When I was first learning to water ski (don’t assume by that first phrase that I actually water ski), I had the hardest time remembering to let go of the rope after I’d fallen. You see the rope is what kept me moving forward, upright on the water, connected to the boat. When I lost my balance and didn’t let go of the rope, it became the thing that drug me head first through the wake of the boat almost drowning me along the way. Everyone on the boat would scream at me to let go of the rope but my mind had trouble understanding the very thing that was to my advantage in the beginning was now trying to kill me.
Letting go is unbelievably difficult because often times we are having to let go of things that appeared to sustain us — keep us upright and moving forward. Neuroscience explains that our brain motivates us to prevent harm and/or relieve anxiety and we see letting go as harmful or full of anxiety — we are hardwired to hang on. This means that letting go takes some savvy, intentional steps.
One primary step is to confront our compelling, distorted thoughts that make holding on appear reasonable and right. We entertain magical thinking ("If I give him more time, his destructive behavior will stop”), delusions ("I must keep gathering this evidence. Somehow, I can be proven right if I stick with it"), and sheer errors of logic (“Even though I haven’t needed this for a decade, someday I might. So I have to hold on to it"). Each thought pattern is a cunning argument against letting go. Each needs to be challenged and rewritten so that we can stop being dragged behind the boat.
As soon as we let go of the rope behind a ski boat, we can just float in the water. It’s so relaxing and enjoyable to be buoyed by the lake rather than beaten by it. Letting go ushers in peace.
What will the long-term consequences be in your life if you do not let go? What is one small step you can take today to start letting go?