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The Art of Letting Go: How to Detach with Love

April 1, 2024by Lauren0

The biggest question I get from my clients is how to let go of what is not in their control.

There are many things that we cannot control in life from how another person treats us to an unexpected loss or fear of the future. In many ways, the question of what is in our control is a cornerstone of psychotherapy.

M. Scott Peck, MD, author of The Road Less Traveled states that depression is normal and healthy. It becomes problematic when the natural process of ‘letting go’ is disrupted.

We try to soothe our anxiety about not having control in many ways including numbing our emotions with addictions, emotionally manipulating others with guilt and shame, withdrawing from activities and relationships to escape, or neglecting our own needs to become people pleasers.

Many twelve step groups address this fear through encouraging connection with the God of our understanding. This can be defined as anything greater than self presently and could include a religious figure, nature, ideal self, community, or even science. The idea is that when we recognize that we are person-sized, we start to focus on person-sized responsibilities and free ourselves from taking on more than we can carry.

The Serenity prayer, often used as a mantra in letting go work goes like this:

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
God, grant me the patience with the changes that take time,
An appreciation of all that I have,
A tolerance of those with different struggles,
And the strength to get up and try again,
One day at a time.”

When we let go of control over what we can’t control, it frees us up to focus on what we can. Instead of seeking to control others or our surroundings, we focus on how we respond to them. We can love others and care about their feelings without taking ownership of ‘fixing’ them. We can grieve a loss without it consuming the present. We can plan for the future without feeling overwhelmed by ‘what ifs.’

Detaching with love is a practice of letting go in which we acknowledge our feelings and those of others with compassion, and then do what we need to care for ourselves and hold healthy boundaries.

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