There is a great deal of discussion these days about letting go of trauma, letting go of the past, letting go of negativity, letting go of anything that limits us.
The problem is that letting go does not solve the problem.
We have to own the experience and integrate the wisdom. We can’t let go of something that is human nature, whether it is our emotional make up or our mental thinking. We have to integrate it and accept our very nature.
I have been through the wringer for the last few years. I lost millions of dollars in investments advised by someone I trusted who turned out to be untrustworthy. I fell madly in love with someone that eventually modelled the fact that she did not feel the same way about me by seeing other people without telling me. My father died last summer after a long and debilitating disease which left him frail and a shrunken version of someone that had always been larger than life.
The emotions which all of these experiences evoked were the same in each case: fear of the future, anger, guilt, shame and self-hatred. Now according to New Age Psychology (NAP) one would have to let go of these emotions in order to return to happiness and be at peace.
Quite frankly, that would be like recommending that someone “let go” of the pain of a broken arm. It is human nature to feel and to experience feelings, especially in times of loss. We process our feelings as a healing process. For me to reject my emotions by “letting go” of them would be counter productive. It is practically a denial of myself and who I am by thinking that I need to rid myself of how I am feeling.
A much more positive way of processing the emotions that we feel after a traumatic event is to own them, accept them, and integrate them. Yes, I am angry. Yes, I feel guilty. Yes, I made a mistake. The only way to process those emotions is to integrate them and not repeat the behavior that caused them.
After all, when you “let go” of something, the theory is that you will fill that void with something like happiness or bliss. My experience is that can be wishful thinking. We will always be faced with sh*t we don’t like. We all are bottomless wells of emotions and we will fill that void with whatever needs to fill it. If we don’t own our anger, and try to let go of it, my experience is that I will fill that void with more anger.
So when we own our anger, there is no need for more anger to replace it. In my life, I have discovered that when we try to get rid of something, we only replace it with something worse until we learn who we are.
I am here to admit that I have anger. I get angry about unfairness and inequality, pain and trauma, poverty and homelessness. I do not regret being angry about those things, and I hope I never become cavalier about them.
I want to get angry about those things, it motivates me to do something about it. When I see people grieving, I do not want to empty myself of my grief and my guilt, because I can have compassion for those others who are grieving.
When we own who we are, and integrate the pleasure with the pain, we begin to understand ourselves in a greater, more expanded way.
Our problems come from focusing on our negative parts and not focusing on our positive parts. This is what happens when we don’t integrate our different aspects of ourselves.
Imagine you are in a dark room and all you have is a small laser pen. Whatever you point the light at, that is all you will be able to know. If you point it at your anger, all you will see is your anger. If you point it at your pain, all you will see is your pain. If you point it at your guilt, all you will see is your guilt.
When we integrate our emotions, it is like turning on the overhead lights in the room. We see the pleasant parts along with the painful parts. We understand that we have many parts and we don’t have to let go or deny any of them because we can see that they are just a small part of who we are.
When I integrated my anger on being misled, I became motivated to not only heal that pain but also to tell others about my experience so that they would not have to experience poverty. When I integrated my grief and guilt about my father, (I wasn’t a good enough son) I realized that I can only do as much as I know to do, and I can do more now than I could before.
My grief and my guilt actually serve to make me recognize I have room to become a better person and be more of myself for others. My feelings of betrayal make me more sensitive to how I speak to those I love and to be absolutely honest about what I am feeling and how I feel about other people. When I am absolutely honest I am being totally authentic and present. I choose not to mislead others because I can feel that residual pain of being betrayed whenever I want.
I feel I am a much more complete and realized individual once I integrate all of what I feel and what I have experienced. I am not going to blow smoke up your skirt and tell you that I know what you are feeling. No one really knows how anyone else feels. They can only know how they feel.
I want to remember how I felt because I don’t want to waste that catharsis. I have to keep going through these events until I integrate them.
I am me, I am my emotions and I have no regrets about that.
Reprinted from The Elephant Journal: link to EJ