When you can’t let it go, validate it!
When something is precious to us, it is hard to let it go. We hold onto it with both hands grasping it close to us for safekeeping. We mistakenly think we can lose it. But what is most precious is the meaning of it. And that can never be lost.
When someone expresses a complaint or a problem, there is always something in the shadows of that. Not shadows in the Jungian sense, but shadows as in there is something implicit in the expression. (Michael White called this the ‘Absent but Implicit’ and I wrote a book about it: Understanding Pain, Anger and Fear) The expression, be it of worry or pain or anger, tells multiple stories. It tells of the worry, pain and anger, yes, but also of something we hold precious that has been lost or threatened. The intensity that we are upset is a testimony to how precious that is and the circumstances of the loss (i.e., betrayal vs. accident).
It’s OK to let it go!
This concept can be applied to so many things, but today I want to mention when it is hard for us to let go of something we KNOW that we need to. For example, forgive someone, or let a relationship go that is not in our best interest.
I am suggesting that these things are hard to let go because of some bit of preciousness that is attached to them. We can see from the big picture that the situation is making us suffer more but there is this little “thing” that we don’t want to give up on. Often it is not even clear to us.
Unfortunately everyone else in our life is telling us to let go, get over it, move on, forgive and we are stuck thinking, they just don’t get it. (But then again, sometime we don’t even get it.)
Their comments and our own self judgments for not being able to “move on,” actually keep us stuck. This further invalidates what we held precious, making us hold on more!
When people say to us “Don’t make a big deal out of it.” It is so invalidating that we make an even bigger deal out of it than before. We want to be heard and if we are not, we speak louder. Even if it didn’t matter too much to us in the first place, being invalidated makes it matter.
Validate what is precious
This is touchy for me because as an Italian-Amercian woman, I grew up in a patriarchal family culture. Women were oppressed and passively went along with the men. When they didn’t they were told to calm down, that they are overreacting or that they have too high expectations, especially when they protested this oppression. This is a power tactic used to keep women subjugated. If you want to upset a women, tell them to calm down!
If you actually want someone to calm down or let go, tell them you understand how they might feel that way. Find out this preciousness. They might need help discovering it but you can help by asking them. And you will never regret it. (They’ll never overreact again!)
Rather than telling someone to calm down, asking these questions and helping them to name, see and validate what is precious, has magical powers to make their upset-ness disappear! It is so easy to let go when you are validated. People just don’t stay angry when they feel heard. Nothing has to be resolved as it dissolves.
Let go to regain your sense of self
So parents, when your teen is dating someone you don’t like, and you invalidate whatever it is they hold precious by saying, “I don’t know what you see in him. You’re not making good choices here. You are not allowed to see him anymore,” you are missing a great opportunity. At some point this person has made your child feel incredibly special, even if they are abusive and a bad influence now. Take time to find the meaning of what is important, feed that beautiful, precious thing– that they want to be loved, special –in other ways, validating this. It is only then they can detach from this relationship, which even they can now agree that it is no good for them.
We can do this too, if we need to forgive someone who hurt us. What it is that is precious that that person who betrayed you took away? (i.e., Someone treating you bad might have invalidated your self worth.) How can you hold on to your sense of worth? Lift it up? Give it power? This is a better place to put our energy. The grip of the anger or the attachment to the mean person is loosened. You regained your sense of self. It is easier to let it go.
How do you let it go?