“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” ~ Buddha
When I saw this quote the other day, it immediately resonated with me because I realized how poignant and true it is. When we hold on to anger, we are ultimately the ones who pay the price. We continue to feel the pain for past hurts while the individuals who caused us the pain have gone on with their lives and forgotten us. I think one of the hardest parts of letting go is really understanding the process involved, what the process is and what it is not, and who the ultimate beneficiary is.
Letting go is not necessarily forgiving a person for hurting you. Letting go is not necessarily agreeing to absolve an individual of taking responsibility for damage they have caused (emotionally or physically). Letting go can often take a more transcendent form. Its’ goal is to free the person feeling the anger, its’ goal is to break the chains that are limiting the life of the victim, the one who has been hurt.
You can let go without forgetting or erasing your past. The key is to begin to understand that a constant focus on the trauma and pain will not allow you to move forward. An obsession with making a perpetrator “pay” for what they did or feel guilty, or force amends, is an obsession living in your heart as a victim and is not effecting the life of the person who hurt you. They live a life oblivious to your pain – and as you hold on to that pain, they have won. Letting go of the pain is standing victorious.
You can let go and still honor the truth of your past experiences. You can let go and still regularly revisit and talk about the rough times. In fact, you know you are starting to let go when you feel that the person or incidents trigger less emotional pull and response in you. You know you are starting to let go when your daily focus on the pain you have lived through slowly fades to every other day, then once a week, then once a month – and you know you are moving on – for you.
In an ideal world we would be able to hold individuals accountable and they would be genuinely remorseful for choices made that cause great pain…… but, unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. We cannot force someone to understand the impact their choices have on us, but we can indeed not allow their awful choices to continue to impact our lives. We CAN CHOOSE to let it go.
When we bottle up anger inside, we pay a hefty price – not just in emotional misery, but also due to the effect that constant reminders of pain and trauma have on our soul and our health. Many doctors believe that individuals with unresolved pain and anger are more likely to develop cancer and other serious health issues. Often people who struggle to let go pay the price by not being able to properly engage in new friendship and relationship building….. they delay the creation of a new support system while waiting for their circumstances to change. This delays when they will find new love and friendship, critical for both mental and physical health.
So simple, yet so complicated – so necessary, so hard.
Today, 258 days ’til 40, I will continue to push myself to let go – as I do I free myself to live an uninhibited, happy life. I hope you do the same.