Let go or be dragged
Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realising that the only person you really have control over is yourself.
— Deborah Reber
Sometimes we hold on to things that are not meant for us. Love contaminates. And it can be highly destructive. We cling to it as if it were our lifeline: torn relationships or unhealthy social groups. Unsettled pain and/or ignored anger.
But the more we grip and grasp, the more we feel the pain. The more we think the things we want so desperately are just pulling us down like chains.
There will be many times when we’ll have a choice: to let go or be dragged. You may have heard this phrase before, or maybe not. It’s a Zen proverb that means we must release what does not belong to us, to free ourselves from the weight—or suffer the consequences of holding on.
Letting go is not easy. I know this very well right now. We all have things we find unjust to leave behind, even when they make us sick. Even when we know it is making us sick. Maybe it’s a relationship turned toxic, a job that makes us miserable, a habit that harms our health, or a belief that limits our potential.
We may think most things are essential for our happiness or that we cannot live without them. We may fear losing them or feel guilty for letting them go. We may rationalise why we need them or deny how they hurt us.
But the truth is: usually, these things are doing nothing but dragging us down. They are preventing us from living on and moving forward. Thus arrives the choice we have to make: to grow or stagnate.
Letting go takes courage. To loosen our grip and say goodbye and hello at the same time. But it is also liberating. It is releasing what does not serve us and allowing ourselves to soar beyond the clouds guided by the freedom of the wind. It takes recognising what you need to let go of and being honest with yourself about what is holding you back or hurting you. Remember what Richard Feynman said: you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. Understand why you are holding onto it. Don’t just “know”. What are you afraid of? What are you attached to? What are you avoiding?
Forgive yourself, most importantly. Most things don’t come and go passively; you must make a conscious choice to release them. Express your feelings about them. Write them down. Talk to someone. Cry if you need to. Celebrate your freedom and reward yourself.
Happiness is filling the space with things that are positive and meaningful to you. It’s not a destination. You cannot find it on a map or buy it at a store. But it is a state of mind. It’s where peace aligns with your movements.
For me, it took finding new and old hobbies, interests, goals, and relationships that enriched my life. I’m not an expert, but it’s likely the same in your case. Daily gratitude helped me start, followed by nonjudgmental awareness and mindfulness: being present with your thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings without harmful distractions or negative thoughts.
Once these practices grew a little more regular, the third was next: practising compassion. The act of doing without conditions or expectations. Feeling happy for others and empathy for their suffering without thinking about your own gain. One thing my mother taught me early on was to do something for the people you deeply care about without expecting anything back. Not even a thank you. Because that’s not what it’s about. It worked because it helped me connect with more people without the risk of wounds inflicted by broken promises or overzealous expectations.
Love is a pattern of behaviour, not a feeling. The feeling is nice, but paying attention to what other people bring out in you and what you bring out of yourself is more important. In my life, some people help me feel more responsible, more together. With others I feel more spontaneous, more alive. Some make me more critical or cautious. But the question is: what do you want to be brought out in you?
Happiness and letting go are not things that happen to you. They are things that happen through you. They are not passive or random outcomes, but proactive and intentional choices. Not dependent on external factors or circumstances but on your attitude and actions. And not gifts or rewards but skills or habits.
You are the one who controls the flow, so do not let the flow or blockages control you.