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Learning to Let Go

By Sureeta Karod, RCC


What does it mean to ‘let go’? For myself, I see letting go as a process in which we learn to stop dwelling on the past, and come to accept what is. It’s a process that requires a great deal of self-reflection and self-awareness, after all we can’t learn to accept things if we’re not aware of them. What makes it challenging is that often times, the things we’re having a hard time accepting can be out of our control. While we can’t control the behaviours of others or even the thoughts that pop into our heads, what we can do is accept our current circumstances and decide how to best move forward. With acceptance comes the understanding that we can’t control the actions of others or how certain situations play out, but we can control how we choose respond to them. The caveat is that all of this is much easier said than done.

While many of us may be familiar with the concept of letting go, actually getting to a place where we are able to let go can be very difficult.

There can be various obstacles that get in the way of our achieving this feat, and what we need to remind ourselves is that these barriers are often self-imposed. Practices such Buddhism emphasize the importance of learning to let go in order to live a happy and fulfilling life, but how exactly do we get there? For those of us who aren’t Zen masters, it can seem like quite a daunting task. Speaking from my own experience, practicing acceptance and learning how to let go has been a very long and trying journey. I grew up in a household where nobody ever let go of anything. Instead, they held on to their resentments and stewed in their anger towards others, that was just the way it was in my family. Naturally, I picked up these unhealthy behaviours myself, and it wasn’t until very recently that I became aware of how they were affecting my well-being. I was holding on to decade old grudges that were preventing me from being happy and moving forward in my life. When I realized this, it hit me that I was my own biggest barrier. My resentments were so strong, and I had been so intent on staying angry at people who had wronged me in some way or another, that it was preventing me from achieving the life I wanted. I was angry, unhappy, and unfulfilled, but my newfound awareness alone wasn’t enough to change my behaviours. It was as though I was still clinging on to my resentments for dear life, and I just couldn’t figure out how to let go, no matter how much I wanted to.

Then, one day, I finally came to understand that acceptance was my way out. It was the sort of epiphany that I had been waiting for for so long.

I started telling myself that in order to let go, I needed to accept that I may not ever get what I wanted from people who had hurt me, whether it be an apology or just acknowledgment of what they had done. What I was sure of was that I no longer wanted to live under the weight of the resentments I had been harbouring all these years. It was a huge lesson in humility for me, but I started to let go of my need to be right and to have my perspective validated, especially in instances where that simply wasn’t possible. It was definitely a hard pill to swallow, because in a sense, I felt like I was giving in. But slowly, I was able to shift my point of view and see it more as a situation where I was strategically picking my battles. I had decided that I was no longer going to let others hold me down and prevent me from living my life. Instead of focusing on the behaviours of others, I began focusing on my own personal growth. I can say with absolute certainty that the most difficult part of my personal growth journey was trying to see things from the perspective of others and developing a greater understanding of where they were coming from. This was a pivotal step for me, as it led to the realization that we all have biases and insecurities that impact our behaviours and how we respond in the various situations that we face. From that, I was able to see the role my own biases and insecurities played in the development of my resentments. Even though when I look back on some of these situations, I still may feel that I was wronged in some way, I’m now able to see how my own actions fueled my anger and unhappiness. By taking accountability for my own actions, I was able to take back control of my life.

Learning to let go is a complex process that takes a lot of time and patience, and that process may look different for each individual.

Like any new skill, it requires both knowledge (i.e. self-awareness) and dedicated practice. Accepting ‘what is’ is an integral part of letting go and achieving personal growth, but it’s definitely not something that can be achieved overnight. It’s important to keep in mind that acceptance can’t be rushed, it’s something that’s developed slowly and steadily over time. In order to get to place where we’re successfully able to practice acceptance in our daily lives, we must first be open to the concept of it, and we must understand how our own perceptions may act as barriers to it. To accept what is is an art, and it starts with learning to let go of things in life that we simply don’t have control over.


Sureeta Karod, RCC is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who works in private practice in Nanaimo, BC. Find her at