Letting Go and Picking Back Up

There’s an idea that one will hear very often both in Buddhism and in psychology:

“Let it go”.

This is not the dismissive formulation that tells someone that their problem isn’t serious. This is the loving formulation that asks you to let go of anger, or pain, or depression.

When we have been hurt, that moment can become frozen in time, this icy disc inside of us that keeps cutting. It’s easy to view it as an imposition.

But when we start working on letting it go, suddenly it becomes very scary.

Whenever we let go of an emotion or a cognition, there is this moment of fear. We don’t know what comes next. We will for a moment, whether it is a second or a year, have a kind of emptiness where that cognition remained.

In an upcoming Skillful Means chapter, I will discuss the cognitive tapestry and how we can not only replace frayed threads of who we are but also replace them with something new and positive that grips and holds.

But that process still takes a little time.

So here is a vital point, and it is easy to forget:

Just because you let something go doesn’t mean you can’t pick it back up.

If we drop a cell phone, we can pick it back up.

If we let go of our anger, we can let it back when we need it.

In fact, it is not that we are gripping onto negative cognitions passively, as we might hold onto our keys. We are emotionally white-knuckling. Even the horrible pains are things that people grab onto with every ounce of what they have and refuse to give it up. I have had to fight others, pulling a negative thought or feeling from their grasp.

If I am angry about something, I practice letting it go. I practice simply not holding onto that cognition, letting it flow away.

If it does return, then I actually become more vindicated that I have something to be angry about.

So don’t be afraid of letting something go. If it’s real, it will remain. If it is an illusion, it will drift away like sand.


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