear is its polar opposite: love.
Yes, I know, sounds sappy – and still not exactly helpful. But so far I’ve only been trying to explain why what I want you to do from now on will actually work.
From now on, whenever you feel unable to let go of something, I want you to figure out what fear this inability is based on.
- Fear of being alone?
- Fear of being replaced?
- Fear of being unworthy?
- Fear of failing?
- Fear of being unloved?
Such fears are natural and serve purposes of their own. Without them, we’d have no drive to better ourselves, to evolve and grow. To survive.
It’s when we give into them and act upon them, when we let them overwhelm us and take over our lives, that they become a burden. A weight around our necks, holding us back, bringing us down.
They make us feel like a lost child, cowering and crying in a dark corner, unable to break free.
Wrap That Frightened Child in Love
Picture that child. That frightened, cowering, crying child that lives inside you; that is a part of you. A part of you that you have probably been beating up and mentally abusing for the simple fact that it is afraid and cowers and cries.
Admit it: you resent, disapprove of and condemn that frightened part of you. You wish it wouldn’t exist, that it would just go away and leave you alone.
But how has that been working for you? How has hating that part of yourself made you feel better in the past?
It hasn’t, has it?
So let’s try a different approach.
(You might want to be alone when you do this – it can get incredibly emotional, as I experienced myself the first few times I did it. And it still happens to me every now and then.)
Instead of mentally beating up that helpless, frightened, crying child, picture yourself going up to it. Imagine the deep love you have for someone (your parents, siblings, spouse, a pet – anything you love deeply, wholly and unconditionally) as a warm light surrounding you. Now take that light and warmth and love over to that child cowering in the corner, this child that is a part of your very being, and take it in your arms.
Envelop that frightened, self-abused part of you in your light and warmth and love. It is a wonderful fragment of yourself, of your self. It belongs to you, wholly and forever, and it completes you. Accept it for the miracle it is – and yourself for the miracle that you are.
Love your Self.
As with the gratitude exercise, I bawled my eyes out the first time I allowed myself to accept that part of me I hated most. That part I felt dragged me down, held me back, made me afraid, made me incomplete.
But in that instance I realized how wrong I was. Not that timid, shy part of me made me incomplete; I rendered myself incomplete by not accepting that part of me.
What does loving yourself have to do with letting go?
By loving that part of yourself which you make responsible for your “weakness”, you let go of your resentment towards it. You cast aside the fear and worry it instills in you in favor of acceptance.
It probably won’t be a permanent thing after doing it once, or even twice. It took me months of doing this exercise once a day before I permanently felt no resentment towards that “weak” part of me anymore. But I stuck with them because every time I went through them, I felt something I never felt otherwise: peace.
Peace with myself. Peace with the world. Peace with my situation.
And that, my friends, is what it means to let go. To find peace and love for that which is causing you pain and anxiety.
I swear, it works for me. Why shouldn’t it work for you?
So from now on, when you find yourself unable to let go of something or someone, I want you to picture that warm light enveloping that thing you can’t let go. Bathe it in your love. Accept it. Relinquish the control you will never have over it.
Love that which you can’t let go.
And love that part of you that is so desperately holding on. It’s just afraid. And that’s okay, as long as you love it.
Because love is the polar opposite of fear.
And letting go is a wonderful kind of freedom.