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The Positive Approach - Lesson 10

Letting Go

By Peter Shepherd

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The work we do here is for personal development rather than psychotherapy. We're starting off with a state of being that is the majority of the time reasonably happy and stable, and looking to enhance our life by recovering freedom of viewpoint - to be free of cultural conditioning and also free of the fixed ideas we have created for ourselves, including unconscious ones. We will go on to spiritual issues and understanding how we envision and create our life experience.

But we recover our full spiritual awareness through learning the lessons our everyday life provides. There may be experiences or issues in our life that we can't think about without tears or anger, hard to face issues that severely interrupt what we want to do in life. What can we do to get ourselves together, to learn from these experiences and begin again to working more effectively toward our goals?

We have looked at thought-feeling-behavior patterns that get re-stimulated when given the same stimulus, i.e. by repeating circumstances. So how do we let go of these, so when given the same stimulus nothing happens?

Being aware of a re-stimulation occurring is an important step of awareness and it's half way to resolution of the issue. Two further steps are to release the resulting emotion, to accept it and let it go. You can do this by realizing that the painful feeling is an energy that you are creating, which you can experience with acceptance rather than resistance, and that you can continue to create or not. The second step is to spot what interpretation is causing you to have that painful emotion (the pain is really the resistance). What are you saying to yourself at the time of re-stimulation? What tape is being replayed in your head (or it may be a picture with attached feelings)? Is the interpretation/belief really true, or is it an exaggeration, an over-generalization, an unnecessarily negative or intolerant view? Is it actually somebody else's view that you have attached to or identified with, not truly your own?

So it is a process of letting go of the feeling and preceding thought. Becoming aware of them rather than just reacting on auto-pilot is the critical first step. Releasing the emotion and spotting the untruth are the second and third steps - and are really a process of dis-identification. Then the behavior pattern will also no longer have any roots in order to continue in place.

The procedure for Releasing given below helps you to re-experience the painful emotion, to the point that you realize that you actually create the emotion based on your interpretation of events, and that you are not the emotion, i.e. "I create the feeling of being angry" rather than "I am angry". With acceptance of the emotion, so that you can have it or not have it and still be content, then you can let the emotion go.

For the releasing to be permanent you also need to spot the underlying irrational thought, assumption, decision or intention, and how it has been driving your emotions. Now the emotion is cleared it will no longer be dominating your view of the situation and these thoughts will be exposed. Upon examination it becomes clear that you can change your mind about this and see things differently, so will you no longer need to feel upset in similar circumstances and have new freedom to behave in ways more aligned with your goals in life.

The Release Technique
This is the healthiest way to handle a feeling that is consuming us. We've all had the experience of being in the midst of an emotional explosion and then suddenly began to laugh at ourselves, realizing how silly or inappropriate or useless our behavior is. In other words we became conscious.

Step One: Locate. First think of some problem area in life - something that is of great urgency and concern. It may be a relationship with a loved one, a parent or child; it might be your job, health or fears; or someone else. Perhaps a situation you find yourself in or that is going on in the world. Or it might simply be the feeling that you are experiencing now.

Step Two: Identify your feeling. Determine your feeling about the problem area, or the current feeling. What word comes to mind? Is that exactly how you feel? If not define it more clearly.

Step Three: Focus. What do you really feel? Get in touch with it now. Open yourself up, become aware of the physical sensations attached to the feeling and focus on them.

Step Four: Feel your feeling. Deliberately create it. Let your feeling inhabit your entire body and mind. If the feeling is a grief feeling, you may break into tears; if it is anger, you may feel your blood begin to boil. That's good - now is the time to feel the feeling.

Step Five: Individuate. Become aware of the difference between your self - YOU - and what that self is FEELING. When the feeling is fully experienced and accepted, there will at some point be a clear sensation that your feeling is not you, so it would be possible to let go of the feeling.

If you do not feel that it is possible to let the feeling go, feel it some more. Sooner or later you will reach a point where you can truthfully answer: "Yes, I could let this feeling go".

Step Six: Learn the lesson. The most vital aspect of this procedure is the learning of life lessons. Unless you recognize what you are to learn from your negative emotions, they will not release permanently, because they will have to regenerate again until the lesson is learned once and for all. After all, the very nature of strong emotions is a message to you -- letting you know that something needs to be learned.

Step Seven: Release. When will you let this feeling go? Sooner or later you will be able to answer: "I am willing to let this feeling go now". So let the feeling go, simply release it, if you haven't done so spontaneously. It feels good to let it go - all the built-up energy that has been held in the body is released. There is a sudden decrease in physical and nervous tension. You will feel more relaxed, calm, centered, empowered.

Step Eight: Check. Do you still have any of the feeling? If some of it is still there then go through the procedure again. Often releasing is like a well - you release some and then more arises. Some of our pent-up emotions are so deep that they require a number of releases.

When you are familiar with the technique, you can distill your practice down to just a few simple commands: "Could I let this go? Am I willing to? When?" Use this whenever you are conscious of an uncomfortable feeling, and even when you are just starting to create the feeling for the first time.

Once you've learned to release you'll find that simply becoming aware of a feeling is often enough to trigger a natural, spontaneous release, and you will carry the ability over into your everyday life, resulting in a stress-free mind and body.

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Next Lesson: 11. I Wish I Hadn't Done That!

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