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Can’t Let Go? Try Holding On Instead.

Hold on

What do you *want* to hold on to?

When it comes to things we can’t control, people often advise us to let go.

When it comes to moving on from an ended relationship or job, we push ourselves to let go.

When it comes to, well, coming, we’re told the secret is to let go!

It seems like the right idea—after all, we want to move on or get past whatever isn’t working, and letting go seems like the only way to do that. Sometimes, though, letting go sounds good in theory, but is near to impossible to achieve in practice.

“I know I should let go,” my clients tell me.

“WHY CAN’T I JUST LET GO?!” they scream inwardly, often with a hefty dose of self-judgment.

If you’re struggling to let go of something, but you’re feeling strong resistance, here’s my total-180-strategy for you: try holding on instead.

When your knuckles are white from how tightly you’re hanging on, accept your very human need to hang on to something, and make it work for you instead of against you.

Instead of thinking, “I have to let go of this,” ask yourself, “What do I want to hold on to?” Decide what you will focus on instead of what you won’t—and then direct your attention accordingly.

Why is this reframe so powerful?

When you’re already feeling out of control, and possibly even afraid of what is to come, letting go is a pretty tough demand to make of yourself. Holding on, however, gives you a sense of increased control–it’s a doing, instead of a not doing.

Amazingly, you’ll likely find that choosing some concrete things to hold on to shifts your focus and your energy in such a way that you do, ultimately, experience the side benefit of letting go.

Here are some examples of how you might use this strategy:

  • If you’re suffering from a breakup that you did not want, and feeling that you must let go but you just can’t, ask yourself, “In this moment, and moving forward, what are the things I choose to hang on to?” Maybe you want to hang on to your sense of self, your sense of humor, your yoga practice, your relationships with your good friends, your big project at work, and your new hobby.
  • If you are stressed out at work and can’t seem to let go of that stress at the end of the day, try taking a moment at the end of each work day to ask yourself what you want to pick up and hold on to now—maybe it’s your family, your home projects, your artistic endeavors, or your partner. One of my clients likes to actually visualize “putting down” her work at the end of the day and “picking up” her attention to her daughter and her personal goals.
  • If you’re trying to let go of the home or city you moved away from, try thinking about what you want to bring forward and keep with you in your new life. What experiences and activities from the place you’re leaving will you hold on to and incorporate into your new home and life?

Once you start focusing your energy on what you want to hold on to and put those things front and center, you will likely begin to feel flickers of letting go. At the same time, you will see the positive things you’re focusing your attention on grow.

What do you want to hold on to in the next week? Share in the comments below.

Help a friend hold on by letting go! Share this article using the links below.

Photo by Helga Weber

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There are 2 comments. Add yours.

  1. Cynthia

    This “simple” idea is profoundly wise. I wish I’d been shown this lovely advice years ago. You’re doing a fantastic job of paring complicated and emotional issues to understandable size!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Cynthia! I’m delighted you’re finding the articles useful. I hope you’ll keep reading (and commenting!). 🙂

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