A negative event makes you feel sad, perhaps even depressed. You spend your time trying not tobe sad. You ignore your feelings and try to pull yourself out of the emotional fog, but it just doesn’t work.
Much of what you experience as emotion is actually the repression of emotion.
So instead of learning how to process emotions, you learn to avoid them, distract yourself from them, or fight them—which counterintuitively keeps you stuck.
Often, you let time pass, and the emotion fades—but what if there was a faster, better, healthier way? Something that could help you release pent-up feelings, finally let them go, and move forward without the burden of carrying these emotions.
Enter the Letting Go Technique.
Use the Letting Go Technique to learn how to process emotions
Dr. David Hawkins wrote a book called “Letting Go” and invented the Letting Go Technique.
Here’s how it works:
Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it. It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on letting out the energy behind it.
Emotions are physiological responses. They come from your body.
Think of how you feel when you get scared. Fight or flight kicks in. The blood rushes to your extremities, your heart starts beating fast.
Remember how it feels when you’re embarrassed. You get that sinking feeling in your stomach.
Or the feeling of “butterflies” when you’re anxious and nervous.
When practicing the technique, notice where you feel the emotions in your body. Focus your attention on those areas of your body. Don’t try to change the way you feel, but observe it.
This practice will help you recognize what you’re feeling, accept it, and “let go” throughout your day. Be aware of different areas of your body daily as you go about your life. Focus on being present in the moment.
Are you carrying tension in your shoulders?
Is your jaw clenched?
What parts of your body tense up throughout the day? (i.e., when you are standing in line at the store)
This might feel intimidating if you’ve never practiced the Letting Go Technique before. To get started, these next steps will help you connect with your feelings and process your emotions.
1. Identify your emotions
Often, you don’t know how to process emotions because you don’t know what they are. Letting go becomes easier if you learn to identify which emotion you’re feeling.
Take an emotion like anger. It’s vague. There are many different emotions you can experience that fall under the category like:
1. Rage: Intense and uncontrollable anger that makes you feel violent and aggressive.
2. Irritation: This feeling of annoyance is much milder than the feeling of rage.
3. Outrage: Anger based on feeling wronged by someone else that has a moral context behind the anger. Anger when you notice something unjust.
4. Hostility: Deep-seated anger that lingers and comes from ongoing conflicts or negative experiences.
5. Frustration: The feeling of trying hard to achieve a certain goal or outcome and the anger you feel when it doesn’t work out.
See how many different directions you can go with just one feeling? Now stretch that thinking across multiple emotions like sadness, anxiety, or embarrassment.
As you move through life and experience these emotions and feelings, practice identifying them and be as specific as possible. The more specific you are, the easier it is to let go.
Tips to help you identify your emotions
Stop and focus: Multiple times throughout the day, take the time to pause and reflect on how you’re feeling. Ask yourself, “Why am I emotional right now?”
Practice your emotional vocabulary: Just like I showed you in the example above, don’t stop at your initial gut reaction to the emotion you’re experiencing. Learn the different variations of these emotions and practice naming them.
Journaling: At times when I feel stuck emotionally, I use Julia Cameron’s morning pages. You free-write for three full pages in a notebook. You can write whatever you want. No judgment. By the end of these sessions, I often process and let go of the emotions I was holding onto.
2. Feel your feelings without judgment
If you want a healthier emotional state, you must learn to accept and feel your emotions—all of them.
Do not judge your emotions.
I once watched a video where a woman came on stage to speak at a seminar. When she got on stage she said:
“I’m really nervous right now.”
The host said in reply:
“So, what’s wrong with being nervous?”
I saw the lightbulb go off in her head. She was making her nervousness worse by judging it. By just accepting the fact that she was nervous and carrying on with her talk, she was able to let go of that nervousness more quickly.
We humans are tough on ourselves. Not only do we experience negative emotions, but we also beat ourselves up forfeeling those emotions—as if something is wrong with us for having a natural response to our environment.
Many of your emotions are programmed into you from your ancestors, like the fear response that helps avoid physical danger. There’s a mismatch between your “caveman brain” and your environment. You’re no longer in constant danger like your ancestors, but your brain and body sometimes still respond like you are.
The bottom line: it’s OK. You’re OK. The less you judge yourself and the more you see your emotions for what they are, the easier it will be to handle and let go of them.
If you’re processing emotions or going through a difficult time, these resources may help:
Letting go will help you and the people around you
The main benefit of using the Letting Go Technique for emotional processing is obvious: to get rid of the emotional weight you’ve been carrying for far too long.
Think about the emotions you repress or deny in just a single day. Now consider the cumulative effect of doing that over and over again for years.
So many of us are holding onto emotions from trauma we experienced years ago. The Letting Go Technique isn’t a cure that will erase the effect of that trauma overnight nor is it a perfect substitute for seeking help from a professional, but it’s a useful tool.
There are many benefits to be had:
Reduced stress: Too much stress is bad for your health and can literally kill you. The Letting Go Technique will reduce your overall stress levels which will give you a calmer, happier, and healthier mind and body
Mental health: When regularly practiced, you can use the technique to break free from the cycle of negative emotions you’ve repeatedly experienced with no solution.
Mental toughness: Life throws curveballs. We all experience tragedy and traumatic events. The Letting Go Technique can help you become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges because you now have a tool to manage your emotions and feelings.
Improved relationships: When you learn how to process not only the emotions you feel toward yourself but also the ones you feel toward others, you can let go of resentment, mend fences, build stronger bonds, and improve your relationships.
Compassion for others: You’ll have more patience and compassion for other people because you know they are also repressing and denying their emotions, which manifests in many ways. Learning to love and accept yourself will help you love and accept others.