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Oh for crying out loud, just let it go
Oh for crying out loud, just let it go
Oct 14, 2015
Have you ever been in traffic and all of a sudden you hear someone just lay on their horn without letting go for a long time? It is loud and obnoxious to hear something like that and clearly whoever is doing it is in an extremely heightened state of frustration and anger. Or maybe that person laying on the horn is you. Anyway, you may hear yourself saying to that person, "Oh, come on, just let it go". Yes, it's true that someone getting themselves that angry does have something to let go of. If we are getting ourselves that upset at everyday inconveniences than we better start letting go for the sake of our health. But what is it that we need to let go of exactly? See below for some of the main issues and you can decide which might pertain to you. We can all benefit from letting go of something. Don't forget that letting go of these issues will result in us letting go of anger and will enable us to lead a much more peaceful life.
1. LET GO OF THE NEED TO CONTROL - We feel the need to control because generally speaking not feeling like we have control leads to anxiety and through controlling things around us we reduce our anxiety and stress. Reducing stress and anxiety is strongly reinforcing so we keep trying to control. Unfortunately, many of us make the mistake of trying to control others, as in the example above. We make the mistake of trying to control what we can't control. We can't control the actions of others, at least not in the long run. If controlling others is part of our control routine then we are setting ourselves up for failure, frustration and anger. Regarding the above example, we can't control the decisions that others make on the road. All we can control is our decisions. We can decide that we will drive defensively but we can't control whether someone else makes a mistake. By laying on the horn when someone makes a mistake we are trying to control them. We are trying to control by scaring them, intimidating them, and/or punishing them. The more we make choices to control others, the angrier we become, because in our minds we are needing them to change so we can feel better. We will be more peaceful if we can focus on controlling only our own choices and actions and if we can stop worrying about what others are doing.
2. LET GO OF THE EXPECTATION - We feel the need to have expectations because they help us feel safer. The purpose of having expectations is so we can create a sense of predictability and order in the world. If we feel that the future will have order and predictability we feel safer. We might have the expectation that we will go to sleep and wake up the next morning and the world will be there just as it was the night before. This expectation gives us a sense of safety. We might have the expectation that we will wake as healthy as we were the night before. This makes us feel safer. We might have the expectation that our next day will go smoothly. This makes us feel safer. Of course, it is always good to be optimistic and expect positive things to happen. This thinking will keep us happier.
Where we get into trouble with expectations is when we hold onto them too rigidly and can't tolerate it when things don't go the way we expect, or when our expectations are unrealistic or when the focus of our expectations is on others and what they should be doing.
One example of an unrealistic expectation that we hold onto too rigidly would be to expect that we will walk out the door in the morning and we will have a day without problems. So when the problems occur, which they undoubtedly will, we become frustrated and angry because we can't tolerate problems. What we want to do here is to let go of the expectation that we will have no problems and replace it with the expectation that we will have problems. We want to reframe "problem" from negative to positive by seeing problems as a part of life and by seeing problem solving as a way of becoming more mature.
We also want to let go of the expectation that others will behave in a predictable way, such as in the example above with the driver blowing his horn. This is a person who is placing his expectations on others and what they should be doing. He is intolerant of anyone who behaves in a way that falls outside of his expectations. When they do he becomes impatient and angry. He needs to let go of all expectations that others should behave in any particular way. Everyone is an individual and behaves in their own way. Instead of being intolerant of those differences we can instead choose to learn from them and to enjoy the diversity that others bring to our lives.
All of this, of course, requires that we become more flexible.
3. LET GO OF THE JUDGMENT - We feel the need to judge because by judging someone we are able to make the other person wrong or we are able to place them into some sort of inferior status, which makes us feel superior, which makes us feel safe. If we judge someone for a predicament they have gotten themselves into, that makes us separate from them and this helps us to feel safe that whatever predicament they have will not happen to us. In the example above, it is so much easier for us to judge someone else making a driving error and think of them as a poor driver or a "stupid person". Again, this helps us feel superior to them and therefore better about ourselves as a result. This may be what happens in the short run, but in the long run negatively judgmental thinking patterns actually serve to make us more angry rather than more peaceful. A thinking pattern that would make us feel more peaceful would be to not judge someone in a negative way but instead to be patient with them and recognize that we make many mistakes on the road as well. Thinking patterns that separate us from others make us more angry and thinking patterns that join us with others make us more peaceful.
4. LET GO OF THE URGENCY - We feel the need to create urgency because we have lost our center and we are completely caught up in the world's expectations of us. Therefore we feel controlled and as a result of feeling controlled we feel very stressed. We do not feel we have an option other than to succumb to the fast paced demands of the world we live in. This heightened state of arousal can become a chronic mental/physical state in our bodies due to the hormones our bodies create when we feel stressed. Unfortunately we often will choose to indulge in substances that further stress our bodies such as caffeine. We have lost our center. We have lost sight of the fact that life is a process and not a product. That is, if we ever had that insight, as the world usually teaches us to achieve a fixed result rather than enjoy the ride as the the world unfolds before us. We are not taught that there never is a final result but rather a continuous, wonderful journey of unfolding events. We are not told that we can enjoy this journey and allow it to unfold. What we are told is to control the events and to achieve one final result. Therefore it is all about control and stress. The journey has no importance to us, only the result. Again, we are chasing a phantom, because there will be no permanent result that we can count on. So if this is what we are wanting, we will constantly have to be in a state of needing to control the world. This is why the driver blows the horn impatiently at the other driver. There is no option of peacefulness here. There is no option of allowing others their mistakes. Everything must happen right now because we are chasing a result. There is so much to be changed here as you can see from what I have written. Basically we must go back to the journey and understand that the universe will unfold as it will and we cannot control it. And the more we attempt to shape the universe the way we want it, the more we are losing out on it's infinite possibilities. We need to allow the universe to guide us and know that all along the journey we will have choices that we can make. Therein lies our only ability to control.
5. LET GO OF THE INTOLERANCE - We feel the need to be intolerant because we refuse to accept the present moment as it is. We have an unwillingness to accept "what is". Basically, we are unaccepting. The horn blower in the above example is unaccepting of some other driver. In his or her mind what the driver is doing is unacceptable and he is telling them that. Unfortunately, this intolerance doesn't tend to exist only in one part of our lives. If we are intolerant to the point of having to preach to someone through the laying on of our horn, we are probably intolerant and as a result rather controlling towards many others that are in our lives. If we are intolerant of what is going on in the present, we can never be happy, because it is only in the present that true happiness lies. We cannot learn to let things go and therefore enjoy the resulting feelings of peacefulness and happiness if we can't learn to accept the present as it is.
6. LET GO OF THE ARROGANCE - We feel the need to be arrogant because we are too weak to consider that our opinion might be wrong or that our needs aren't more important than other people's needs. We must feel superior to others so that we don't have to face ourselves. Arrogance is often a cover up for a deep sense of inferiority. This arrogance stands in the way of having any kind of empathy or understanding of others. The arrogance stands in the way of acknowledging that other people have needs too, that others are doing what they can to meet their own needs and that our needs are at best equal to other people's needs and sometimes may be secondary to other people's needs. Patience for the "horn blower" in the example above will come from dropping the arrogant attitude and seeing ourselves only as equal to others and not better than them.
7. LET GO OF THE SHAME - We feel shame because it is instilled in us from day one. There is healthy shame and unhealthy shame. For purposes of this newsletter we will be talking about unhealthy shame. Unhealthy shame is at the core of most chronic anger problems. It underlies many other negative primary emotions. An example of this would be feeling disrespected. Many of us, if we feel disrespected, we easily get angered. This is because when we perceive ourselves to be disrespected we take it personally. We make it about us not the person doing the disrespecting. This is our unhealthy shame at work. We believe that if someone is disrespectful to us that it must mean that we are somehow "less than". Our underlying shame or low self esteem kicks in. We cannot conquer our chronic anger problems without letting go of our unhealthy shame.
8. LET GO OF THE HELPLESSNESS - We feel helpless because we are focusing on the true fact that we cannot control other people or the world around us. And we want to because we feel this is the key to feeling better (safer). The more helplessness is an issue for us, the more controlling we become. Controlling people are people that at their core feel very helpless. To be able to let go of our helplessness, we must change our focus to the things we can control and be content with those things we can't. We must rejoice in the things we can control and understand that letting go of what we can't control is the true path to contentment. When we focus on what we can control we feel empowered and our feelings of helplessness tend to melt away.
9. LET GO OF THE ANGER - This is the easiest one of all because the anger will go away as soon as you let go of the expectation, the judgment, the urgency, the intolerance, the arrogance, the shame or the helplessness or whatever primary emotion is involved. These primary emotions are running the anger. Anger is the secondary emotion and happens as a reaction to a primary emotion. The reaction happens because we are uncomfortable with the primary emotion. So we repress the primary emotion and go to anger instead because we feel safer with the anger than we do with the primary emotion. When we feel comfortable with our primary emotions, which are normal human emotions, we no longer will need to hide in the anger when we feel them.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LET GO OF?