Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Let Go Or Be Dragged

One of the greatest things I learned while reading about Buddhism was the concept of detaching from expectations that things be different.  It sounds simple enough, but it’s one of the hardest things we have to learn in our lifetime.  It means that we have to let go of our need to be right, or our desire for something to happen (or not happen) — just giving up CONTROL over certain aspects of our lives.
Definitely not easy.  
A client of mine once told me that when she struggles with her control issues, she has a mantra that goes “Let go or be dragged.” I loved that!

“The Untethered Soul,” by Michael Singer, is a book I highly recommend because it explains the concept of detachment with beautiful analogies (which I love).  He says each of us actually just plays the role of the Observer in our lives, much like watching a movie.  If we get too wrapped up in the movie, we get “dragged” in by the consequences – heartache, disappointment, anger, struggle – rather than remembering that we are just sitting in the chair in the theater, watching and learning from the people who come in and out of our lives, the countless events that occur on our paths, and all the other experiences that we’re subjected to in our lifetime.
A good friend of mine in college used to always say “That’s interesting,” whenever she was acknowledging something significant but didn’t want to judge it.  For example, she’d say things like, “Wow, that’s interesting that he would have said that to you” or “OK, this is an interesting twist to our plans.”  That simple change in phrasing puts you in the role of the Observer.  Think of it like playing chess with God, or the Universe, and that it’s made a move you weren’t expecting.  You can choose to look at it as a challenge, or something spiteful that’s happened.  If you choose the latter, you’ve attached something to that move and are holding onto it, and so it’ll burn and fester.
Let it go….or be dragged.
If you think about it, we can blame some of this on our culture.  We humans can quickly become VERY attached to news, people, experiences, and opinions.  One of the latest topics has been the Trayvon Martin verdict — people became firmly attached to what they wanted to see happen, then many reacted by voicing emotions and opinions in the myriad of social media outlets.  Just look at what’s trending around the world, and you’ll see what bandwagon people have jumped on and what they’ve become attached to!
But most of the issues that clients come into counseling for are due, in large part, to the fact that they are attached to a certain belief or behavior that no longer is working for them.  These engrained beliefs and knee-jerk responses were developed for very good reasons and may have worked beautifully in the past, but now….with different circumstances….not so much.  
So it may be time to let go of a pattern we’re used to engaging in, like:

  • shutting people out when they piss us off
  • keeping quiet about something, pretending there’s no elephant in the room
  • making excuses and getting defensive
  • getting angry when things don’t go exactly our way the first time
  • having strict expectations of our children, spouse, friends, etc.

The first step in this Letting Go process is not to recognize where you HAVE control, so much as where you DON’T.  What does the Serenity Prayer say?  “Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  It’s that “strength to accept the things I cannot change” part that gets many of us hung up.  In a world where we want things NOW, and messages everywhere order us to “Take charge of your life!” there seems to be a lot of pressure for us to set a goal, get very attached to it, then do whatever it takes to GRAB it!

The problem is, it leaves NO room for random things to happen, for bigger plans to be in store for us, or for opportunities for us to do and see things differently.  For those of you who are spiritually minded, it simply leaves no room for God (or whomever you choose to believe in) to work in your life. (Not to mention — it doesn’t leave any room for a therapist to help you make CHANGES!  Ahem!)
The second step is to consider the fact that there’s a reason behind the struggle you’re facing.  Your marriage may be faltering because there’s a different way you need to be loving and communicating with each other.  Your teenager may be rebelling against college because they’re meant to go another path toward their greatness.  The job you interviewed so well for didn’t come through because it would have brought you into a toxic environment.  You just don’t know!  But if you refuse to let go (or at least loosen your grip) of your specific goals and expectations, you’re limiting yourself (at best) and allowing yourself to get dragged (at worst).

Nobody says you have to stay the same way for the rest of your life.  
Let go
Give way
We are supposed to be evolving entities.  Remember, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting, and that may be nowhere.  Learn to step right, instead of left, in your dance of life.  The more flexible and detached you are, the less chance you’ll be hurt, disappointed, angry, or feel disillusioned, and the better your chances are that you’ll stay calm, take things in stride, and be able to connect with a broader array of people and circumstances.
Look at life’s potholes as “interesting,” relax and consider them “challenge moves,” then let go, observe, and make room for something beyond your expectations.

1 Comment to Let Go Or Be Dragged

  1. Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
    August 18, 2014 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    still good a year later….thanks for the resource…..needed this grounding

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