Utterances by their very nature are often said in passing, not meant to stick around, not meant to be given weight. An utterance is defined simply as “a smallest unit of speech.” And, stringing together a series of utterances constitutes a complete thought, whether it’s our side of a conversation or an improvised speech at a podium or simple off-the-cuff observations. We often don’t give much mind to our daily utterances.
But, we should.
A word. It’s such a small elemental thing. But, can have such a tremendous impact. It’s the impact that lingers, has weight and sticks around for as long as the impact has an effect on someone. Words matter.
And, it’s not just in this day and age of the fast moving Internet, where words travel at the speed of a Tweet and Retweet. The truth is words secure history. They define things like character and reputation and acumen. Since the beginning of recorded time, words have taught, inspired and marked the foundation of beliefs that people still follow and hold true today. Words have also led fear-based revolutions that destroyed governments and created generations of people lost and without hope.
It’s easy to think of historical figures on both sides of this spectrum that have had an impact, positively or negatively. Yes, actions define a person and there is truth to the adage that sometimes actions speak louder than words. However, words are recorded in history and are carried forth from generation to generation. In many cases, it's the words that have defined characters in our human life history. We’re still quoting people who lived hundreds of years ago and are still moved and motivated by their words. It’s probably why #quotes – or many variations: #lifequote, #quoteoftheday, #words, #todaysthought, #wordstoliveby, etc. – are the most used hashtags on social media.
And, it’s why there’s such raw credence to the simple truth that words matter. We feel words deeply, which is why people often have such visceral reactions to what is said, either to them or about something for which they feel strongly.
Words can hurt or elevate us, enrage or sooth us, drive us or stop us in our tracks and make us laugh uproariously or cry hysterically.
Someone said, “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” I don’t know who first said it, but it’s so simple and true. We can’t control how our words land or how they’re interpreted. The only thing we can control is what and how they come out of our mouths.
This was the pearl of wisdom a good friend’s mother gave her many years ago after she’d had her first child, when every little thing seemed so weighted and overly important, so much so that she was in a constant state of angst. “Oh honey, life is about letting go,” her wise mother said.
This friend and I were recently discussing the process of letting go and how challenging it is at times. We were each other's sounding board for some front burner issues we were both trying to release.
I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is one of the hardest things to do in life, proven by the fact that there are literally thousands of books (328,000 in Amazon alone), articles, seminars and schools of thought on the subject of letting go, available to us hangers-on who at times find it nearly impossible to let go.
Sometimes the notion of letting go can get so stuck in my craw that it’s no wonder it took several stabs before finally completing this post. I'm trying to let that go...
Why is it so hard to let go?
In a Psychology Today article, PhD Judith Sills said, “At its deepest level, the prospect of letting go forces us up against our three strongest emotional drivers: love, fear and rage.”
The attachments we make are based on those drivers as well, and the resulting attachments can be tethered to many trigger points where holding on can feel like the end all, like we’ll never shake the thing that is keeping us stuck. It’s human to form attachments; attachments to the past or to a certain desired outcome or to the fear of a different outcome; or to a person, or the idea of a person such as the picture you have formed in your psyche of your ideal mate.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of a connection, particularly one that was powerfully formed. Sometimes it’s a memory that links to a painful past event, where you play the scenario over and over again, perhaps wishing for a different set of actions or exchange of dialog.
Or we get stuck on what might have been, if only it had lasted a little longer, or if only the conversation had gone another way, like a promise unfulfilled that we keep trying to fulfill in our mind.
Or we worry about what hasn’t happened yet. Often we have a hard time letting go of the fear of the unknown or fear of the future. Or, because of an “idea or ideal” we have formed about a specific desire, whether it’s a job or relationship, we project that ideal onto something or someone that isn’t the right fit anyway, but we become convinced we can make it work, so we hang on. And hang on. It's exhausting!
Or we hold onto limiting beliefs that have simply become a habit. These are the what-ifs and the yeah-buts and the when-I-have-this-or-that-it-will-all-start-to-happen or it will then be okay. Sometimes these are the hardest to let go of, the limiting beliefs that effect everything in our lives.
So what is letting go and how do we get there?
Empowerment coach and speaker Andrea Quinn teaches that, “Letting go is all about making room for the something better. To ultimately accomplish anything of value, you must let go of any outcome, any idea about what it’s supposed to look like.”
To my way of thinking, letting go is the greatest way we can honor ourselves, and the only way to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Letting go means taking back control over our emotions, thoughts and actions.
Because the truth is, the hanging on, the very root of any attachment, is formed in the mind, so the letting go must take place there as well. So, here are some suggestions for changing our thoughts and creating room for a new way of thinking.
Surround the situation with compassion and understanding.
Forgiveness is paramount – of self and others – for events, actions or words from the past. Release the past to the past.
Express gratitude for the lessons learned. Gratitude lightens the load.
Stay in the present with right now and remind yourself that all that matters is this moment, right now. Breathe into that.
Go cold turkey – force yourself, or allow yourself, to stay away from the topic or situation that’s keeping you in a place of discomfort.
Free your attachment to an outcome by not focusing on the endgame, but rather the journey and the juice and joy along the way.
Stop judging yourself – give yourself a break for feeling stuck. And give yourself a pat on the back for stepping up for yourself.
Write, write and then write some more - sit down and write about the thing you're hanging onto. Get really detailed about how it makes you feel, describe what it looks like and what your life would be like if that thing, or pain or fixation didn’t exist. Play in that freedom for awhile. Chances are the attachment will loosen and lessen next time you think about it.
Talk to someone, whether it’s a friend who can act as a sounding board, or a professional who can help you release what you’re holding onto.
So why is "letting go" a four-letter word?
To my way of thinking, all of the above come down to one underlying and pervading force – Love.
All of these processes involved in letting go couldn’t take place without love. Love is ultimate surrender. With love, you have compassion and forgiveness, which are the keys to the freedom of release. Of letting go. Just think about it. Even pausing and breathing into the words compassion and forgiveness creates of sense of release, of space, of freedom.