“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
– Steve Maraboli, Internet radio commentator, motivational speaker and author
Susan rested her elbows on the cubical wall, leaned over and smiled.
“Did I hear you say that you’re moving a bunch of stuff out of storage?”
My colleague Linda and I had been sharing stories of the torment of moving. I explained that my wife and I had put some items in storage a couple of years ago, and were finally going to clean out the storage bay. We were not looking forward to the task.
“I’ve moved more than a dozen times,” Susan declared. “And I’ve learned something.”
Susan explained that the secret to a relatively stress-free move is a willingness to purge.
“Here’s the deal,” she said. “If you must think about it, just get rid of it – let it go!”
I think Susan’s get “rid of it” advice can also apply to a lot of our ideas we are still clinging to. Why do we hang onto emotional stuff in the first place? Perhaps for the same reason that we hang onto our physical stuff. We have formed an emotional attachment to it. Our beliefs, perceptions and interpretations have become part of our psyche and come to define who we are.
Objects often have no intrinsic value, but the memory or the “emotional charge” that we associate with the object provides the sense of value. Consider the extreme end of the scale: hoarders. Some individuals who hoard do so because each item has a story and to lose the item is to lose the story and part of themselves in the process. I think many of us might acknowledge ourselves as emotional hoarders if all the “stuff” we hold onto were laid out before us.
I’m sure it sounds like I’m slamming sentimentality here, but I’m not. There are items I cherish that hold great sentimental value: an antique mantle clock, old letters and rare books. However, the number of items that I now cherish and possess amount to about 10 per cent of what I once held dear. I have become selective about the things I now keep and, for the sake of my self-esteem and awareness (and my marriage), the memories that I choose to revisit.
How can you tell it’s time to let it go? When you think back to the past are you are filled with regret, longing, fear or anger? That could indicate that you’re hanging onto old ways of perceiving and thinking. It may be represented through hoarding of things, attachment to memories of perceived failures, the constant stirring up and re-experiencing of old hurts or an “if only” mindset. The key to permanent change is to acknowledge that the past is over and gone.
Why does this matter? It matters because you cannot move forward safely and efficiently if you’re always metaphorically anchored to the past. A constant focus on the past can prompt you to dredge up and activate negative attitudes that you’ve been working to release. Learn the lessons from the past, of course, and take them to heart – then release yourself from its grip.
American pop singer, Tina Turner expressed it well. “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything, whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. You’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
If you truly desire to change your life, then you are saying that you are ready to let go of the old understanding and relationship you had with life. You want to experience life at a higher and freer level. You want to see greater possibilities and reach your highest potential.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His most recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca