These seem very diverse, but have in common how difficult it is to stop thinking about old hurts, how hard it is to stop longing and yearning for a lost love, how to stop that inner voice of judgment and shaming. We all seem to hope that somehow, there is a magical cure, or a trick which will help us to get rid of all which seem to hamper our well-being and sabotage a healthy sense of self, and will enable us to be free to be happy. Stopping IT from interfering with the quality of our lives, seems to be one of the most popular themes of the Self-Help industry.
Many "cures" are proposed and idealised even: I've heard and seen demonstrated several visualisation exercises, where one can imagine IT floating away and out of sight like a little boat of the sea, or a helium filled balloon. Or the often employed exercise of writing IT down and burning the piece of paper (with an incantation or two thrown in). There certainly is some value to these, but probably no lasting relief is really found by imagining "Letting go" of whatever troubles us. I have even heard the expression: "Let go and let God" and while there may be some sense of comfort in imagining that you are giving IT over to a greater being, even this is not quite effective to change our very human hearts and minds which still ache and long and obsess.
Here's a suggestion: what if you just "Let it BE"? Yes, just stop wanting IT to not be present. Quite a radical idea, I thought, when I first encountered this approach. How is it to simply just relax into radically accepting whatever IT is that you so want to get rid of: that intrusive thought, that painful memory, that harsh inner voice which evokes such distress?
Paradoxically, letting IT be exactly as it is, can be the first step toward unhooking ourselves from it. It's only when we can look at what is going on within, that there is any hope for change. So inquiring directly into the nature of whatever It is, in a mindful way, may interrupt the striving to get rid of it. The attention and energy given to try and not feel what is simply very human, often keeps the unwanted thought, memory, emotion right in place. Ironically we cannot "let go" in the sense of putting down our "baggage" and catching the next train out, another commonly used metaphor in psychology. We cannot excise parts of our brain: that's what it would take to get rid of that which we don't want to have within.
But once we know the exact nature of the unwanted IT, once we can look at IT with self-compassion and without the urgency to get rid of IT, we can learn to not pay the same amount of attention to IT. To notice IT, to honour IT, but to intentionally shift our focus, so that new neural pathways can develop in our brain, and the once feared and unwanted IT slowly recedes into the background of our being. That is what "Letting Be" looks like.
Not easy, not a quick-fix either. But with the guidance of a trusted therapist, it is possible to learn to live with that which previously was intolerable.