Though I call myself a pragmatist, I’ve got a touch of dreamer inside me. Like all of us I have a handful of lofty aspirations that seem out of reach for now: ideal work opportunities, visionary partnerships, and future collaborations.
Some time ago I was speaking at an event. While I always look forward to connecting with audiences, this occasion held particular excitement for me. Finally I would have the chance to meet a colleague with whom I’d been conversing over email for months. Our exchanges were energetic. Each reply sparked new ideas. I had big dreams of future work together.
You probably see where this story is going, right?
In short, I got dissed. My feelings were hurt. Even now, if I allow myself to go there emotionally, I can still feel a twinge in my gut.
That’s because my self-doubt–or what I like to call my inner critic–absolutely thrives on disappointing situations like this.
Had I not impressed this person enough with my presentation?
Were our exchanges completely lacking mutuality all along?
Why is this person ignoring me now?
Should I email one last time?
I had two options:
- Continue to dwell in this disappointment.
- Release it.
Letting go does not come easily for me. I’m stubborn. I’m inclined to dig my heels in. I subscribe to the mythology that my ever-escalating effort will eventually result in the desired effect.
In physics the law of conservation of energy says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. We can apply it to situations like the one I described above.
No amount of exertion on my end can generate energy in someone else.
When we can accept this reality in a dead-end situation, especially ones that cause us to question ourselves, we can shift our focus to release. How do we do that?
Think about the painful experience of having a knot in your shoulders or back. How do you get it to release? Ignoring it obviously doesn’t work. Overly stretching only intensifies the discomfort.
To release the knot, you have to identify the exact origin of the pain point, dedicate firm yet gentle attention to it (taking hot bath, giving yourself a massage, or in my case, lying on a tennis ball), and then breathe deeply through any resistance to the discomfort of release. Feel the pain, but do not allow it to consume you. If you can do this, over time the knot will eventually let go.
Allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss, no matter how big or small, and hold tightly to the truth that you will be released from this.
And when you are free, your energy and passion will be fully available for the new dreams, partnerships, and collaborations waiting for you to discover.
A wise and beautiful post. Thank you. The analogy of getting a physical knot to release is very helpful.
I agree that the releasing knot is a great analogy. Isn’t the key to the situation you describe knowing when to start the releasing? With relationships or human interactions, it seems the disappointments that don’t make sense to us are so hard to let go. Any further thoughts about identifying WHEN to start releasing and how long to hang on? I’d welcome your added insight there.
Katey Zeh says
You speak the truth! Without speaking too generally, I do try to give folks three opportunities to express interest, get back to me, etc. Anyone can overlook something once. Maybe twice. But three times? It’s a pattern and time to expend energy elsewhere. I’ll think about writing about this in longer form–maybe next month’s post?
I’m trying to imagine anyone dissing you, KZ! perhaps you borrowed one of my stories to make a good point. It is so hard to let go – the mind has an inclination toward perseveration even when not useful at all. Thanks for posting this – a helpful reminder about surrender, letting go, and moving on.
Katey Zeh says
It happens all the time! But I’m so thankful to have you in my circle, Abigail. Creating room for kindred spirits like you is well worth the pain of releasing. Looking forward to making more mischief with you soon.