By Erika Flint
Letting go is weighing on my mind lately, this is a personal struggle that I’ve been through before. The first time I really felt the need to let go was in college. After getting into the chemical engineering school at the University of Washington and spending a quarter as a college junior in my chosen school and field, I felt lost. The material and subject matter were not of interest to me. How could this happen? I was disappointed and worried, for the last three years this is what I thought I wanted, and now that I had it I realized it isn’t what I want at all.
I talk to student advisors who point me in the direction of mathematics given my class history, and the need for me to pick something relevant if I wanted to graduate on time. I follow their advice and complete another quarter as a math major. Although I find math fascinating, it was ultimately not something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. So I choose to let go. I leave college to spend a quarter in Mexico, by myself, to figure things out. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Lessons learned while living in a foreign country are still with me today, and I’ll never forget how I felt entering that foreign land alone. I was both very excited, but also scared. In this case I didn’t believe that Mexico in particular held any answers for me, but I did know for certain that continuing in a major I knew was wrong for me was not the right thing to do. It felt disharmonious, and that was enough to allow me to let go and be open to other possibilities.
Fast forward 10 years later and I’m living in California. The dot com bubble has just burst, and housing is still enormously expensive. Continuing to live in Silicon Valley means almost everything I work for is going toward living expenses. I feel I have no future there because I’m unable to save any money. I also don’t have any ties to California, other than my job.
Once again I can’t see myself continuing on this path any longer. I talk to my management and share that I that I plan to move to Portland, Oregon closer to friends and family. I don’t know how they will take this news, but I am willing to let go of a lucrative job with a great company because I believe I have no future there. Once again, it was one of the best decisions of my life. In this case I was able to keep my job and move to Portland where I worked remotely, and was closer to friends and family. I was also able to live affordably and invest in my future. Now, almost nearly 10 years later, I am once again faced with the necessity to let go. Letting go of the security of what I know now, for a future I believe in.
Letting go is of general interest to hypnotists because we all expect our clients to let go during sessions on all levels, including physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’re also often expecting clients to let go of something more tangible in their life, whether it’s an idea or belief they’ve held onto, emotions, or a behavior.
In order for any of us to move forward, it’s important that we realize we need to let go of something. Climbing a ladder is a good metaphor for letting go because if you want to move forward you have to let go with your hands to the rung you’re holding onto so that you can reach further and grab the one ahead. In doing that, you leave yourself vulnerable in that moment in between when you’re in the middle of reaching. This is not the ladder of success, but the ladder of your life you’re climbing, and so realizing that we are constantly needing to let go in order to move forward, there are some observations I can share based on my own experiences.
As I said before this is a personal story of letting go, and relating it to the work we do as hypnotists is something that I wanted to share because I believe it’s important for us to understand what we’re expecting our clients to do by letting go. This understanding helps us be more effective hypnotists.
Letting go means being willing to surrender security – even if the security is inherently unhealthy, it is familiar. Some people may call this courage, for me it’s a belief in something greater than myself, that knows more than I do. There is great peace in that knowing, but not everyone will feel the peace it brings without experience. For clients, the willingness to let go and surrender means they need something daily they can return to and support this change. For example, self-hypnosis, a spiritual practice, or a creative outlet all work really well.
Letting go means moments of panic, where fear is able to creep back in. This is what I call the tendency we have as humans to forget what we know deep down inside. For me this happens when my physical body needs to be taken care of – I’m tired, hungry, or over worked. For clients this means they need to take loving care of themselves, and treat themselves gently and with kindness. It means healthy eating, healthy sleep, and healthy activity. I’ve also found that silence is a big supporter of letting go. Being alone, quiet, and allowing things to settle in helps expedite the process.
Letting go requires we begin imagining ourselves grabbing that next rung on the ladder. Slowly, I begin to see myself doing things that are part of the next phase – some people call this living “as if”. I metaphorically begin painting a picture in my mind of what this looks like every day through self hypnosis practice, or some other self-care practice like cycling, hiking, or writing. I am sketching in new areas and expanding the picture, or filling in the existing sketch with more detail. Slowly, the old picture is fading and the new one is coming alive. For our clients this is future progression – imagining what letting go is like for them. We can help fill in this picture by asking the right questions. One area I like to address is how change impacts all the roles the clients plays in their life, for example, as an employee, a spouse, a mother, a friend, a sister, etc.
Letting go means allowing yourself to experience a range of emotions. The emotions tend to change and shift as we move through the process. In some cases, letting go can be similar to the grieving process – where one moves from denial, to anger, and finally acceptance. But everything we let go of has a different story, sometimes we grieve what we let go of, other times we easily loosen our grip and move on to something better. Understanding the meaning behind what we’re letting go of helps us to let go. Once we obtain the necessary understanding of the life lesson in that experience, we can more easily let go of it and move on. We can ask our clients, what is the lesson learned, or the silver lining of the experience?
Letting go also requires the ability to live with uncertainty. It’s impossible to know exactly how life will change after letting go. It’s important to remember that no matter how we imagine what our future may look like, things will turn out different than what we imagined. Keeping an open mind and watching for opportunities that support what we’re reaching for are vital. I paint a picture, and life responds with something different – and often better. I remain watchful and recognize when this happens, so I don’t miss entirely or close a door on a great opportunity.
Lastly, letting go is something every person can and should practice daily. As we make small steps forward every day, we are constantly needing to let go of something to take that next step. Sometimes we’re letting go of something small with little risk and minimal consequence, like a simple idea or belief, other times we’re letting go of something much larger, like a relationship, or a job. But daily we can practice letting go – surrendering to something better, staying healthy to support constant change, imaging our future, realizing the emotional shifts that will take place, and watching for opportunities supporting the change.
What are you hanging onto that may be keeping you from moving forward? Take a moment right now to focus on what you should be letting go of, and what that something better will look like. It will help you personally, and also help you as a hypnotist to better understand your clients. I look forward to your feedback on how letting go has improved your life.