“Letting go” of a situation, an outcome, or of a person or their issue can be challenging. But our attempts to control these things never work.
Detaching is another way to explain this concept. But it may feel like this type of response means we don’t care or that we’re indifferent or aloof. We sometimes confuse detaching from someone with cutting off from them.
But it doesn’t mean you don’t care, it means you don’t caretake or carry the responsibility for it. This has been such a helpful concept for me. I find I am able to return to a place of peacefulness when I am able to let go.
Melody Beattie in The Language of Letting Go (Hazelden Meditation Series) tells the following story that has helped me understand this concept:
One day, my son brought a gerbil home to live with us. We put it in a cage. Some time later, the gerbil escaped. For the next six months, the animal ran frightened and wild through the house. So did we – chasing it.
“There it is. Get it!” we’d scream, each time someone spotted the gerbil. I, or my son, would throw down whatever we were working on, race across the house, and lunge at the animal hoping to catch it.
I worried about it, even when we didn’t see it. “This isn’t right,” I’d think. “I can’t have a gerbil running loose in the house. We’ve got to catch it. We’ve got to do something .” A small animal, the size of a mouse had the entire household in a tizzy.
One day, while sitting in the living room, I watched the animal scurry across the hallway. In a frenzy, I started to lunge at it, as I usually did, then I stopped myself. No, I said. I’m all done. If that animal wants to live in the nooks and crannies of this house, I’m going to let it. I’m done worrying about it. I’m done chasing it. It’s an irregular circumstance, but that’s just the way it’s going to have to be.
I let the gerbil run past without reacting. I felt slightly uncomfortable with my new reaction – not reacting – but I stuck to it anyway. Before long, I became downright peaceful with the situation. I had stopped fighting the gerbil. One afternoon, only weeks after I started practicing my new attitude, the gerbil ran by me, as it had so many times, and I barely glanced at it. The animal stopped in its tracks, turned around, and looked at me. I started to lunge at it. It started to run away. I relaxed.
“Fine,” I said. “Do what you want.” And I meant it. One hour later, the gerbil came and stood by me, and waited. I gently picked it up and placed it in its cage, where it has lived happily ever since. The moral of the story? Don’t lunge at the gerbil. He’s already frightened, and chasing him just scares him more and makes us crazy.
Letting Go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.