The feeling in your chest just won’t go away, and it’s starting to slowly eat you up each day.
Longing, desire, repulsion, bitterness, heartbreak, sadness, volcanic rage so many emotions mixed together. So much pain. So much pure and unexpressed suffering.
When will these feelings dissolve? When will you finally feel calm, grounded, and happy again? It all seems like too much for one person to carry. You just want to enjoy life again without the tormenting weight of anguish and bitterness in your chest. You just want to feel whole again.
If you’re currently facing betrayal, abandonment or unfathomable loss, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know what it’s like to carry so much pain inside of you that you go physically and mentally numb. I know how it feels to carry a shattered heart and a deep void of emptiness within. I know what its like to be on the bleeding edge of despair and utter desolation. And I have seen this struggle countless time in other people too.
But although everything around you may have lost its color, although you’re struggling to make meaning out of what has happened to you, there is hope. Like the moon and stars in the night sky, there are still beacons of light to be found in your darkness. One of these beacons is the practice of letting go.
Table of contents
Letting go means being willing to release the past and future, and live in the present moment. Letting go doesn’t mean forcing yourself to get over it or making yourself forget what happened. Instead, letting go is a process of surrendering painful beliefs and emotions, and welcoming in love, understanding, forgiveness, and self-compassion.
There is no easy quick-fix or five-step-solution for letting go of feelings such as anger, fear, and grief because letting go is a process. It can take a while. But the good news is that letting go is a process that helps us to grow, mature, and find more happiness and inner freedom than we thought ever possible. Sometimes your heart needs to break a little for the light to get in.
The opposite of letting go is attachment. When we attach or identify with our thoughts, we suffer. On the other hand, when we stop attaching to our thoughts and simply see them for what they are: energy that we assign meaning to, we experience freedom.
Common thoughts that we attach to which create emotions such as anger, rage, disgust, disappointment, anxiety, fear, grief, and depression, include:
- She should have been a good mother.
- If he hadn’t cheated, I would have been happy.
- Things should have gone differently.
- I should have a much nicer life by now.
- He/she shouldn’t have died.
- My boss should have promoted me.
- If I stay a little longer, he will stop his drinking.
- If I did that differently, I would be much happier by now.
- She has to change or I won’t find peace.
- They are controlling my life.
- Everything was much better in the past.
- I will be happy in the future when I get what I want.
As self-inquiry teacher, Byron Katie writes, When I argue with reality I lose, 100% of the time. But what does this mean?
When we attach to our beliefs about how life should go, we suffer each and every time because we are resisting what is right here and right now. When we resist reality, we also tend to adopt the role of the victim, which causes even greater suffering.
The truth is that how can we 100% know that something is completely good or bad for us? While something like a divorce or death may immediately seem like a terrible thing, how do we know that it is completely bad? Can we see every possible future outcome and consequence of such an occurrence in the present moment? Of course we can’t. Is it possible that such an experience could actually give birth to good things as well? Yet we continue to believe and insist that it shouldn’t have happened when the reality is that it is what it is. With or without our thoughts it has still happened.
Of course, experiencing a loss or trauma doesn’t mean we should ignore how we feel. It is perfectly normal and important to allow ourselves to feel the anger, confusion, grief, fear, hatred, and bitterness within us. But once we start attaching ourselves to these emotions, we experience suffering.
It is our attachment and identification with our thoughts that is the sole cause of our suffering.
As I mentioned previously, letting go is a process that takes time and effort. There is no quick and immediate way to let go of all your painful feelings. However, one of the fastest ways I have personally found of letting go is questioning and disbelieving thoughts. This method is known as self-inquiry and helps to get to the root of your suffering.
However, there are dozens of other practices which can help you start the process of letting go. The techniques I have shared below can help to both indirectly and directly assist you in letting go. If one of these practices inspires you to try something new, share it with me in the comments!
1. Allow yourself to scream
Find a private place to unleash your emotions. If you’re too embarrassed to scream out loud, get your pillow and bury your head into it. If you have a pool, jump in and scream at the top of your lungs.
2. Watch something that makes you cry
Sadness is the emotion that often forms a sandwich around anger. In other words, anger is often a form of sadness and vice versa. To access this anger, watch a movie that makes you cry.
3. Write an enraged letter
Let out your rage through writing. Detail every little thing you’re angry about and don’t hold back your feelings. Curse, condemn and threaten the person or situation as much as you like until you’ve exhausted your feelings. Once you’re finished, rip up or bury your letter.
4. Fire ritual
On a small piece of paper, write down the name of a person who has provoked great anger inside of you. Light a candle and drop the piece of paper into the flame, watching as it burns and curls up into ash.
5. Be assertive and take no sh*t
Anger is often the result of not speaking up for ourselves and feeling oppressed by another person. To avoid repressing this emotion, learn how to negotiate and be assertive. Being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive, instead, it is a healthy style of communication that honors your needs, as well as another’s needs.
6. Do some kicking, punching or intense exercise
Rage and anger are fiery forms of energy that can be healthily expressed through exercise. Try some form of intense workout and make your objective to feel your anger to the fullest.
7. Take responsibility for your happiness
Often, anger tends to be accompanied by blame and criticism directed towards another person. Remember that no one can take away your happiness. As hard as it is to accept, the problem isn’t the other person, it is how you react to that person. Realize that anger is a normal reaction, but it doesn’t need to define you.
8. Notice how much energy anger burns up
It takes so much of our effort and energy to hold onto grudges and bitterness. Notice how forgiveness and letting go of resentment actuallyincreases your energy and fills you with inner peace.
9. Understand that anger harms you more than anyone
Staying angry at someone hurts you the most. In some cases, anger actually empowers the other person because you’re showing them how much energy and effort you’re putting into hating them. (This is why internet trolls thrive so much.)
10. What people say and do says more about them than you
Whenever another person is mean, unkind, or cruel, their behavior is secretly a reflection of how they treat themselves. This sad truth can help you feel better and also practice disarming and letting go of intense emotions.
11. Find the belief behind your fear
All forms of anxiety and stress are linked to the thoughts in our heads. What underlying belief is causing you such great fear? Remember that the thoughts are just thoughts: they don’t mean anything about you or your life until you give them meaning. So what core belief is triggering your anxiety?
12. Breathe deeply
Mindful breathing is such a simple technique yet one of the most powerful out there. When you focus on your in-breath and out-breath you are essentially drawing yourself back into the present moment. Anxiety and stress develop when our minds get lost in past or future thoughts. So breathing is a simple way of grounding you in the here and now. Deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve which sends signals to your brain to calm you down.
13. Use natural soothing herbs
Herbs such as damiana and holy basil are effective herbal remedies for anxiety that help to calm down your nervous system. Once your body is relaxed, you can then begin the process of letting go of anxiety-provoking thoughts. If you are struggling with extreme muscle tension and feel physically crippled by anxiety, you might even like to consider medication for a short period of time. I have nothing against medication: so long as it is a temporary method that is accompanied by proactive natural relaxation techniques.
14. Realize that you cannot control your thoughts
The reality is that we cannot control our thoughts, otherwise, don’t you think we would always choose to think positive and happy thoughts? Thoughts are spontaneous and uncontrollable. Yes, we can force ourselves to think happy thoughts, but this is not a true solution: it is simply a practice of superimposing thoughts on top of other thoughts. Although realizing that you can’t control your thoughts may be a little depressing, ultimately, it is liberating. You no longer have to shame yourself for thinking a certain way or fear that you are not good enough because you can’t think positively. Understanding that you cannot control your thoughts, but you CAN become aware of them, helps you to disidentify with them, and therefore, stop suffering.
15. Stop fighting how you feel
Resistance to your fear creates even more tension and fear. Instead, allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. Stay grounded through your breath and gently explore whatever is arising inside of you.
16. Stay grounded in the present moment
Practice mindful awareness exercises to take you out of your head and into the present. Notice the colors, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and different feelings in your body. Anchor yourself to the Now by noticing what is happening.
17. See anxiety as a teacher, not an enemy
When we demonize anxiety, we tend to increase our anxiety; this is because we are resisting what we are experiencing and labeling it as bad. Try to change your perspective. Understand that everything in life can be a teacher if we let it. Anxiety may just be your greatest teacher in life, helping you to develop self-awareness, mindfulness, compassion, and ultimately the ability to surrender to that which is beyond your control.
18. It’s OK to feel scared
It’s completely normal to feel afraid and anxious. So many people out there share your struggles. Being vulnerable to life isn’t a failure, in fact, admitting that you’re scared is actually a form of strength. It’s also normal to feel anxious about your anxiety!
19. Spend time alone to recuperate each day
Relaxing in solitude is so important for our mental health. Our thoughts tend to go a bit wild when we have no time to sit down and breathe. Make sure you spend time alone.
20. Find a relaxation technique
There are so many amazing relaxation techniques out there. Whether it be EFT (emotional freedom technique), PMR (progressive muscle relaxation), meditation, yoga, or something else, ensure you do it daily.
21. Journal about your feelings
Pour out your feelings and regrets in a private journal. Let writing and expressing your innermost thoughts be a balm for your soul. Learn more about how to journal.
22. Realize that you did the best you could
When a relationship ends we tend to obsessively dwell on the past and all that we did wrong. Be kind to yourself and realize that you did the very best you could with the knowledge and maturity you had at the time. There’s no need to beat yourself up.
23. Don’t force forgiveness
If you don’t feel like forgiving someone, don’t force yourself. There’s no need to be disingenuous or quasi-spiritual about what you’re experiencing. Allow yourself to feel royally pissed! Give yourself space to rage and vent. You will forgive when you feel ready to forgive, and not a moment before. So let go of the guilt and honor how you feel right now.
24. Create clear boundaries
If you are not comfortable with something or someone, respect yourself by creating boundaries. Don’t let anyone abuse you or ignore your limits. Be firm but kind. Preserve your energy and only use it on those you feel comfortable having around.
25. Release regrets and live in the moment
When relationships end we are often filled with intense regrets. While this is normal to experience, realize that the past is the past: it is gone completely. Pining over what could have been or what you could have done differently only creates more suffering. Acknowledge these regretful thoughts, but try to consciously release them. If you must, create a mantra that will help you live in the present such as I live here, now.
26. What gift is this experience trying to impart?
Every experience in life holds a secret and sacred gift, even the most heartbreaking circumstances. Explore what this person has taught you willingly or unwillingly. What gift do you now possess that you didn’t before?
27. Explore the core issue
Often times we find letting go impossible because we are still confused about what happened. In order to help you find peace, think about why your relationship crumbled. Try to avoid blaming yourself or the other person: stick to the facts as much as you can. For instance, you might discover that your relationship burned out quickly because neither of you learned how to love yourselves, or perhaps the central issue was being too busy or distracted.
28. Let go of the need to be right
The monkey mind (the ego) hates being wrong and is addicted to feeling right. One way we stay locked in the past is by trying to desperately prove that we are the victim, and the other is the perpetrator. In order to get past this, realize that what was done was done. There is nothing that can be done about it now. The healthiest thing for you is to move on and practice letting go.
29. Notice the minds tendency to romanticize
It is much easier to let go of a human being than your one true love or prince/princess. In order to let go, remember the good as well as the bad. Our minds have a habit of seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses, conveniently blocking out whatever caused us suffering. Notice this mental trick and realize that happiness cannot ever be found in the past, only the present moment.
30. Understand that you cannot change anyone
No matter how hard you try, how much you dream or plan, you cannot change anyone. You cannot make anyone nicer or healthier or a better person. Sometimes, we continue to cling to hope because were convinced that we can change our partners, friends or family members. But believing that you can change someone is false hope. Another person can only change if they first decide to change. And this decision has to authentically and sincerely come from them. Realizing this can help you practice letting go.
31. Explore what you’re trying to control
Frustration is often the result of trying to control something that is beyond your power. What are you trying to control outside of yourself?
32. What expectations aren’t being met?
Expectations create immense amounts of frustration and impatience. What are your expectations, how realistic are they, and how are they causing you to suffer?
33. Simplify your life
Holding onto expectations and beliefs about how life should be are often compounded by a busy and frantic life. What can you do to release the craziness of your life? For instance, you might like to reduce your number of work or social commitments, stop using social media so much or even adopt a minimalist lifestyle.
34. Let go of letting go
Are you frustrated that you just can’t seem to let go? Ironically, this is a great source of inner tension. Like any concept or idea in life, please hold this notion gently with compassion for yourself. Surrender takes time. Sometimes, letting go of letting go actually helps you to, well, let go! Give yourself space and permit mistakes. It’s all OK, really.
35. Identify mental distortions
What types of thoughts are dominating your brain? In my article about how to overcome anxiety and depression I explore twelve of the most common distortions, e.g. mind reading, fortune telling, self-dismissal, catastrophizing, and many others. Please check the article out.
36. Be self-compassionate
In whatever small way you can, be kind to yourself, even if that just means putting on an extra jumper because you’re cold. Give yourself the permission and space to live life at your own pace. Do one kind thing for yourself each day.
37. Get some fresh air and sunshine
Sometimes simply going outside and feeling the wind and the sun against your skin is enough to pull you out of your head. Try going for a short walk. If you have a pet, take them along with you and notice how happy they are to be with you walking. Pets have such a wonderful way of grounding us and reminding us of the little pleasures of life.
38. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’ve locked away
Depression is often the result of shutting away and numbing too many emotions for too long. Little by little, try to release the emotions buried within you. Express how you feel through artwork, journaling, sports, dance, or whatever moves you. Remember to stay connected to your breath as you allow the emotions to bubble up and release.
39. Accept the inevitability of change
Is resistance to change causing you grief? Sometimes we develop depression because we are so resistant to the transience of life. We desperately want everything to stay the same because it provides us with a sense of comfort and safety. But when things change, we become terrified and numb ourselves to avoid our fear. Please know that it’s okay to feel scared. We all feel that way. Accepting that change is inevitable can also be very liberating: how dead and boring would life be if everything always remained the same forever? Change is what makes life so alive and vibrant. Sometimes a simple shift in perception is all we need.
40. Name your thoughts
Thoughts are just thoughts: they mean nothing about you until you believe they do. As mentioned previously in this article, we don’t choose our thoughts: they simply arise in our heads. The problems only begin when we believe these thoughts instead of letting go of them (this, by the way, is the purpose of meditation). Each day, try to name your thoughts that create suffering. You can name your thoughts on paper or mentally. Different examples of thought types include worry thoughts, fearful thoughts, future thoughts, past thoughts, expectation thoughts, angry thoughts, resentful thoughts etc.
41. Broaden your mind
Read up on depression and grief. Gather alternative insights different from your own. Give your brain the space to learn and develop new perspectives.
42. Reconnect with your soul
To me, depression is a sign of soul loss. What we are really longing for is the infinite love, peace, understanding, and compassion that lies at our very core. We believe that what we need lies within a new romantic relationship, better house, more money, or an upgraded personality but the truth is that we are all searching for the home hidden within ourselves. The problem is, most of us have forgotten that there is more to life than what society teaches. It is hard for us to believe that there is more than what we see because we have been conditioned to see life through a narrow mental lens. Inner Work is the practice of listening to your soul again and finding the peace that lies at the heart of your essence. Some simple inner work practices you can explore include practicing soul communication, self-discovery, and self-love (we recommend our self-love journal if you’d like a more guided approach.)
Letting go takes time and dedication. The following list of carefully curated quotes about letting go has been created to support you on your journey. Let me know your favorite in the comments (or share any other letting go quotes not included here)!
Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. – Daphne Rose Kingma
Letting go is the willingness to change your beliefs in order to bring more peace and joy into your life instead of holding onto beliefs that bring pain and suffering. – Hal Tipper
Once you realize you deserve a bright future, letting go of your dark past is the best choice you will ever make. – Roy T. Bennett
I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward. – Fridtjof Nansen
Let go, or be dragged. – Unknown
Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. – Ralph Marston
Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. – Raymond Lindquist
Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow. – Tony Schwartz
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. – Erich Fromm
The day I understood everything, was the day I stopped trying to figure everything out. The day I knew peace was the day I let everything go. – Unknown
Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over. – Guy Finley
The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go. – Shannon L. Alder
Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them. Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else. – Paulo Coelho
Things are as they are—we suffer because we imagined different. – Rachel Wolchin
Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness. – Steve Maraboli
One of the simplest ways to stay happy is letting go of the things that make you sad. – Unknown
To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit. – Jack Kornfield
One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul. – Brigitte Nicole
Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself. – Deborah Reber
Letting go isn’t a one-time thing, it’s something you have to do every day, over and over again. – Dawson’s Creek
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. – Lyndon B. Johnson
Your past does not equal your future. – Anthony Robbins
To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own. – Jack Kornfield
Sometimes people come into your life just to teach you how to let go. – Unknown
A bridge can still be built, while the bitter waters are flowing beneath. – Anthony Liccione
We keep ourselves so tied up in regretting the past and fearing the future that we don’t have any energy left to figure out who we are and what we want to create right now. – Gay Hendrix
Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. – Anais Nin
The decision to let go of that which has completed its course in your experience is even more important than the decision to welcome new ideas. You cannot walk forward by looking backward. New wine cannot be put into old bottles …” – Raymond Charles Barker
In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. – Deepak Chopra
Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go. – Jackson Kiddard
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energy moving forward together towards an answer. – Denis Waitley
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. – Eckhart Tolle
When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free. – Catherine Ponder
If you want to fly in the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down. – Amit Ray
I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward. – Fridtjof Nansen
One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you cannot change. – Unknown
You can’t possibly embrace that new relationship, that new companion, that new career, that new friendship, or that new life you want, while you’re still holding on to the baggage of the last one. Let go… and allow yourself to embrace what is waiting for you right at your feet. – Steve Maraboli
Life moves on and so should we. – Spencer Johnson
Don’t be afraid to let go of this acquired, invented identity; this false feeling of ‘I.’ That is like being afraid to let go of a headache. That is what the imaginary ‘I’ is—one great big headache. – Vernon Howard
You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old – whatever “the old” means for you. – Sarah Ban Breathnach
We need to learn to let go as easily as we grasp and we will find our hands full and our minds empty. – Leo F. Buscaglia
The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward. – Steve Maraboli
You only struggle because you’re ready to grow but aren’t willing to let go. – Drew Gerald
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell
You will evolve past certain people. Let yourself. – Mandy Hale
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu
There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life. – Unknown
You can only lose what you cling to. – Buddha
We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell
If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate. – C. JoyBell C.
Once you realize you deserve a bright future, letting go of your dark past is the best choice you will ever make. – Roy T. Bennett
We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present. – Marianne Williamson
Why let go of yesterday? Because yesterday has already let go of you. – Steve Maraboli
If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind. – Shannon L. Alder
One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us. – Michael Cibenko
Letting go may sound so simple, but rarely is it a one-time thing. Just keep letting go, until one day it’s gone for good. – Eleanor Brownn
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. – Carl Jung
I’m guilty of giving people more chances than they deserve but when I’m done, I’m done. – Turcois Ominek
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. – Buddha
Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. – Herman Hesse
Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny. – Steve Maraboli
Forget what hurt you but never forget what it taught you. – Shannon L. Alder
Whatever comes, let it come, what stays let stay, what goes let go. – Papaji
This list is by no means exhaustive, although it has provided you with many ways to practice letting go of anger, fear, old relationships, and grief. Hopefully you have been inspired by this list and now have many more empowering tools to bring into your life.
Have I missed out anything from this list? What other ways of letting go can you recommend? Please share in the comments.