Whenever we have to let go of any situation, friends, relationships, a marriage and so on, that is either toxic, destructive or just over, it can be daunting. Even though we know that change is sometimes necessary – confidence, a fear of loneliness or a lack of alternative prospects can hold us back from moving on. Many may also not have the financial means – so they stay. Or, they stay because children are involved.

A lack of courage and confidence or a hope that things will change on their own, can create an emotional paralysis. This can cause frustration, self-hate and a feeling of failure – for not being able to break away from bonds that are no longer constructive.

The reason for this usually stems from childhood experiences, which can ‘hit us between they eyes’ in adulthood – especially when we least expect it to. Often it’s because we often forget some of what we experienced all those years ago. And, it can also be difficult to objectively understand the steps that can produce the fear of letting go.

Why do some find letting go so hard?

1) After birth and after having been in the womb for 9 months, we start realising that no one, not even our mothers, can or will be there for us 24/7. It is when we realise that any form of intimacy cannot last forever. People have to get on with their lives. They cannot be there, hovering over us all day long. Mummy may have to do other things or she may just have to go to work. In other words, early on we realise that intimacy implies abandonment. And how we deal with people coming and going, and how we process this realisation – becomes part of our emotional foundation.

However, if any of these feelings have not been sufficiently addressed then as adults, experiencing any form of physical or emotional abandonment may trigger old memories of what it felt like to be left, abandoned or rejected. And if leaving is another reminder of these feelings, then staying, can become the only option.

2) Also, and returning to the mother child analogy, if a mother leaves the room, even for only a few minutes to brush her teeth, a baby can start wondering what its done to push mummy away. (This has been observed via numerous studies). And very early on, we can begin this habit of internalising, that we may be unlovable or that we may have done something wrong to cause mummy (or in later life a friend or a partner) to leave.

3) And if these feeling get reinforced in any way, either by parents, siblings, teachers telling us that we are un-loveable, stupid, useless and so on, it could lead to feelings of worthlessness, feelings of failure and feeling that we are not good enough and so on.

4) If these feelings are normalised it can become a habit. And as a result, we can consciously or unconsciously behave in ways that can actually reinforce our inner feelings about ourselves. For example, some can turn to pernicious addictive behaviours, they may run up debts or they could land up in destructive relationships and so on. And when this happens, all the old feelings from childhood can emerge as reminders of their pain and worthlessness. And in some cases the behaviour can even push people away, creating what we fear.

5) Any feelings of rejection or abandonment could cause a person to become emotionally needy, insecure or vulnerable. This may cause them to hang onto a relationship a lot longer than necessary. They may remain terrified of loneliness or being left – even if a relationship is toxic or destructive, and even if it causes emotional or physical harm. Also, if they lack self-esteem and confidence – created or underlined by a destructive or violent relationship, then leaving could become even more difficult.

6) If a child gets brought up in a loving and nurturing environment, trust in others and trust in one self gets developed over time. With trust comes confidence. But when this hasn’t been fully nurtured, then difficult situations may seem daunting – and fear and insecurity can emerge. This can get triggered when friendships or relationships end, or indeed a career change is required and so on.

7) Endings or anything that has reached its sell by date, can press many emotional buttons and depending on what has been experienced in the past, it can affect how people cope emotionally. And this is when those deep-seated insecurities can emerge and suddenly they begin to ask whether they’re a failure, good enough, guilty, at fault and so on.

8) But also theses days, social media can trigger those emotional buttons too. Not getting enough likes, or not having a boyfriend, not having the body that is splashed all over Instagram, can lead to self-esteem issues.

If any of the above is experienced, it could lead to an emotional paralysis. This is when you will know that your past has come to say hello.

Human beings love to punish themselves. But as adults we actually do have choices. We don’t have to hold on to what we’ve learnt about ourselves as children – especially when much of it may also be untrue.

The following 7 tips may help you take better action so that you can unlearn the past, so that you can let go and make better choices to suit your life goals:

Letting go can involve:

  1. Learning to understand your past and why you feel or act as you do.
  2. Learning to watch yourself carefully and find out what your negative self-beliefs are.
  3. Stop punishing yourself and start putting a stop to your internalised punishment reactions and belief systems.
  4. Recognise that you do have a choice. You don’t have to react – as a result of your past.
  5. Recognise that you are not entirely what people say you are. You are what you become. It’s up to you.
  6. Find ways to unlearn what you have been taught about yourself and find ways to build your confidence and self-esteem. Start small, because small things lead to bigger things.
  7. Recognise that abandonment or loss or change does not always mean you are to blame or that you are a failure.
  8. Learn to trust yourself again and your choices in life. Also, sometimes bad choices are necessary for growth and a learning experience to occur.
  9. Imagine that everything you‘ve done so far, has brought you to this particular time and place – which might be exactly where you need to be – to heal what a situation is mirroring for you, so that you can move on, so that you can let go.

But first you need to recognise where those issues stem from. Why you have made certain choices and why you feel as you do. Most importantly – find out why letting go is so difficult. Start with the questions as they often lead to the answers.

Once you learn to understand yourself better, you won’t need others to validate who you are, you won’t need to hide behind people either, and you won’t create destructive situations to mirror negativity. We all create our own reality and once you realise this, it becomes easier to make that important shift.

As Roy T. Bennett wisely wrote, “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. Because if you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.”
Wisdom indeed – but it takes commitment and practice to do this.

Also, Dr Joe Dispenza constantly reminds us that, ““You cannot create a new future, whilst holding on to the emotions of the past. You have to let go – so that you can become your future.”

Deidré Wallace is a relationship therapist and educator. She has had a private practice for the past 20 years. For more information, visit her blog website here: https://relationshipknowledge.com/