by Trudy Gregson, MS, LPC
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” - Tao Te Ching
Who hasn't struggled with letting go at one time or another? Cleaning out a closet and letting go of old favorites that don’t fit or aren’t your style anymore. Letting go of expectations - yours or someone else’s - to be the parent, partner, friend, daughter or son you’re “supposed” to be. Or letting go of a wish that something outside of your control can be different. Maybe you’ve noticed it as feeling “stuck”, or perhaps it’s a little voice in the back of your head, or a good friend advising, “Let it go.” We know we should, so why is it so hard?
There are as many reasons why it’s hard as there are reasons for letting go: fear of judgment or regret, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, to name a few. Holding on can feel safe and familiar, while the notion of letting go may be fraught with fear or anxiety. It can feel like a tug-of-war as we weigh our options, ask for advice, ruminate.
So there we are, stuck in this tug-of-war, neither side letting go. How do we get “unstuck”? Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but letting go requires us to move towards the fear or anxiety. It’s your fear, unique to you, and your fear can’t actually hurt you. So rather than “letting go” of fear, I invite you to welcome it by tuning in to what you’re noticing as you think about letting go. Maybe it’s a feeling in your stomach, or your chest, or your head, or more of an “all over” sensation. Maybe an image comes to mind, or a memory. Instead of labeling it as unpleasant and pushing it away or trying to shut it down, take a few deep breaths and see if you can be present with it, accepting that it’s here, and noticing what it needs you to know.
Your feelings about letting go are simply trying to get your attention, like the monster that lurks under a child’s bed when it’s time to surrender to sleep. How can a child sleep with a monster under the bed? So the parent dutifully checks under the bed, in the closet, in the corners and says, “There’s no monster.” The parent uses monster spray, just to be sure. When the parent is finished attending to the monster, does the child really believe there’s definitely no monster in the room? Probably not, but the child’s fears feel heard. The parent knows about the monster now, too. The child isn’t experiencing it alone. Maybe there is a monster, but the parent is there with the child, just down the hall.
We can be with the monsters that get in the way of letting go without them overpowering us. We don’t need to persuade them, just to listen. Once they feel our presence and feel heard, they tend to loosen their grip. You don’t let go of feelings, they let go of you. Then you can let go of old beliefs or behaviors, creating space for new possibilities, new opportunities, and new beliefs that fit who you really are.
Trudy Gregson is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works with adults experiencing depression and anxiety, relationship issues, life transitions, grief and loss. Trudy brings mindfulness practice to her work with her clients to help them cultivate compassion for themselves and create the space for change. Trudy offers a free 30-minute phone consultation and can be reached at or .