Unpacking Spiritual Cliches: Letting Go
We hear all the time, “just let go,” but what are we letting go of, exactly? I remember the first time I went to a workshop on letting go—I had absolutely no idea what the guy was talking about. Consequently, I spent some time learning about the fine art of letting go—and practicing it— and have come to some conclusions that will undoubtedly unravel the letting go mystery for you, as well.
So, what are we letting go of? The ego. However, as far as I can tell, the ego doesn’t actually go away, (nor do we really want it to). It would be more accurate to say that we are letting go of the behavior of the ego or transcending the ego.
The ego has gotten a bad rap, as if it is the evil-one-who-must-not-be-named. And, in truth, the ego can be responsible for some pretty nasty behaviors. However, I would like to paint a different picture of the ego—and its motive.
Imagine the ego as an over-productive parent who says and does all the wrong things in an effort to protect you. While it may look and sound like it hates you, thinks horrible things about you and that you are unworthy of love, the truth is that it loves you and wants you to be safe from harm. The ego’s sole job is to protect you—at all costs—even with deprivation of the very thing you want.
In a totally unskilled and unconscious manner, the ego tells you not to love, to protect you from being hurt. The ego operates from fear, jealousy, possessiveness, anger, and hurt, in an effort to have your needs met.
Our “higher selves” operate from love, trust, faith, wisdom, creativity, and intuition. Our higher selves are not afraid, knowing that everything is an opportunity to grow and learn and that with a little time and perspective, we will come to understand the value of our circumstances.
When we contemplate “letting go,” what we want to let go of is that which we really aren’t—or, in other words, the behaviors and beliefs which do not truly serve us. In order to do that, it is imperative that we practice self-observation so that we can see how we are behaving and what we are thinking.
When we practice self-observation, it causes us to be self-aware. When we are self-aware, we can see what we are doing. When we can see what we are doing, we have choices. When we have choices, we are powerful.
Instead of choosing to honor the ego’s automatic impulse of behaviors, if we look deeper at the ego’s motive and choose instead to honor the behaviors of our higher self/who we really are, we are far more likely to get our true needs met.
To put this in practical terms, when I observe myself and notice that I am being judgmental (of myself or others), I ask myself, “Is this serving me and my relationship and is this in alignment with who I really am?”
If I discover that my choice to be critical or full of self-doubt is creating distance in my relationships, then I take a deep breath and bring myself back into alignment with who I really am and then choose my next words, thoughts, and actions.
The Ego In Relationships
In relationships, we clearly come together to love and be loved. Since love is the primary ingredient of “who you really are” at the soul level, when you are being authentic, love just is what is. There is nothing that has to be done to experience it. When you are authentic you are, by definition, loved and loving.
However, the ego—taking its job of protecting you and getting your needs met seriously—gets this concept a bit screwed up. The ego thinks that loving is something it has to do, and being loved is something it has to make happen—instead of an authentic state of being. The ego thinks, “If I need to love you, it sure would help if you would…(fill in the blank with the long list of changes your partner needs to make).” So through the filter of ego, the essence of loving becomes a need to control.
And when it comes to being loved the ego thinks, “If I need you to love me, then maybe if I alter myself to make you happy you will love me…” and launches into pretending to be a certain way to manipulate the other to love you. So through the filter of ego, the essence of being loved becomes a need for approval.
The problem is that when we present ourselves falsely and the other does respond lovingly, we don’t feel loved because we haven’t shown them our true selves, only our facade. Further more, this causes trust and self-esteem issues, resentment and sabotage.
In essence, in an attempt to love, the ego’s need to control becomes the very obstacle to being loving. And, in an attempt to be loved, the ego’s need for approval becomes the very obstacle to being loved. So, while the ego is trying to get your love needs met, it goes about it in all the wrong ways.
To make matters worse, one person’s ego need for approval magnetically attracts another person’s ego need for control, and suddenly we find ourselves in the perfect relationship, perfectly dysfunctional that is. We find ourselves, sooner or later, in an ego-battleship, instead of a real-ationship.
So, what to do about it? Put the spiritual cliché’s into your practice! The Five Essential Life Skills will lead you through the steps. 1) Remember who you really are, 2) Self-observe, 3) Let go or transcend your ego, 4) Realign with who you really are by taking a deep breath and bringing yourself into the present moment, 5) Choose your next words, thoughts and actions in alignment with who you are and what you are trying to create. The result will be freedom from the suffering that is caused by allowing your ego to be in charge. The result will be love, harmony and resolution.