Yesterday, a new friend invited me to an art class that she thought I might like. It sounded great, a lot like one recommended to me by an ex- friend years ago. Sadly, this past friendship ended badly-very badly- and I thought my ex-friend might show up there. So, I shared my story with my new friend. I told her about the shame I felt at having handled some of that situation poorly, and my regret for not knowing then how I could have handled it better.
This is what my new friend said, “If she hates you, that’s her problem. Just let it go.”
Now, I know this new friend was trying to be supportive. She did tell me first that she’d had similar feelings. And, I recognize that the words she said to me were probably what she says to herself. Maybe they give her courage and she hoped they would do the same for me. I don’t know.
Was my new friends advice good advice? Yes.
Would letting it go be a good idea? Sure.
Is it true that my ex-friend is responsible for her own feelings. Yeah.
But.There are a few problems with this.
For starters, I wasn’t asking for advice. What I really wanted was empathy, which was just what she offered, at first. I wish she’d stopped there or asked me if she could give some advice.Since I really like this person, let’s pretend she did, and that I said yes.
Her advice is still problematic, though. Here’s why.
Telling someone to just let go is like reminding a laboring woman in the transition stage to relax. Good luck with that. Yes, more relaxation = less pain. And true, on the other side of letting something go is freedom. But telling someone words of wisdom doesn’t actually help, does it? If all it took was reminding ourselves to __________(you fill in the blank), we’d all be doing it already – we’re not stupid. To add to the pain of whatever it is I’m reacting to, when I hear something like that and know I can’t do it, I just feel worse about myself. Ew.
So, we know what we want, we’re also hooked/stuck/your word here,and we haven’t internalized skills that truly help us. There’s a reason that Lamaze classes (or any other method) exist. When women are in the throes of labor pain, they’ve had some training to get through it, to contain it. And, they usually have a partner there to remind them what to do, and do it with them when the pain becomes overwhelming. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but the point here is that there’s training to be had. There are practices to be, er… practiced, that can eventually get to the letting go part.
One place to start is with, Even though…
Give yourself 5 minutes alone. Anywhere will do. Take some deep breaths. Sigh a couple of times. Check into your body and see what emotion or sensation you notice. Write the words “even though” then leave some space blank and then write “it’s okay to” on a piece of paper. This is your permission slip: permission to acknowledge whatever feeling you are having. You can add on in writing – or not- something like this “Even though I’m busy, it’s okay to notice this ______________(pain, tingling, anger, fluttering, anxiety, judgement, etc.).” Or, my example: Even though I want to go to this art class, it’s okay to notice some dread there too.
Did you notice we were sitting in and practicing permission too - sneaky me.