Don’t let go … live it through!

by tamarjacobson

Quote of the day:

One day, walking through a small copse, the skies blackened, lightening flashed and thunder roared and pellets of hail began to rage down on us as we huddled together against a wall of a nearby farm. We were way up coming upon the highest point of the wall, and the weather seemed as close to the sky as it could ever have been.

From: The Walk

Letting go of the past is much easier said than done. People love to say it – and wouldn't we love to do it? "Just let it go!" we say to people, who are suffering, mourning, raging, feeling feelings. But how do we let it go unless we have gone through to the other side? If we pretend to "let it go," or ignore the feeling, it becomes repressed or numbed out, and will surely pop up again at another stage or time when we least expect or want to feel it. Experiencing the past or feeling feelings is like a storm that passes through. We can't push it away. We have to hunker down and sit it out, watching the lightening streak and flash, and hear the thunder roar and roll around the skies above. And when it's over, we find relief out into the fresh, clear air. I remember once hiking along Hadrian's Wall, when a storm came upon us way up at the highest point of our walk. There was no way we could have pushed it aside or continue on with the walk. So we all huddled against the wall of a nearby farm and waited it out. Pellets of hail raged all around us and lightening and thunder flashed and roared about us. When it passed, and we walked on, I remember experiencing a calm and joy that was impossible to describe. 

That sense of peace is what we all would love to feel, and many of us strive toward. As I wander about this life, I experience many people (me included) who become panicked or alarmed by intensity of emotion of any kind, and try to repress or numb it out with sayings about "letting go," or who sound proud when they prefer shutting emotions down. As if this was the mature or courageous way out. I think it is more courageous to feel it through to the other side – hang in there with the intensity, and explore the nature of the experience as it rumbles and swirls through the psyche and body.

Of course, it all starts when we are very young. For example, when toddlers start to have tantrums. That's when it begins! Adults around become panicked. Instead of recognizing that the little child is experiencing an intense confusion of feelings – a type of emotional storm – which must be terrifying for any child – adults punish, ignore, ostracize, condemn, or abandon them for having a tantrum. Oftentimes shrugging it off as just "doing it for attention." I wonder what kind of world it would be if, instead, we sat close to the child and said, "I am going to stay here with you. Right here. I am not afraid of your feelings. You are safe with me." And then, just be there for the child. Help them live through the intensity as if it was a normal part of the human condition, a typical stage of development, and learn that feelings are just that – feelings. Allow them to explore the emotional storm in a safe space, with someone who does not judge them for being human, and then come out on the other side – drenched, but calm. For how can we be rational when emotions are raging within? Only when we experience that calm, can we look back and see how or where it all came from. That way, we can help children experience the emotion instead of having to act it out in horrific ways in later years, while, finally, grabbing catastrophic attention.

When I am allowed to feel the feeling, live through the storm, I am better able to know what I want and need in a peaceful way after it has passed through. And, no … I don't think there is a way to prevent confusing emotions from happening to a young toddler. Their world is new and complex. They are starting to find independence and yet still need us so much – and in there lies the confusion. It is simply a stage that will pass, as the child learns to negotiate and balance out the complexity toward a type of mature interdependence. A relationship where one can be confident and independent, and, at the same time, still need and love another.

Besides, how do I actually let go of the past when it exists in the emotional memory templates of my brain, unless I am able to recognize it when it rises up again and again associatively with my life of now? If I push the past away, I won't be able to welcome it in as a part of who I have become. I won't be able to integrate it into the me of now, if I don't experience the essence, the very core of the original feeling. And I have learned, if I ignore my past, it does not prevent it from visiting me over and over again in a million different ways and at the oddest of moments when I least expect it!

So, in the future, I am going to try to say to myself, "Don't let it go, Tamarika. Live it through. Experience the nature of it, and welcome it into my life of now." And then, I am going to try to have the courage and compassion to give myself a safe space to do just that.