‘I can’t let it go.’ John was exasperated as he said this to me. His co-worker had ‘wronged’ him 3 years ago, and John was hanging on to the anger and resentment he felt toward this person. And, he knew he was doing it.
‘Yes, you can.’ I said to John. ‘And, the gift will be to free yourself of this negativity, which is literally killing you.’
I regularly meet people like John as I travel to different workplaces and speak at conferences. They might not pinpoint the source of their frustration as clearly as John did, but they are holding on to some past event, and paying the price with their energy and engagement in life.
An article in the Huggington Post by Rita Schiano got me thinking about this. There is a great deal of evidence about the adverse impact of carrying around negative emotion. The Post article references a study in which HIV patients who practiced forgiveness experienced positive changes in their immune status. The article also quotes Dr. Katherine Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at the Mayo Clinic who wrote, “Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life.” And, Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of positive psychology who said in an Internet interview, “Letting go of grudges is a way to break grudge collecting.” Holding on to past trespasses and transgressions produces “continued unhappiness” and can lead to depression.
The article also refereces how holding on to hurtful memories appears to affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In a study conducted by the Psychology Department at Hope College, people who nursed a grudge had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension and feelings of being less in control. When asked to imagine forgiving the person who had hurt them, the participants said they felt more positive and relaxed, and thus the changes dissipated.
There are times in our lives where we need to learn to stop holding on and just LET GO. Learning to LET GO can save your life; or at the very least it will enhance the life you are living. Here are some tips for learning to LET GO:
List all of the reasons for letting go. What’s good about letting go? What’s in it for you? Is ‘holding on’ to this past event preventing you from engaging and ‘grabbing on’ to other things in your life?
Empathize…with the wrong-doer and with your ‘self’. Put yourself in the wrong-doers shoes. What was he or she experiencing? What might be his or her reasons for the wrongful deed? Might that have been the best he or she could do at the time? Now put yourself into your own shoes. Recognize that you had good reason to feel wronged, and that now you are ready to release yourself from the burden of that negative energy. Say goodbye to the wrongful deed and to the ‘you’ that was carrying around the negative emotion.
Take responsibility for any part that you played in the wrongful deed. John realized that he played a small part in the circumstance with his co-worker. In your situation, what role did you play? This is not about blaming yourself for the wrongful deed, just about recognizing and learning.
Grow. Every day of your life, you have the opportunity to change your life by changing your perspective. Look at this event as an opportunity to grow. Tell yourself a new story about this past event. Make the story one that serves you and your best interests.
Opt for optimism. Optimism is about hope, it is about believing in a positive future. When you move your focus to the future, you are not as focused on the past.
Are you ready to LET GO?
Deri Latimer, B. Mgt., CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of the top 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional, the speaking profession’s measure of excellence in professional platform skill. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri helps individuals and organizations optimize their performance by managing their energy; applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement. www.derilatimer.com