How often is your mind filled with harmful thoughts and beliefs?
All day, every day? During times of change? When you are taking a risk? When you have something important to do? Or maybe when you are worried that others will judge you? These thoughts negatively impact how we feel and behave. They impact everything about our lives in so many harmful ways. They prevent us from growing, moving on, living the life we deserve, being our best selves, going for the things that really matter for us to name a few.
The first step to cleansing your mind and letting go of these harmful beliefs is being aware of what you want to let go of.
Here are some examples of what to let go of:
- Things you can’t control
- Limiting beliefs
- Negative thoughts
- Worry (about the future, others, what others think of you, etc.)
- Thought distortions such as catastrophic thinking
How do I let go?
Letting go is not an easy thing to do and it can take time and patience. Below are a few ways that might help you with this process.
Things you can’t control:
There is no point in obsessing about things you can’t control. It wastes time and zaps energy. In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey writes about a helpful strategy to help you let go of the things you can’t control. He says to get a blank piece of paper and draw a small circle in the middle of the page. This small circle represents everything you can control, focus on those. The larger blank space represents everything you can’t control.
There are usually more things in life that are out of our control than are in our control. He says to write all the things you can control in the circle and all of the things you can’t control outside of it. Focus in on the items listed in circle and start coming up with action steps and plans to work on the things that are in your control. You are going to let go of the items outside the circle. Every time you catch yourself worrying about something outside your control look at the page and focus in on the things in your control. You will get better and better at this and it’s okay if it takes time. It feels so much more empowering and creates a sense of control to redirect your thoughts this way.
Anger and Resentment:
Anger is a terrible emotion that uses up a lot of energy and one of many reasons people seek anger management therapy. It is linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, hypertension and can take over and block out so many positive things in your life. Anger high-jacks your emotions and can trigger us to say and do things we wouldn’t normally do or say. It results in a feeling of helplessness and resentment. Letting go of anger starts with acknowledging what you are angry about and why you are angry. Anger is often a result of feeling hurt, afraid, vulnerable or being treated unfairly. Anger can help us avoid these primary vulnerable emotions.
Interestingly enough, much of the time when you get angry you are actually angry about something or many things that are not directly related to the thing that you got mad about. For example, when you see a driver getting really angry at another driver. The amount of anger is not always proportionate to that small incident. The driver might be only 10% responsible for the angry feelings. Whereas 20% of the anger is about his teenage child skipping a lot school that semester and getting bad grades in school. Another 20% of anger is about a boss who criticized his work. Or the angry person may be 50% angry about a spouse who yelled at him for not helping around the house enough.
The amount of anger is usually not merely because of the incident but is also about all sorts of other things that are going on in his or her life as well. This results in much more anger than the situation warrants. Walking around with all that anger is not healthy so it’s important to learn how to let it go.
Letting go of anger is a process and a good way to begin is by acknowledging what the things are that are causing you to be angry. If you follow my other blogs, you will notice that I’m big into writing things out.
Start by writing a list of all of the things that make you angry.
Check if there are things that are out of your control? Read this blog to help with this. Let go of everything that you can’t do anything about. Next try the steps below to help.
See if you can understand what the emotion is that is tied to your anger. Use:
- I feel…
Finally ask yourself, “Does the feeling remind you of anything from the past?”
Here’s an example: I feel afraid when my wife yells at me because it makes me feel like I am a child again. It reminds me of how my parents used to always yell at each other and me. My wife’s yelling triggers me to feel exactly the way I felt when I was a kid: anxious and afraid.
Next, problem-solve and begin to write out what you can do about the things that are in your control.
Here’s an example about a son skipping school and getting bad grades; You can’t control your son’s behaviour but you can take away privileges, you can have a talk with him, you can let him make mistakes, have consequences and learn from them.
Recognize that when you overcompensate your feelings, others under-compensate their feelings
Say you have done everything you can to help your son and he’s still making bad choices that cause you to feel stressed and worried about his future. How do you let go of the associated anger? Recognize that you feeling bad doesn’t help your son or the situation at all. Most of the time it makes the situation worse and it only hurts you. These feelings serve no real purpose. Sometimes with kids (or anyone) if a parent is taking all the responsibility for the child’s behaviour, the child will consequently take less responsibility for their own actions. The parent is overcompensating, and the child is consequently under-compensating.
But when the parent let’s go of feeling that way it allows the kid to feel the feelings of anxiety and fear for their future that will motivate them to make changes. This is when they are most likely to begin to take accountability for themselves and improve. Remind yourself that it is okay to let go. Because when you care too much it might result in the other person not caring enough. This applies to romantic partners, co-workers, and anyone else.
Recognizing that communicating with anger doesn’t lead to being heard or getting what you want
Oftentimes people think that the more aggressive (angry, loud, mean) they get, the more the other person will understand how they feel leading them to get what they want. The opposite is true. If I do something wrong and someone is aggressive about it all I am going to focus on is their aggression and how it made me feel.
I’m not going to focus at all on what I did wrong or feel guilty or bad about what I did. I won’t be motivated to change or fix what I did wrong. Instead, I’m going to focus on how wrong it was for them to treat me like that. Your anger distracts everyone from the problem. Letting go of the anger and communicating calmly and assertively would more likely lead the other person to hear you, feel bad about it and more likely result in both individuals fixing the problem.
Learn to have faith that everything will work out and use positive self-talk
Letting go involves a certain amount of faith. Faith means believing that everything is going to be okay when you don’t have concrete proof that things will work out (this also helps with anxiety).
Here’s an example:
With your son you will have to have faith that he will come to his senses and start going to class soon. Or that he might find future career opportunities that aren’t the traditional route that rely so much on a formal education. Maybe he’ll be an entrepreneur and start his own business. Most business owners were C students in school. They usually hire the A+ students to work for them. So there is hope. Lots of very successful adults go through a period of life where they weren’t putting their all into life and they turned out okay.
I like to tell my daughter that I know she will make responsible choices. She is fully responsible for the consequences of her actions – good and bad. I find the more I step away – the more she steps up to the plate in her own life. Let others make mistakes, let them deal with their own consequences. You don’t have to prevent, fix or save anyone but yourself. Have faith that other people around you can handle their own lives. Focus on your own life and your own happiness and have faith that others are on the right journey for them.
TIP: you might have to try letting go several times before it really sticks. It’s rarely a one-time thing. Keep working at it and you’ll get there.