We talk about letting go of the deeper, emotional attachments we have in our life in this second part of a two-part episode.
From sentimental attachments to people. The main focus of this episode is about the romantic relationships we can have trouble letting go of.
This is a deep and complex episode, and there are so many ways to approach this sensitive topic. But if you can get beyond the attachments that are holding you back and keeping you down, you will have a deeply fulfilling and happy life.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
This is part 2 of a two-part episode on letting go of attachments. Part 1 covered letting go of physical or functional attachments. Mainly material objects that provide a function in your life, but aren’t necessarily sentimental with a lot of emotional value. A good example of a material, functional object could be a tool like a hammer.
You may love your hammer, and never want to get rid of it, but if you couldn’t find it, you’d probably just go out and get another one. Some people do have trouble letting go of physical objects, even when there isn’t a deep emotional connection to them. I used to travel with about a dozen power tools and quite a lot of toolboxes. One of my favorite tools was called a grinder. This was a handheld tool that you could add these solid disks to, to cut things. Well, I used it for cutting things, mainly ceramic tile.
About 9 years ago, I took on tiling my kitchen floor in the condo I eventually let go. Instead of renting a tile cutter, I bought a grinder. That way, I could shape the tiles into whatever shape I needed. I could cut grooves, and angles, and even arcs if I wanted to get really fancy.
Well, I figured hey, if I ever need a grinder, I now have one. After eight years and never needing the grinder again, I decided to let it go. I had held onto all those years it, “just in case”. And that’s what gets us almost every time!
“I might need it! I better hang onto it just in case.”
It’s true, you will eventually need almost everything you own. Well, you may not need it, but you’ll certainly look for it one day thinking to yourself, ‘did I get rid of that?’ Because in time, you’ll likely need almost anything. It’s true! There’s no denying that one day, whether tomorrow or 50 years from now, you are going to need that pink headband you gave to your sister. If you only hadn’t given it to your sister!
But what would happen if you never owned that pink headband, then it would never have crossed your mind once. But because you owned it, you have an attachment to it. At one point in time, you owned that pink headband, and it was a part of you. In a small, small way, it was a part of you. And by releasing it, you released a part of yourself. Then later on in life, you suddenly realize that you should never have given that pink headband away because now you need it, but it’s gone. And you get that feeling you get when you regret doing something.
Regret! Our attachments bring regrets, isn’t that terrible? If you had never owned a pink headband but needed one, you might get a feeling of anticipation and excitement. “Ooh, a pink headband would go perfect with this outfit.” But because you did own it once, you now get that regretful feeling, “Darn, why did I give that away?”
Of course, you could also say something more neutral like, “Do I still have that pink headband? Oh, wait, I gave it to my sister. That’s right.” And you may or may not feel happy that your sister has it.
But today we’re not going to talk about pink headbands. We’re going to talk about deep emotional attachments that we develop, especially with people. The deep emotional attachments that keep us from enjoying life if we don’t have them. The kind of attachments that prevent us from moving on and functioning in a healthy, productive manner.
These are the attachments that we just don’t want to let go of no matter what. If you can’t find a $3 hardware store hammer, you’ll probably get over it pretty quickly. But if you can’t find that antique hammer that your grandfather passed down to you that was used to build his great grandfather’s home, you may not get over it as quickly, if ever. Depending on how attached you are to attachments.
It’s the same type of item, different meaning. A hammer from today and a hammer from many years ago is still a hammer. But because you’ve attached meaning to the object, it becomes an emotional attachment that is now harder to let go.
By the time this episode is over, you’ll learn all about the emotional attachments you have in your life, and might just hear the solution to detach yourself from certain people and things. Attachments are complex because they involve so much of our nervous system. In the form of sensory experience.
Using the same hammer example, the feel and weight of your grandfather’s hammer had significance. You attached emotion to the texture, colors, smell, and even the sound it made when you placed it on the table. Every sensory organ got involved as you experienced emotions while holding it in your hand. These emotions attached themselves, in a way, to all your senses, forming deep and rich meaning in your mind.
The entire visceral experience helped you get attached to this hammer. It became a part of your history, your father’s history, and even a part of your identity.
As we go through today’s episode, you’ll learn why we form such deep attachments to both things and people. And you’ll also learn what it takes to start healing from the loss of such attachments. As I said in last week’s episode, this could be the most important episode of the entire library of my show. Letting go of attachments will get you out of any rut you are in and moving forward to progress in life.
Deep, emotional attachments are complex. They can be a beast. You’ve watched the hoarding shows right? Some people get so emotionally attached to some things, that they feel like they are going to die if you take those things away. Even a fast-food hamburger wrapper can have deep meaning to some people, so you can understand how being able to let go of attachments may seem like an impossibility to some people.
But it is possible. And whether you are still attached to an ex, or you’re attached to a pile of newspapers that fill up your garage, there is one first step to keep in mind before we get into this topic too deeply. And you need to get past this first step in order to get to any step beyond, so pay attention really close.
Here’s the question I want you to ask yourself:
If I could replace exactly how I feel with something else, would I let this attachment go?
In other words, let’s say you broke up or got divorced or something similar, and you are still attached to that other person; Attached in a deep, emotional way. And, remembering how you felt when you were with them, when everything was great since you can’t have that person now, could you replace how you felt when everything was good with them, with something else that made you feel the exact same way?
I’m not saying you’d replace the person, I’m talking about just the feeling. If there was a way to feel exactly the same way, or better, without them, would you at least try it out?
It’s a tough question to answer, I know. Because the first thought that comes to my mind is, “No! Because without them, I wouldn’t feel that way. They are the cause of how I feel.”
And if you said that to yourself, well first, you’re not alone. Second, by saying that, you are choosing to close off any alternative to feeling any different than you do right now. Meaning, if you feel sad and lonely, and you don’t even want to try replacing how you felt when you felt great with that person, then you will not feel any better. You can choose to try, or try not, there is no do. Yup, I said it! You can choose to try to replace that good feeling with another good feeling, or you can try not to. Because at least if you try, there is a part of you that wants to feel better.
You could just do it. But if you could do it, then you wouldn’t need to listen to this episode, so you’d just do it! But if you are attached to someone, and want to move on, keep listening. As we’ll be getting into it soon.
Remember, we may miss the person, but we also miss the feeling we got when we were with that person. Since the attachment is to both the person and the feeling, let’s focus on the part we do have some level of say about: The feeling. The person may never return, so we need to find that part of ourselves that we lost.
Keep this in mind as we go forward.
In the last episode, I talked about how I let go of my car and everything in it when it broke down in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was a thousand miles from home, had no cash except for what I needed for food on the way home, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment and tools, let alone the car itself, that I was trying to figure out how to get home. If you didn’t listen to that episode, let’s just say I had a full panic until I popped. Then I let it all go and bought a bus ticket home. It was the moment I let go of attachments.
Along with my tools and equipment, I also had several bags I had packed with clothes and other items, and a cooler full of food and drinks. Another item I had was a stained glass lampshade that my mom made for me. I had a physical attachment to almost everything in the car. Not literally, but in the sense that I absolutely wanted to have these things in my life, to the point that I really believed I needed everything.
The true attachment really wasn’t to the things themselves, but to the time, energy, and money I put towards those things to bring them into my life. At the time, I was a real audiophile, where I would purchase audio equipment and fine-tune it to get that perfect sound in my car. I wanted my ride to be comfortable and entertaining at the same time, so I saved money, invested in equipment, installed it myself, and kept tuning it until it sounded perfect. It was enjoyable and made me feel good.
So when I was faced with the decision to leave it all behind that day in Arizona, it was a true challenge. I was like a child who didn’t want to let go of his toy, and I was getting more and more upset. Except I wasn’t a child, I was an adult with a childlike need to hang on to what’s mine. Well, perhaps not childlike, but maybe more primal. Like the time when all humans had were their furs to keep them warm and the food they hunted to keep them alive. If someone else came along and took those away, they would die, or have to die trying to get them back or replace them.
Losing my stuff was not an option, because of all the time, money and energy I put into what I owned. If I simply gave it up, it would have been like saying, “All the time I spent working to make the money that went into what I purchased, and all the hours I spent under my dashboard, and in my trunk wiring all the equipment, down the drain.”
After all, if I let something go that I paid for and even built myself, it’s almost like I’m invalidating myself. By letting go of something that I invested in, the investment feels pointless. The challenge for me at the time, and the challenge for most people in this situation, is that I considered what I was letting go an investment. It may not have been an investment with a monetary return, but it was an investment with a functional and recreational return. It made me feel good.
So in a sense, I was letting go of a good feeling. I didn’t want to let go of the good feelings those material items gave to me. I thought those things were what caused my good feelings. I was attached to the feelings I got because of those material things. It is the emotion we are attached to, not the object. This is vital to understand:
It is the emotion we are attached to, not the object of that emotion.
When I saw that stained glass lamp in my trunk, I thought of every possible way I could carry it with me when I finally decided I’d be taking the bus home with next to nothing in my hands except some clothes. My mom spent a lot of time creating that lamp especially for me. I used it for years in my home in Florida, and I was going to use it again at my new home in Texas. Yet, here I was, faced with the decision to let everything go, even the things that I had a very strong emotional connection to. Thinking back now, I remember that lamp was the hardest of all to give up.
I was ready to let everything else go – everything I bought and spent my time on. But I wasn’t ready to let that lampshade go. So I had to face the second level of letting go of attachments, the emotional investment I had made into that lampshade. It sounds a little strange when I say it that way, but it’s true. When I looked at that shade, I thought of my mom and all the time and love that went into it, when she gave it to me as a gift.
Letting it go was like telling my mom, “I don’t care enough about you to take this with me.” This was completely untrue of course. It was a story I made up in my mind for no reason but to make myself feel bad. I figured if I made myself feel bad for leaving it behind, then I could prove to myself that I was still a good person. It’s really strange actually. We do this to ourselves: We tell ourselves stories to help make us feel bad. And we do this to validate that we really are a good person.
“If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t feel bad. Because I care, I do feel bad. “
That is a limiting belief that I’d like for you to consider letting go of right now. If you think you need to feel bad because that’s how you’re supposed to feel, then I’m giving you permission to not feel bad if you don’t want to. You certainly can if you want to, but don’t do it out of any ethical or moral or religious obligation. Feel bad if you want to, but don’t feel bad if you don’t want to.
When I was faced with the reality of losing that lampshade, the story of how I should feel bad came into my mind. But soon afterward, and especially now in retrospect, I realize that the story I told myself, about all the time and effort and energy she put into creating it just for me, is actually a happy story. It’s a feel-good story. It’s what I needed to focus on. It’s the fact that she’d do something like that for me. It’s what mattered.
Losing the object that I attached that story to isn’t losing the story
When you feel bad about losing something, keep the good story detached from the bad situation. Does that make sense? When you are faced with letting something go, don’t attach the good story of how it came into your life to the object, because that story will never change. Create a new story of letting it go. Create a new story and a good reason that you are letting something go, and leave the other good story of how it came into your life the same. That way, your outcome will always be win-win. Well, it may not always feel like a win-win, but we’ll talk about that some more shortly.
In my letting go experience, where I had to face losing a sentimental item such as a lampshade, I chose to focus on the good reason for letting it go. I chose to focus that my mom would want her son to be happy. And that letting go of her gift to me was a way to do that. When I changed my story, letting it go was actually easy. Of course, I didn’t want to let it go, but now when I think about that lampshade, I have two good memories. One, she was amazing for what she did for me. She spent all that time and effort handcrafting a gift for me that I cherished for as long as I owned it. And two, letting it go allowed me to be at peace and helped me get to where I am in life.
I realize I may sound like I’m over-emphasizing the impact a lampshade had in my life, but it can come down to something as simple as a lampshade with any situation in life. The process of letting go can start with a lampshade, then as we become more comfortable with letting go, the process can intertwine into our relationships with people.
One of the qualities I am grateful to have in myself is the ability to forgive and move on quickly. I could get into a big argument in the morning, and be absolutely fine in the afternoon while the other person still needs time to process things. Letting things go has helped me process information and detach from negative emotions pretty quickly. It’s something I’ve been able to do faster and faster over the years.
You can do this too. As you learn to let things go, you learn to move more swiftly through life. You don’t get caught up in things. You don’t get evoked so easily. You really end up going with the flow and enjoying the journey.
So let’s talk about relationships. How can you let go of your attachments when it comes to relationships? Specifically, romantic relationships that have ended. You can also apply some of this to friends and relatives that have left us, or died, but our focus today is mainly on romantic relationships that have ended. These deep, emotional attachments, are harder to let go of than material attachments.
Let’s get really deep now.
In every romantic relationship I’ve ever been in, I invested myself into it deeply. When the relationship ended, I got hurt deeply. In fact, a couple of relationships that ended abruptly have taken me months to get over.
Does this resonate with you? The more we share of ourselves with another person, the more vulnerable we are. But the more vulnerable we are, the closer we can get to that person. And, of course, the closer we get to someone, the more attached we become to their presence in our life. We share everything about us, to the point where we feel as if we are one person sometimes.
And that’s when a piece of our identity gets wrapped up in the relationship. Then when one person leaves or dies, the other doesn’t know what to do. Many of the reasons for everything they did together was because they were together. You get attached to someone else because of how you feel when you are with them.
An attachment to a person is a dependency on how they make you feel.
It’s a little strange when I say it that way but think about it for a moment. When you are in a romantic relationship, don’t you depend on your partner for certain feelings? Unless you’re a celibate monk who closes off intimate relationships, you probably have dependencies on other people so that you can feel a certain way.
It’s easy to validate ourselves and feel good about it, but doesn’t it always feel better when someone else validates us? It can be easy to love ourselves, but it always seems to feel better when someone else loves us. We all want to be a part of something bigger, accepted and loved, as if we were significant to someone else.
That’s what a romantic relationship brings into our lives: Acceptance, love, and significance. And when we can get that from a special person, our whole world seems to brighten. So we develop what I would consider healthy dependencies on those things so that we can feel good in and about ourselves.
We certainly don’t need an intimate relationship to enjoy ourselves and the world, and some people are much happier without one. If that is you, congratulations, you may not need the rest of this episode. If however, you enjoy being in a relationship more than not being in one, especially one that supports and promotes growth in each of you, then developing a healthy dependency on it usually makes you feel better than not having it all.
Now, the problem arises when you cannot free yourself of the dependencies you’ve developed in your relationship. This is the kind of relationship that you might think or say to yourself, “I would be lost and confused if that person ever left me.” This is like putting all of your stock into one company hoping it never goes bankrupt. If the company goes bankrupt, you have nothing left.
If the person you’re with is no longer there, will it bankrupt you? I’m not talking about money either, I’m talking emotionally. This is a sensitive topic, I realize. And some of you might be thinking, I’ve been with this person for 20 years, of course I would be emotionally bankrupt. Or even if haven’t known each other for that long, how much of you have you invested into the relationship?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in a relationship. In fact, I support being vulnerable and sharing as much as you feel comfortable sharing with another person. Invest a lot! If you are going to have a relationship, have the deepest possible one you can have. Take full advantage of one of the greatest pleasures in life by sharing your world with someone else. A healthy relationship has a lot of emotional and even physical benefits.
But if and when the relationship ends, what do you do? What happens to everything you were sharing? What happens to the shared experiences that made you feel good? How about the sharing of your deepest secrets? When the person you trust the most is no longer there, you may feel like you’ve lost the outlet in which to share the most of yourself. Your full expression, everything you want to be, can decrease or disappear altogether when the relationship ends.
This is where the difficulty of letting go enters the picture. I won’t lie to you, a relationship that ceases to exist for one reason or another is one of the hardest, sometimes most painful experiences in our existence. Mainly because when we’re with another person we feel safe with, we can feel the most free and happy we’ve ever been. We share our secrets. We laugh, we cry and experience the entire range of what’s possible.
To lose that is big. Really big. And it hurts. Without that other person in our life, what do we do now?
If separation, divorce, or death in a relationship were easy, we wouldn’t need people like me talking about it. We also wouldn’t need to look for ways to feel better because we’d already know what to do to feel better. Some people look online and search for things like, “How to get over my relationship”. And a lot of what you’ll read online will be very similar. And soon, you’ve read everything, but you still feel down. It seems there is no solution, no recovery.
Well, let’s get into some of the things you can do if you are having trouble letting go of the bad feelings about a loss in your life. Remember, it’s not the object of the emotion that you are attached to, it’s the emotion itself. In other words, you are not attached to the person, you are attached to how that person made you feel. The person had certain characteristics and behavior that brought good feelings into your life. We are all unique, so the qualities that person had were also unique, but keep an open mind as we head into this next segment. There are steps you can take to help you let go of a relationship, and move on in life. They aren’t the end-all, be-all solutions, but sometimes you need a starting point.
I promise, if you are feeling hurt from losing someone close to you, you may still feel pain after you practice these things. The pain reduces and the hurt subsides over time. But what I’m really here to do today is not help you feel less pain, because that will happen on its own. I want to help you understand that what you may be having trouble letting go of is not the person, but how that person made you feel. And, how you may be attached to the limiting belief that there is only one way to get those good feelings.
Now, this could be tricky to fully accept, I know. But you really aren’t attached to a person. You are attached to how they make you feel. If a previous romantic partner made you feel good when they looked at you, you became attached to that feeling. When they made you feel like a real man or a real woman, you became attached to that feeling. You wanted as much of that feeling as you could get. You soaked it in.
Keep this in mind as we go through these steps. You could have loved everything about the other person. Their face, their body, their brain, the way they talked, the way they looked at you, everything. But it all comes back to how you feel inside, in you, when you think about those things.
If that person was the only person in the world to make you feel warm and fuzzy, can you honestly say that he or she was the only person to ever do that? Ever? I mean, you could answer, “Yes!”, but we’ve all had at least one other experience of feeling that way with other people. It may not have been as deep or as meaningful as it was with this person, but at the time, it was a great feeling that meant a lot.
And whether you’ve never felt anything similar with anyone else in your life or you have, remember that your future has within it the potential to feel just that way again, or even better.
So think about what made you feel good about this person in your life. When I think about someone in my past, I think of how much she supported everything I did, as long as I was happy doing it. I’ve never had anyone do that for me, so I miss it. I miss how I felt when I got that type of support. I felt invincible, and that I could do anything I put my heart into.
The question comes up, how could I ever feel that way with or without anyone else? Really… how? Well, this leads to our first step towards letting go:
1. Remember that what other people see in you is what’s already in you
Before I met this person, I didn’t think I was supposed to do things that made me happy, I thought I was supposed to do things that made me money. Then when I met her, and she supported me in my pursuits of anything I wanted, I realized how much I loved that about her. I soaked it in. I loved the feeling of full support of my pursuits.
What did someone see in you? What is something they said to you or did for you that made you realize something about yourself that you didn’t previously know? Did they say you were beautiful when you didn’t think that about yourself? Did they tell you to “go for it” when you believed you couldn’t do it, whatever it was?
Remember that people see more in you than you see in yourself. That’s the way it works. You typically don’t see a lot in yourself, because you are you, and you live in your skin all the time. If I asked you to describe your elbow, you probably couldn’t, unless you stare at it every day and make observations. We typically don’t see ourselves the way others do.
When you can accept what someone else has revealed to you about yourself, that is the first step in letting go of being attached to that other person. It is a step towards self-validation and healing.
We are typically more observant about others than we are of ourselves. Lean into what others believe about you, and you will gain strength, confidence, and self-reliance.
And one more important item in this step: Remember that people will always point out what’s not good about you too because they haven’t come to terms with this same thing in themselves.
Let me break that down a little bit. If the person in your life puts you down, it may hurt, but it’s a clear indication that the person putting you down has a huge problem inside of them that they haven’t healed from yet. If someone says to you, “Wow, you suck at golf”, then the pain they feel at being bad at something in their life is displaced upon you. They are taking their own issues and placing them on you.
It’s true you may not be great at swinging at a golf ball, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying yourself. People who need to express their perception of you in a hurtful way are almost always in pain themselves.
So when I say, “Remember that what other people see in you is already in you”, I am only referring to the good stuff. The bad stuff they see is in them, otherwise, they wouldn’t say it. The good stuff is in you, which is why it was said. Make sense?
Besides, you’re not likely attached to how you feel when they said the bad stuff. So let’s move into step #2 of letting go…
2. Throw Hope out the window, and see reality as it is right now
This one is totally heartless and in your face, but for good reason. One of the most common reasons that people don’t let go is that they hope things will be different. They don’t accept the reality they see in front of them right now, they only see avenues of possibility. It’s possible the person could return; It’s possible they are just having an episode and will be back to normal soon; It’s possible they’ll realize they made a mistake and come back.
When you rely on hope, you are letting go of your power to make a decision and take action. This is important, so let me repeat it:
When you rely on hope, you are letting go of your power to make a decision, and take action
If you hope something will happen, like you’ll get back together or something, then you close the door on anything actually happening – at least for you. “Hope” keeps you waiting indefinitely. Hope disappoints over and over again. It is how opportunities are missed and new friendships are lost.
Have you ever hoped for something to happen, and it never did? Did you miss any opportunities because of it? I remember I hung on to the hope that I’d get rehired at this company I worked for. I hoped because all the evidence showed that they would most likely hire me again. So instead of waiting a week and deciding they wouldn’t hire me, so I’d better move on, I waited months! After all, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. In the meantime, other employers wanted to hire me, and I said no to them, hoping and believing that this employer would eventually hire me.
In the end, all the jobs I could have had were gone, and I never got hired anywhere. I’ve since learned that once something ends, I move on. I choose to believe what I see. So if someone has made a clear decision that they want me back, I can choose to jump on board if I want. But if they’re still playing with the idea, I move on. I call it closure. I need closure so that I can make decisions about my life instead of waiting for other people to make decisions about my life.
Take charge of your life, and don’t wait around for possibilities. After all, anything is possible when it comes down to it. It’s possible someone could knock on your door and give you a million dollars, so you’d better stay home and never leave. Hope is wanting the stories in your head to come true. But when it comes down to it, you can’t predict what will happen, but you can take action to move on in life. You can choose to take action instead of hoping someone else will.
Take responsibility for your results in life, so that you aren’t waiting for something that may never happen.
You might think this needs to be first and foremost, but I believe grieving comes after you know who you are, and you take charge of your life by throwing “hope” out the window. You must grieve.
Grieving is the outer expression of inner pain. When we lose someone in our life, we will feel pain. It’s unavoidable. Who we are was a part of something bigger. After a loss, we lose a part of who we are. At least it feels that way. When you share everything of who you are with someone you love and trust, that forms a strong bond, and pieces of your identity get intertwined. Sometimes it feels as if you are one entity, experiencing life together. So to lose that connection is painful. Your once collective thoughts are now only your thoughts. Your shared experiences turn into the experiences you now have alone.
The longer you’ve been together, the more memories you’ve made. Even if you were together a short time, but shared all of who you are with each other, you feel almost permanently bonded with the other person. This bond, when separated, creates emotional pain. And the true path to healing this pain is time and genuine grieving.
Because we are all unique in how we grieve, this will be a personal experience for you. For me, one of the things I do is recite a mantra. It’s a simple, silly mantra, and I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, but maybe it will help you in some way.
What I do is first stop the distractions around me. If the radio or TV is on, I shut it off. Then I give myself some time and let the emotions rise to the surface so that I can identify what I feel. If sadness comes up, I say it:
I feel sad. I feel sad. I am feeling sad. I am feeling sad because I am lonely.
Then when new thoughts and feeling arise, I say them as part of the mantra:
I feel lonely. I don’t like being lonely. I hate being lonely. I feel angry because I am lonely. I am angry.
And if tears come up, I cry. But I continue expressing exactly what comes up, until I get bored, or don’t feel the need to do it anymore. The last time I did this, I just said:
I am grieving. I can’t deny it, I am grieving. I didn’t think I was, but I am. I am really grieving.
The reason I said these things is because I know myself well enough to know that I will seek a distraction to keep me from feeling bad. If the bad feelings come up, I might check my email to avoid feeling bad. But what happens of course is, if I don’t express my true emotions, they get repressed. Repressed emotions bleed into all your experiences, and you can never fully be satisfied or happy.
If however, you just express them like I do in my mantra, you may not realize it, but you are releasing the pressure valve slowly. The pain is being trickled out, and it’s helping you to feel better.
I didn’t believe it at first. The first time I did this, I didn’t feel anything. But the next day, for seemingly no reason, I was in such a good mood. It was like I had released something. Just by talking to myself.
How you grieve will be personal to you. But grieving is vital. If you deny yourself from grieving, then you may never get beyond where you are. It is an expression of what’s buried in there. Don’t keep it buried, express and grieve. It could take a long time, but it does get better. Grieve and allow it to come out. There are no rules for this, and you can say anything you want to say.
If you end up saying you hate someone that you really love, let it come out. No boundaries. Just do it alone, so other people don’t ask too many questions.
4. Get rid of triggers
A trigger is anything that reminds you of something and gives you a feeling, or emotion. If you have a picture of you and the other person sitting on your desk, and every time you look at it, it gives you a bad feeling, get rid of it. Either put it away or throw it away.
Just today, my mom found a mirror in her house that reminded her of her ex-husband, she said, “I gotta get rid of this, it reminds me of him!” And this is someone she did not want to be reminded of. So she did. She threw it out or gave it to a thrift store or something.
When something makes you feel good, that’s a good trigger to have. When something makes you feel bad, that’s something to consider getting out of your life. Now I realize there are some triggers you can’t remove. For example, if you’re still best friends with the other person’s relatives, you probably want to keep those people around. But many things are triggers, and there’s no reason to keep things that make you feel bad.
By making room, you can replace those things with other things that make you feel good. This will definitely help towards moving on and letting go.
5. Focus on what you have, not what you had
You may have had the greatest relationship of your life. That person could have been your soulmate. And you’ve never had a richer, deeper experience with anyone else.
At least, until the next person comes along. Almost every relationship we have gives us these or similar thoughts. When we are allowed to be more of ourselves, we dive deep into a relationship. So deep, that we feel more alive than when we’re not with that person.
We tend to focus on our past with that special someone, instead of who and what is in our life right now. Our life deteriorates little by little as we continue seeking what was instead of focusing on what is. Today, right now, is all you ever have. I know there are past hurts, but knowing the past has passed, what is your next step?
Is it to wait and hope that things change? Because doing so may actually allow you to live the rest of your life waiting for something that may never happen. Or, is your next step to rise up and out of the cloudiness that doesn’t even exist anymore, so that you can move forward into the clarity that can bring a whole new experience your way. Something maybe even deeper than what you’ve already experienced.
In fact, every experience will be deeper than the last. It has to be because you learn something new about yourself after every deep relationship. What you think was the greatest, gets greater, when you bring a new you into the next phase of your life.
The only way it could get worse is if you settle. And you do have to be careful you don’t settle. Don’t settle for what you think is ideal for you. Go a bit beyond your comfort zone and discover what else there is to learn about yourself.
Focus on what you have by reverting your attention back to now or tomorrow. If your mind starts drifting into the past, you can reset to the present by thinking about the future. I know, it’s a little strange. But think about it. Think of something in your past right now. How about something simple, like what you had to eat yesterday. Got it? Now, what will you be eating 3 days from now? Notice how as you try to remember yesterday, it is quickly replaced by 3 days from now.
They are completely separate thoughts, almost as if they are sequentially positioned in your brain so that when you think of yesterday, it’s in a different place than 3 days in the future. And because of this temporal storage of memories, it’s really difficult to think about what you did yesterday while at the same time thinking about what you’re going to do 3 days from now.
So as the memories you may be attached to come up, sometimes just thinking about something you’ll be doing in the future is all it takes to interrupt that old pattern of thinking about that past. When you interrupt your past memory and instead think of the future, you create a new pattern.
Soon after repeating this interruption process over and over again, every time you have a past memory you don’t want to think about, it will automatically switch to what you’ll be doing in the future. And letting go will be that much easier.
Alright, to help sum up what we talked about, I’m going to give you 5 questions to ask yourself every time an attachment that you want to let go of comes up. We started off part 1 of letting go by talking about being attached to things and finished everything up with our attachment to old relationships.
We talked mainly about romantic relationships that have ended. But instead of listening to this show, over and over again, here are some questions to ask yourself if you ever find that you are still attached to an old flame.
1. What do I believe I’m missing that someone else says that I have?
By asking yourself this question, you’ll come to realize that you have more potential in you than you believe yourself to have. We tend not to see there is more to us because we are us. When we get a compliment that we don’t believe, next time decide to believe it and see what happens.
2. Am I hoping things will change, or accepting the reality, no matter how hard it is to accept?
You may be doing both, but which one are you favoring? If you are hanging on to hope, you are letting go of your power to take action and create the life you want. It’s possible things will turn out exactly as you hope they do, but why not take action in your life now, allowing your power to shine. If things worked out as they hoped, great! If not, then you are already planning ahead and taking steps towards your happiness.
3. Do I still need to grieve?
You know if you do or not. And if you do, take the time away from all distractions to do so. Drive to the lake, go for a walk, go sit under a tree, do something where you can be with your thoughts. Then let your thoughts rise and let you know what you need to grieve about. You may want to just talk and express yourself speaking out loud about what comes up. Just verbalizing your thoughts is a way to release some of the built-up pressure.
4. What is near me or around me that reminds me of my old relationship?
Move, sell, or destroy all the old triggers that make you feel bad. I once went through an entire box of photographs destroying whatever made me feel bad. Once that was done, I knew that I could safely look in that box without ever getting that old feeling back.
You may not be able to remove all the triggers, but do what you can, and start creating new, happy triggers in your life.
5. Am I neglecting or ignoring what and who I have in my life, right now?
This doesn’t have to mean there’s another relationship right now, but think about what you focus on most of the time. Remember to revert back to the present moment, or even a future that is full of possibilities. You can’t think of the past and the future at the same time. Well, I’m sure some of you can, but when you focus on one, you can’t think of the other.
There are things that need your attention in the here and now. And if you really can’t stop thinking about the past, then you still have more grieving inside of you. This is where you need to go back to step 3 and let more come up and out of you.
This list is certainly not everything. And old relationships are sometimes hard to give up and lose hope in. Believe me, I’ve been through the pain of a breakup, and it’s no fun. And only time, good friends, more time, the steps I’ve taken that I mention in this episode, and even more time, were the only path to healing and experiencing joy again. And every relationship I have somehow gets deeper and more fulfilling than the last.
Yours will too. And I realize I’m not speaking to everyone listening to this episode right now. After all, there are some people who aren’t struggling with letting go of emotional attachments. But if you are, there is a way out. The question is, are you letting it happen, or hoping things will go back to the way they were?
Things will never be the way they were. And if they were, do you really want them to be that way? After all, if your relationship ended, would you want to relive that? The way things were isn’t what you want, which is why hoping things will go back may not be a good plan.
Now thinking about how you can improve your life and create tomorrow, that’s a good plan
When I told my mom that I had to leave the lampshade behind in Arizona, she was sad. She remembered what went into it as well, and she did pour her heart into creating it for me. And, she was also sad that I was sad that I left it behind.
But when I told her what I gave up that day, and why, she suddenly brightened up knowing that her son was happy and alive. She felt better because she took her focus off the lampshade and put it on who she wanted to be safe and happy all along. When she made the lampshade, she made it to make me happy. If I was still happy even though I left her gift behind, then her original intention was still fulfilled.
We didn’t talk too much about strong emotional attachments to stuff today, well, we did, but it became more about people. But think about your strong emotional attachments and what they really mean to you. Is it the object that means something to you? Or how you feel having it in your life?
Your attachment is to the emotions and feelings you get by having the object in your life, but not the object itself. I even had a friend who figured this out on his own. He was paying monthly for a storage garage that contained a whole lot of his stuff. He hadn’t touched it for about a year or more. So when he went back to go through it, he asked himself, “Why am I keeping all this stuff?” His answer was because it made him feel good.
He then told himself, “Yeah, but I don’t use this stuff.” He kept talking to himself until he discovered something. He liked the feeling, but not necessarily the thing. And he came up with, what I think, is a brilliant idea. He decided that he gets a good feeling just by looking at what he owns. He never really “uses” what he owns, he just likes to look at it.
So he took a picture of everything he liked to look at, then threw those objects away. Then a few days later, he looked at the picture and got the same feeling he got when he owned it. The same feeling!
I said, “That’s brilliant!” and ever since then, he gave up most of his stuff. He travels lightly and doesn’t really own much at all. Everything he owned is now a picture on his computer. Whenever he needs that feeling, he pulls up the picture.
I decided to try this on my box of pictures. You know, the one I mentioned earlier? I took about 300 old photos and scanned them into my computer. Once I confirmed I had them all, I made a backup, then I destroyed all those old photographs. I was so relieved to not have to carry, or worry, about that old box of photos anymore. Not only do I have easier access to the pictures now, but I can now send them to my relatives and share them with friends a lot easier.
We are attached to the emotion, not the object. When we can get that emotion another way, the object is eventually not so important anymore. Sure, we want it, but if we can’t have it, then finding a new way to get that good feeling may be something to try, or try not. Or just do.