What Does Letting Go Mean Anyway?

I often refer to the letting go method by David Hawkins in my posts. Today, I want to dive deeper into this method and answer two questions.

  • What is it?
  • Why is it useful?
  • How to use it?
  • How does it relate to our daily life?

What Is It?

The letting go method is an effective way to process and regulate our emotions. It’s simple. It doesn’t have any side effects. It’s useful in all areas of our lives. It has a healing effect on our psychology and life. It only requires learning a few basic concepts but some emotional labor to apply.

Expressing an Emotion

When we feel an intense emotion, we tend to deal with it either by expressing it or suppressing it.

Expressing an emotion means communicating it to others or to yourself. You might scream to a family member when you’re angry. You might journal when you’re sad. You might dwell in thoughts of disaster scenarios when you feel fear. In other words, you act on your emotion.

When you act on your emotion, even on a thought level, you’re reinforcing the emotion in your psyche. You might feel relieved when you shout at a family member, but this will only result in greater anger the next time. If you don’t want to reinforce an emotion, don’t express it, not even on the thought level.

Suppressing an Emotion

Suppressing an emotion means being aware of it but using an escape strategy to avoid it. You might turn to alcohol when you feel stressed. You might grab a cup of coffee when you feel sad. You might turn on the TV, radio, or scroll through your social media feed to escape boredom.

You might suppress emotions by distracting yourself with thoughts. When you suppress an emotion, it stays in your psyche. You don’t process it, and you don’t discharge it from your system.

Letting Go of an Emotion

The way to process and discharge an emotion is to stay with it without expressing or suppressing it. This can be overwhelming at the beginning. By not expressing or suppressing your emotion, you give your psyche a chance to process it.

The emotion runs its course, and it eventually subsides. It might come back later, but its intensity will be lower. As you keep using the letting go method on the emotion, its intensity gradually diminishes, and it eventually disappears from your psyche.

Application in Daily Life

Suppose that you waste time on social media before starting to work every day. When you observe your emotions, you realize that you use social media to avoid the stress at the start of your working day. The next time you start your working day, you try to stay with those stressful emotions as long as possible and let them go.

Maybe, you can stay with your stressful emotions for fifteen minutes on the first day. Then, you succumb to your social media habit. Congratulations, you have at least processed fifteen minutes worth of stressful emotions.

Every day, you work on increasing that social media free period using the 1% improvements principle. You stay with your stressful emotions as long as possible without expressing or suppressing them, every day a little longer. Soon, you’ll reach an hour, two hours, four hours, and eventually a complete working day without checking your social media feed.

Summary

The letting go method by David Hawkins involves staying with an intense emotion without expressing or suppressing. That means not thinking about it, talking about it, communicating it, but at the same time, not avoiding it, escaping it, or trying to change it in any other way.

When you stay with an intense emotion long enough, it runs its course, and it subsides. It might come back later, but its intensity will be lower. As you keep using the letting go method, the emotion will eventually disappear.

So far, the letting go method seems to be simple and easy. It is a simple method, but it has some pitfalls. It involves some emotional labor. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the possible pitfalls and how to deal with overwhelmingly intense emotions.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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