Letting Go…

One of our Leading Change Participants generously agreed to let me post her article on Letting Go .The focus of the Leading Change program is developing our emotional intelligence so we can be better leaders.    

Letting Go by Karina Miller  

I like to think I’m good at letting go, but what I’ve realized lately is that letting go of friends, moving homes and changing jobs frequently, and being what I thought was highly resilient through any change thrown at me isn’t the same thing as letting go. I’m good at change that doesn’t result in real change — changing the surface things and letting go of small annoyances. I’m good at surviving. I have come to understand lately that being “good at change” and survival is not the same thing as creating big, meaningful breakthroughs. I had simply become very good at creating the illusion of letting go and dealing with change. 

A ropes course I took last year helped me begin to understand the true meaning of letting go. It was a powerful analogy for the physical sensation of letting go of something my core physiology and psychology truly thought was required for sheer survival. I was harnessed to a very solid line, standing on a log, about 40 feet up in the trees. I had practiced sitting in my harness and knew that there was no way to fall. My conscious intellect “knew” that letting go of the ropes that connected my harness to the main line wouldn’t hurt a thing. Letting go of my death grip on those ropes would actually free up energy to help with my balance and focus, which would in turn improve my performance dramatically. Yet it was literally one of the the hardest physical, mental, and emotional things I’ve ever done. I was terrified and on the verge of breaking down into a puddle of tears.

It felt similar to many past experiences of clearly irrational fear, panic, and depression. With the help of an excellent coach, I finally, and very slowly, eased my grip and let go entirely. I also learned to request the support I needed from my coach – at the mechanical, strategic, and deep “feeling” levels of learning. 

Once I actually let go and felt the sensation of letting go throughout my body, I was able to work through the course to the limit of my true physical abilities and continue the process of letting go of fear. I felt much freer and was able to move forward, establish challenging goals, and do things I never thought were possible – including effectively coaching others who were more skilled than me. The same has been true of letting go of my suffering and resistance to the fear of shame. 

Several months later I saw the aftermath of harmful “letting go” when a man let go of the Aurora Bridge rail from the outside and fell hundreds of feet to his death, right next to me. Although letting go of the ropes felt similar to causing myself to plunge to certain death, the difference between letting go of my hardcore grip on habits, thoughts, emotions, fears, and hurts that limit me from living a fully engaged life, and making very poor choices that conflict with my values or go so far as to inflict harm or death on myself or anyone else were stark. My survival mechanism doesn’t always know the difference. Sometimes it feels like letting go of something I’ve held onto tightly my entire life will literally cause my death. But, my brain and heart can tell the difference if I really listen. By deepening my understanding of my fears, opinions, stories, and hypocrisies through coaching, feedback from others, and deep personal reflection, and then letting go of them, I have started understanding the possibilities for true freedom, deep love, authenticity, and true engagement in my life.

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