“Holding On” Also Holds Us Back

Late in June, I committed to journaling for 21-days consecutive days, each entry beginning with the words “I release…”. Grief and sadness had been frequent companions that month, and I decided that writing about LETTING GO would help. Each day, I wrote about what I chose to release – FULLY release – that day. Sometimes I wrote just a few sentences and other times a page or two, and after several days I actually felt lighter and began to realize how much of what I was releasing had not mattered for years. Why then, was I still carrying it?

This question reminded me of accounts I had read about people who trained for long-distance hikes of hundreds of miles or kilometers. Often, these hikers ignored the best advice that more experienced hikers shared in books, online articles, podcasts, and how-to manuals. Novice long-distance hikers over-stuffed their backpacks with items they believed would be essential to their safety or comfort during the coming weeks or months on the trail. Then I thought of my Mom’s words, “Sometimes we have to learn our lessons the hard way.” Of the many, many differences between me and those hikers, an important one is that they can actually see everything they have in their backpacks but the burdens I was carrying were invisible.

During the three-week period of writing about what I was choosing to release, I paid especially close attention to the themes of releasing, of holding on, and of “being stuck” whenever they surfaced in conversations with family, friends and acquaintances. Few of the people with whom I spoke were aware of my 21-day commitment, so these themes did not arise because people knew I was focused on letting go, but the number of times that others talked about these topics astonished me.

“Letting go” has a unique meaning for everyone, and I began making notes about the things, ideas, beliefs, and experiences people mentioned in those conversations, as well as the themes that emerged in my own writing. The range was broad, and some of the most frequently mentioned items that they were/are “holding on to” are …
… the past
… fears
… self-judgement
… worry
… anger
… self-limiting beliefs
… the need for approval
… grief and sadness
… toxic relationships
… perfectionism
… expectations (their own and other people’s expectations of them)
… judging others
… unhealthy habits
… an out-of-date version of who they are
… people who consciously and continuously hurt them
… disappointment (in themselves and/or in others)
… the tendency or need to do “one more thing” before ending a workday
… a bad experience they often remember and relive
… clothes they no longer wear or that no longer fit
… clutter in their living space

The burden of holding on to any one of these, or other things not listed here, consumes precious energy we could choose to use in some other way, and most of us are holding on to much more than just one thing. It takes strength, courage and determination to LET GO when, on some deep level, we want to hold on to something or someone we know is not good for us.

The first step is exploring our own list of unseen burdens, and then deciding which we are willing to leave behind. I also found it helpful to explore why I had not let go of some of the burdens I now wanted to unload. Whatever process you take, whatever works best for you, I hope you will consider the weight of all that you carry that is no longer in your highest good… and then give yourself permission to let it go.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, experiences and insights in the comment box below. We have so much to learn from each other.

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Photo credit: © Sanchik | Dreamstime.com

2 thoughts on ““Holding On” Also Holds Us Back”

  1. Hi Sharon, thank you for sharing your personal insights on hanging on to things or beliefs that no longer serve us. Sometimes I am not consciously aware that I am holding onto experiences or events that took place years ago. Things that no longer have any relevance in my life. Then they surface in my dreams. Night after night the same themes arise in my dreams. I know exactly the feelings these dreams conjure up, but don’t understand why they are still present today.

  2. Katy Fillman Al-Afyouni

    Hi Sharon,

    Your message speaks to me so much. This is absolutely something I need to work on and you are right— letting go can be very challenging. Thank you for your inspiring and helpful words!

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