… from the bungalow

Answers: On embracing and letting go


Once in a while, a friend will come out of the shadows to ask for my thoughts on a particular matter. Somehow, they know I’ll act as a sounding board and a safe place for them to share. After chatting with one such friend the other day, I asked for her permission to share our conversation, and she agreed. This is the second post in my “Answers” series.*

Hi, Chris.

I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. They are always insightful. I love hearing your thoughts on parenting. You are a great dad to all three boys. They are lucky to have you.

Your advice a few months ago worked with my son. Things have gotten much better. I wonder if you’d share your wisdom with me again, but on a more personal problem. In your experience/opinion/training can a person “let go” and move on from a past physical/emotional trauma without experiencing the emotions that occurred at the time of trauma? Or does a person have to relive (fully remember: physically, emotionally and mentally) the traumatic event?

Thanks in advance.

Hi, Sandra.

Thanks for your confidence in me. I don’t know if a person can truly let go of something traumatic without revisiting some of those emotions. But I do think it’s more of a side-effect than the focus. In other words, I don’t think that’s where you need to start, but it’s likely to come up in the process.

In my experience, the most effective way to release myself from something is to embrace it first. That’s difficult to do. There are different ways to go about this. If I can make the time and create the space, I like to take myself through a meditation in which I release bad or constricting energy. This can be specific or non-specific, but I like to allow my thoughts to take me where my attention is most needed.

This tends to work better for “lighter” issues. Issues that are more deep-seated are like miscellaneous debris that get mixed up in the foundational concrete. It’s removable, but can be stubborn…

I once participated in a conscious connected breath workshop in which I experienced a lot of discomfort, but ultimately release. I wrote a post about it once. It was about gratitude. That might be helpful to you. Also, a symbolic, physical act of release can be beneficial; like writing down the things you wish to let go of and burning it. You can mentally/spiritually offer it up to God as you do so, and the experience can be cathartic.

Hmm… So to let go of the memories first I have to be willing to remember them (in their entirety) and then let go of them. That makes sense. And because it’s memories that have been repressed, it would make sense for the emotions to be remembered and then released with the image of the event. Does that sound right?

That sounds about right. Are you seeing a counselor or therapist?

No counselor. I saw one for a few years during high school and part of college, but no one since then. I’ve been debating recently if I should or if I can work through this on my own.

I’m sure you can do some of it, if not all of it on your own, but it’s helpful to have someone who can reflect and provide some guidance. (Edit: If you are experiencing trouble like this, please seek counseling if it is within your means to do so. I’ve known Sandra for years, and she is a strong, successful woman who is presently struggling with her past. Do not assume you can “get better” without help.)

Do the voices in my head count? 😉

Hehe, they can!

I am forever grateful for the connected breathing experience because I felt like I experienced a year’s worth of therapy in 2 hours, and for $60. 😉 It was just as intense, though. All balled up into a short time.

I have learned that at times I try not to breathe so I have become more aware of that when I work through memories and I’ve been more aware of how I’m feeling physically and I use that to clue me in that something is going on in my psyche.

That’s a good self-guidance tool.

I endured several years of abuse growing up. I thought that I could just acknowledge that ‘shit happens’ and I could move on, but it seems that I can’t just hide the past in a closet of my mind. I am finding that at times, I can be overwhelmed with anxiety for what I think is no reason. Later when I stop for the day and sort through what’s going on, I find some past memory there causing the anxiety.

Generally if I allow that memory to come up and embrace it (although I can’t say it’s a happy embrace, but I accept what happened) then I’ve found that it loses some of it’s power. This has worked for me so far and I wanted to make sure it made sense to someone other than me.

Absolutely! When things happen to us as kids, we develop defense mechanisms to cope with them. These serve a purpose at the time, but we often fail to let go of them in adulthood, when they no longer serve the same purpose. This leads to faulty thought patterns that are counterproductive to our well-being. I try to go so far as to thank that characteristic or faulty belief for its service at the time, because it saved me or got me through. I guess you could say I grant it retirement status.

When you look at something with gratitude, you begin to realize on a more “real” level that things weren’t your fault. Young Sandra was strong. She coped with abuse the way she knew how, and she survived it. Kudos, kudos, kudos to young Sandra for that! Take time to honor that part of you.

Tell yourself it’s OK to remember. No one can hurt you (or her) like that ever again. Your ego-self will try to protect itself (“yourself”) from hurt by telling you to turn back, don’t pursue. This is not real. It’s no longer happening. Realize that you are not your ego. You are something so much greater and stronger than that! Something divine. You hold the key to this, and you’ll get better, stronger, happier. I know you will.

Also, thank you for feeling confident in sharing with me. I love it when friends are able to help each other, and in thinking and chatting with you about this, you’ve helped me get in some much-needed meditation. I feel more “connected” for having talked with you. Thanks for that.

I’m glad I could help you but I think you helped me much, much more. Thank you, Chris. That was exactly what I needed to hear.

I have never thanked the younger me for being so smart and strong, for surviving and always thinking of a way out of the situation.

Thank you, again, so very much. *happy tears of release*

Aw, my pleasure. I’m glad I was able to act as a sounding board. 🙂 I’m a bit choked up, myself.

Please let me know what you think about this post! Anything you disagree with? Any insights you’d add?

As always, thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. I love it when connections are made!

*Please note that although I have a background in therapy, I am not a licensed counselor. This is a conversation between two friends. Take from this post what you like. Be well.


Author: Chris

Introspection to a fault. College administrator, parent, soapmaker.

17 thoughts on “Answers: On embracing and letting go

  1. Morning Chris,
    This was a wonderful post, I guess I needed to read this, I too have “childhood” issues that I think have gone away, but seem to wait backstage to come up again, and again. It makes me mad that at my age it has not been put to rest. But I really like your idea of celebrating the child that got thru it and made it this far, I have a start doing that on a daily bases and see if that helps to release some of this old stuff and helps to release the “addiction” that came along for the ride. You should consider becoming a therapist you would be great and would give your clients wonderful insight as to unlocking the past and releasing in a safe and healthy way,
    Bravo to you!

    • Thanks, Sarah. I’m glad you were able to connect with this. I have a background in therapy, and I’ve considered going back to school for a master’s degree in counseling. The problem with that is that I love making personal connections with others. Counselors are required to reflect and keep a professional distance without really giving advice. More of a resource person. Which would be fine, but not ideal.

  2. i’m glad i took the time to read, re-read carefully. i’ve been in denial far too long and just recently told myself, i’m not going to get better alone. the situations i deal with on a daily basis are not going to change unless i make the changes (how i react mostly, how i transfer & channel my emotions as a result). i can’t make these changes happen, unless i change. i need too much support to make this happen alone. thanks for yet again another positive ‘push’ in the right direction. thanks again (as always)

    • Marie, I’m glad this resonated with you, and I’m glad you took the time that allowed for that resonance. This is starting to look like it will be soon forgotten and chalked up as one of my least popular posts, but if it strikes a chord with just a handful of people, I’m thankful. 🙂

  3. I like what you’ve said here, Chris. I find that I have advised a few friends over the last tow or three months that just getting something out of your head or off of your chest, whether it’s by writing it, talking to a friend or seeing a counselor will not necessarily make it go away or make it better even, but it will definitely give you room to breathe. And that’s a huge step.

  4. interesting post. how to let go is a tough thing to answer. your meditation and gratitude notes are so helpful. I find if I can find what I’m grateful for, the rest goes away if I’m open to letting it. It takes so much more energy to hang onto things than to offer it up to the universe to take it away. lovely and insightful and made me think. great post.

    • Thanks, Kitty. You’re so right. It takes more energy to hold on to something. Unfortunately, I think some things hold on to us more than we hold on to them, and it takes away just as much energy. It brings to my mind the image of someone/thing biting your arm; it’s easier to get them/it off by pushing into it than by pulling away.

  5. oh wow.. lol.. this question ties right in to the blog post I just published today.. Having dealt with so so many traumatic experiences, this is just what I am attempting to do (embracing the past)

  6. perfect timing.. if you take note of my blog post today, its ironic really. I am attempting to confront my demons and it is, indeed, not an easy task.

    • Isn’t that the way it goes, Jessica? You’ve got something on your mind, you write about it, and then–boom–someone else has touched on the same topic. It’s good, though, right? It helps when you’re feeling like your problems are only yours to bear.

  7. Pingback: Tips for Bloggers: 5 ways to add finesse to your blog comments | … from the bungalow

  8. Hey Chris, I really liked this post!

    I began “defragging” and letting go of my mess of a childhood a couple of years ago. I tell you, just when you think that you’re at peace, something else will come up out of the blue for you to work through. It seems that this whole process is cyclic. You work through something, you feel at peace and plateau, then another trial is presented.

    I too have recognized the fact that I need to embrace and love my younger self for establishing an internal support system in order to cope with my life. When I saw these coping mechanisms resurfacing in my adult life, I had to remind my self rather frequently why they were there and that I needed to let them go.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on this matter! A lot of people are currently going through this, and a lot more are on their way there. It’s good to have talented and insightful people like you whispering helpful advice in the midst of the storms. Keep doing what you’re doing and your life will be fruitful!

    • Thanks, Amanda! You’re a beacon of light to others, and I’m glad to know you. And I appreciate your words of encouragement. “Whispering,” I like that.

      Your humble servant,

  9. “I have never thanked the younger me for being so smart and strong, for surviving and always thinking of a way out of the situation.”

    best quote ever!

    also.. not to upstage your post because its pretty much unupstage-able, but i am so glad you and karin found each other “again” after so much time… this post hit such a note in me and what i am going thru *again and again and again* but just you know.. your wife helped me in much the same way so many years ago… she would know exactly to what i refer…. but this comment is for her too.. and i hope she gets to read it or you at least mention it to her.. but i thank her… so very much for being there when i needed her.. and im am so sorry im not so great a friend.. but i dont mean not to be,,, KARIN I LOVE YOU!!!… im gonna go post i love her on her fb page now thanks for letting me take up space on your comments 🙂

    • Mel, take as much space in these comments as you need! I love the connections made here. It’s comments like this that make it so rewarding. I will let Karin know.

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