Why is it so gosh darned hard…..

……  to LET GO of some things, some people, some situations…..?  WHY?  Why, oh why, do some of us replay events, words, situations – all of which have SHOWN us beyond a shadow of a doubt to be harmful to and for us in some way – over and over?  I would bet that many of us, right here, right now, are replaying events in our minds.  Some positive, surely.  I would also bet that many of us are replaying negative events, situations, thinking of people who have wronged us in some way.  Now, I think the emotional and mental phenomenon of ‘running the tape back’ like re-watching a movie or t.v.s show is normal – TO A POINT.  There is just no doubt for the most part, human beings will try to make sense of the world around them, situations we’ve experienced, or even try to figure out why so-and-so did this or that.  I feel this is part of the human condition; we are seekers of knowledge and want things TO MAKE SENSE.  Where this circular thinking gets us into trouble is when it shifts into pseudo – obsession (or even real obsession),  goes on for too long, stops serving our positive and healthy need to ‘figure it all out’, or even moves into scary territory – the rightful feeling of needing justice or revenge.

Now, I dislike platitudes, I really do.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “IT will all work out” or “IT will be okay” by very well meaning people in my life.  How do you KNOW it will all work out, and what about those times IT DIDN’T?? Platitudes serve a purpose, yes they do, but sometimes, they are not even helpful.  Not in the least.  Often, people will throw out a platitude because they simply don’t know what else to say, may not have experienced the same or similar situation and are caught in the middle of needing to say SOMETHING, but not having any personal suggestions or advice borne from personal experience.  Enter, the platitude.  Having said that, there are times, when a well placed and accurate platitude may do the trick of making a point, or bringing an awareness that had previously been elusive.  Please, read on.  I will connect our topic – mentally and emotionally replaying events and situations over and over – to ‘platitudes’, in a moment.

So, here we are, truckin’ through life, working, seeing friends, going on little (or big) adventures, making plans, handling this situation, working through that event, often seeking experiences to positively enhance our lives.  Then, ‘IT’ happens.  You know ‘IT’: the situation that springs out of nowhere, so significant that life no longer looks the way it did even just 5 minutes ago.  The scenario that blows our minds.  The interaction, exchange, or personal relationship issue / challenge that leave us flat footed – “Wow –  THAT came of out (seemingly) no where, didn’t it?”  The event or situation or person we just can’t seem to ‘get out of our minds (and hearts?).  Ahhhh, but what do we DO NOW?

Again, it is part of the healthy human condition to want rationality, closure, to want the feeling of security and normalcy and predictability – the need and desire for things to MAKE SENSE.  I would hasten to say however, there is MUCH in life that simply stated, makes NO SENSE.  This MUST be okay.  This is LIFE.  Things don’t always make sense, but if any of you are like me, you WANT desperately for things to MAKE SENSE!  Why is this SO HARD!!??  Enter the emotional and mental replaying of ‘IT’.  Wanting to make sense of IT (whatever IT is at the moment) may, and often does, lead to feelings of doubt, possible insecurity, frustration, anger, annoyance, and longing, when that final piece of understanding, closure, and finality is elusive.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just accept ‘IT is what IT is’ (enter platitude, see?  I told you I’d tie these together!)?  Highly SENSITIVE, analytical people who may be driven by a sense of needing justice and move through life with integrity,  driven by a sense of logical thought where all all pieces fit nicely together, have supreme difficulty in choosing to ‘let IT go’ (another platitude).

Think to yourself, in fact, ask the questions:

  • Will IT matter in 6 months?  6 years?  Remember, “IT” could be any situation, and personal or even professional dealing with another person, any life event or scenario, which currently is hard to understand and accept. YOU are trying to make sense of IT however, and are becoming mentally and emotionally exhausted for your efforts, reaching no satisfactory resolution.  If IT won’t matter in 6 months much less 6 years, perhaps work CONSCIOUSLY to move beyond and THROUGH this compulsive thought process.  This is the trick, the key, if you will – this CONSCIOUS effort to stop these ’round and round’ thoughts.  STRATEGY:  Put a rubber band on your wrist.  When you have identified that IT won’t matter in 6 months, but still find your mind replaying IT, snap that rubber band as soon as you realize you are once again returning your thoughts to IT, and immediately focus on something else (even something simple like naming 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, etc.).  This is a behavior modification / grounding strategy, and also serves as a distraction with a replacement behavior (the ‘naming 5 things’ technique).
  • JUST WHO IS IT in your life, that has ‘done you wrong’?  You will have to use wise discernment here in the debate if this person ‘should’ remain in your life, and it will be different for all of us.  Questions to ask yourself:  Does the person to whom your thoughts return REALLY have importance in your life?  Or, are they on the periphery?  Will you need to have further interaction with this person?  Or, can further interaction be eliminated?  In my own life, I found out someone I thought was a friend attempted to smear my reputation, education and career experience, to another third party (this is called the ‘smear campaign’ in narcissistic abuse relationships), in an effort to gain favor (thereby diminishing my positive relationship) with the third party (this is called ‘triangulation’).  This person went so far as to EXPLOIT previously shared personal information of mine that had been given in assumed confidence (my mistake, believing personal information was ‘safe’ with this person), exaggerating and twisting the truth, to the third party.  Oh yes, when I found out what had transpired, I had some deep thinking to do.  FOR A TIME.  I had to assess who this person truly was to me in my life (I had previously considered this person a friend, as well as a ‘co-worker’ of sorts), how invested in the friendship I was and the work we were doing, and how willing I was to stay connected (on ANY level) with someone who employs such tactics.  Well, that was an easy one; I have no need for anyone like this in my life – AT ALL.  I fully accept this person for who they are, and use wise discernment to know in my heart they have no place in my life.  YOU can do the same.  STRATEGY:  Once someone shows you who they are through THEIR BEHAVIOR, BELIEVE THEM.  It is difficult I know, to let go of ‘what we thought we had’ with someone, whether a friendship, romantic relationship, or even a family member.  Once we KNOW, we cannot NOT know, ya’ know?  So, work HARD at letting the emotions of the situation come and go, while understanding that FULL ACCEPTANCE of who they are (and not trying to fight that TRUTH) will eventually set your mind and heart FREE.  There is no sense in replaying events over and over (this is hard, I know) when we have been wronged.  But truly, it is MUCH more important to accept the truth, and get busy focusing on POSITIVE situations and relationships you DO have.
  • How much control do you have over the situation and/or, what can you do about it?  Ask yourself this, and answer HONESTLY.  If you simply have NO control over the situation – assess, reassess, then work on, modify and adjust (if necessary) what you DO control; your reaction to the situation.  THIS IS HUGE everyone, just HUGE.  Knowing what we control (only ourselves, our own actions, reactions, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, etc.) and working consciously to release the REST – sets US FREE.  It truly does!!  This takes practice of course – it is simply not easy to change our own thought patterns.  Having said that and knowing how hard it is to adopt NEW strategies into our lives, how well do you think ANY of us will do truly trying to change another person?  Not well at all, I’d bet.  Hence, being brutally honest with yourself and accepting how much of the situation we DO NOT control, can in fact, lead to freedom.  STOP replaying situations and events (and interactions with others) over and over and over – you ONLY control yourself, and with practice, you can control your thought patterns.  It is common to think that mentally replaying things again and again will lead to a new, different, or innovative conclusion, but it rarely does.  Meanwhile, we have spent energy, time, emotion, and effort AGAIN at trying to make sense out of something we just NEED TO ACCEPT.  STRATEGY:  Do some research into ‘control of self and others’, and learn just how little we truly control in our lives.  Learning our actions and reactions, thoughts and perceptions, beliefs and all the rest are ALL we control, and adopting a flat-out acceptance of such, can truly lead to emotional freedom.
  • Are you spending too much time pondering ‘IT’?  Too much time stuck in this rerun cycle?  You recognize perhaps that a certain subject, event, or person keeps creeping into your thoughts?  STRATEGY:  Get paper in front of you, pen, pencil, marker, or even crayon.  WRITE IT OUT.  Do a free-write session when you sit down, pen and paper in hand, and write ANYTHING that comes to mind regarding ‘IT’.  Do not hold back.  LET IT OUT.  Whatever comes to mind, write it down.  Scribble.  Doodle.  Draw.  WRITE.  Be messy.  Be neat.  Be whatever, but be AUTHENTIC.  Often, when we open this avenue to creative and non-restrictive thought, we DO find either solutions, resolutions, or even just further confirmation of the situation or scenario at hand.  WRITE.  Then, work on ‘letting it go’ (dang those platitudes!)
  • STRATEGY:  Compartmentalization.  There is nothing wrong with and it may sometimes be necessary, to revisit a situation, event, dilemma, conundrum – THE ‘IT’.  THIS IS OKAY, and in fact, healthy at times.  You can ‘allow’ yourself a certain amount of time – which you may even SCHEDULE – to analyze, consider, ponder, and work on figuring IT out.  This is okay, truly, it is.  Maybe there is something happening right NOW (the past is past, after all – GULP – another platitude!) that does need further thought, but we are currently on our way to work and need to focus on other things.  Perhaps you literally schedule time later in the afternoon or evening to complete your free write regarding IT.  Schedule time, say half and hour to an hour, to do NOTHING but focus on IT, your free write, and analysis.  Then, do it.  Then, put. IT. AWAY.  Remember, you only control your own thoughts, beliefs, actions, and reactions.  NOTHING outside of yourself is within your control.  Allow some time to figure it all out, then PUT IT AWAY.
  • What purpose does replaying ‘IT’ serve?  What is the motivation, or NEED, BEHIND this behavior?  Justice?  A resolution?  An understanding?  Only you know, but it may be of benefit to identify what it is you feel is the END game here.  IS there a purpose, a resolution?  Or, are you just ‘stuck’ in ongoing, faulty thought patterns?

So, here we are.  I hope that I’ve allowed some broadening of thought on this topic, and some recognition and acceptance of our own patterns of thought and behavior. You DO have control.  Over yourself.  Breaking patterns of obsessive thoughts, replaying this and that, replaying the ‘IT’, is not easy.  It can however, BE DONE.  It may take practice to become skilled at this, just as most things in life.  This IS a skill that can be developed, sometimes all on our own.  If you find however, this is pervasive and seemingly an unending cycle in your life that you wish would stop, consider working with a qualified therapist or counselor for further consideration and building skills in the area of thought and behavior modification.  Maybe it is just time to put ‘IT’ behind you (another platitude! Yikes!), and don’t be afraid to do just that.  Best, L.A.

Messy thoughts


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