When do you know when it’s time to let go?
Whether it’s a job that is not getting you anywhere, a self-destructive relationship, or negative thoughts. These are all reasons why we need to understand how the process of ‘letting go’ can help us have a fuller life and not be afraid of change.
Case Study #1:
Maria was married for 10 years, her husband drank heavily and when he was on a binge he was emotionally abusive. Maria couldn’t tolerate his anger. She would try to make it better but doing so fueled his anger, in turn she punished herself feeling this was her fault. During her psychotherapy sessions we began to understand the similar pattern of her interactions with her mother, it was the same cycle. Maria’s mother was abusive and she would blame it on herself.
After several years of treatment, she managed to leave her husband but she was never able to get a divorce. She was constantly second guessing herself, maybe it was her fault, and she should go back with him. They continued to go out to dinner and would speak a couple times a week.
Letting go fully was difficult for Maria. She didn’t trust that she made the right the decision. This often happens when women lack confidence and have self-blame. Helping her understand that when you believe the other person’s behavior is your fault, it is difficult to sever the self-destructive pattern. When you hold and accept that you have no control, you feel helpless and empty. It can make you feel unlovable. Maria needed to understand that as a child she did nothing that caused her mother’s abuse. Only when she was able to make the connection, she was able to finally divorce her husband.
Case Study #2:
Nicole was in a friendship since childhood. Growing up they were inseparable, they did everything together from sharing toys and sleeping at each other’s house. As they got older, her friend began to experience panic and anxiety attacks, she would not want to go anywhere without Nicole. Nicole felt responsible for her and would accommodate her needs. But as she got older, she realized that her desires weren’t being met. She felt resentful but guilty about abandoning her best friend.
When she began psychotherapy, she talked about the conflict of being there for her friend and trying to meet her own needs. During our sessions we began to understand that her struggle was letting go of “being there for her” would mean being selfish. We looked at this relationship. It was one-sided and catering to her friend’s needs was not helping either of them. I encouraged Nicole to help her friend go into therapy so that she can get some professional help for her panic attacks, to become healthier and more balanced. After several months her friend began treatment and learned how to cope and control her anxiety and panic. So Nicole did not have to give up her friendship, only the unhealthy behavior. She was no longer resentful.
Case Study #3:
Ellen came to therapy unhappy with her current position with the Board of Education and feeling stuck. Her supervisor minimized her and excluded Ellen in meetings and decision making. As a single mother with 3 children she was financially dependent on her job and could not leave. This made her feel hopeless which caused her to be depressed. During our sessions we explored her options and how she can handle her situation. Ellen started to understand the connection between her relationships, including her ex-husband and that letting go of being a victim was her struggle. When people around us feel threatened they often respond by being defensive which makes you feel inadequate. Letting go of control and understanding that you didn’t create their insecurity is an important lesson to be learned. When Ellen began to not take responsibility for her supervisor’s actions and did not respond to the behaviors, her working environment improved and so did her other relationships.
The courage to let go of habits that don’t work, or negative thinking, or holding on to what doesn’t work are all things that we can change that can make our lives better.
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