The Truth About “Letting it Go”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard too often: “let it go;” these words are said to me to show empathy for broken relationships that are bringing me down, and are supposed to be a pick-me-up that doesn’t work. I suppose the thought process is that if I let it go, I won’t be weighed down thinking about it anymore. However, “letting it go” is not easy or even beneficial for getting past the things that we supposedly need to let go of.

Picture this: I think I’ve let something go and grown as a person; I can look at the profiles of those who hurt me, like their pictures, and even talk to them again. Everything is fine. I find myself thinking, “Yes! I’ve grown and I’ve let go of what happened.” But then one silly thing will be said, or one picture will hit too close to home. Suddenly, all the resentment and anger I felt towards that person bubbles up again and I’m back at square one. When that happens, not only do I feel like crap because of what happened originally, but also because I’m even upset after so long.

It feels like I’ve failed.

The problem is, this has happened to me so often—and I’m sure to many others in our age of online drama—that I can’t talk to anybody about it without getting that common half smile, empathetic titter, and the same words over and over again. Since it’s been a month, a year, half a decade, since everything happened, I’m told that letting it go is the only way I’ll be able to truly move on.

Except letting it go doesn’t actually make you let something go. It just makes you repress it, and again and again, you find yourself being told the same thing because nothing has changed. It’s not easy because we’re all told that “if it loves you, it’ll come back.” Those things we love, like our broken relationships, may never come back, but that which tortures us loves our suffering, and won’t let us go that easily.

Simply put, the idea that we can just let something go and be free of it is not something we should believe. If we let go of the things that hurt us and allow ourselves to completely forget, the odds of us making the same mistakes is even more likely. Then we would find ourselves in the same situations, constantly being told that we should let go of our pain so we don’t cause ourselves more suffering.

What those of us that have something to “let go of” need, is to get help by talking to people that actually care enough to listen. A lot of the time when I’ve experienced emotional pain all I really want is for someone to hear what I have to say, allow me to express my thoughts on the subject, and accept my viewpoint while perhaps helping me see the situation in another light.

We cannot grow from the things that we are told to let go. Instead, we will continually find ourselves back in that frustrating situation, reminding ourselves that we were fine, now we aren’t, and will consequently be left feeling like we haven’t grown at all since it happened.

We shouldn’t be invalidating our feelings by letting go of that which hurt us. Instead, we should accept that we are changed from that hurtful experience and can grow from that. Then, years later, we can see that we have grown and been changed by the event that so strongly affected us.

We need to start acknowledging that the best way to truly “let it go” is to talk to those who care about us and work through what we have experienced—be it heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, or a traumatic event. Hopefully, in the future when we see that person again and find ourselves getting upset, we will realize that the sting isn’t quite so painful. Really, the only way to let something go is to face it head on, and remind ourselves that being hurt is okay, and that “getting over it” isn’t the same as “letting it go.”

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