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Letting go of your negative thoughts
and emotions allows you to make clearer, stronger choices; to become happier immediately;
and to act in ways that will help you to achieve your goals.
By Hale Dwoskin
One of the main ways that we ourselves
create disappointments, unhappiness, and misjudgments is by holding on to limiting
thoughts and feelings. It is not that "holding on," in and of itself, is
inappropriate; holding on is perfectly appropriate in many situations.
I wouldn't suggest, for instance, that you
not hold on to the steering wheel of a car that you were driving, or not hold on to a
ladder that you were climbing. Obviously, the results of such choices could be
unfortunate. But have you ever held on to a point of view even when it didn't serve you?
Have you ever held on to an emotion even though there was nothing you could do to satisfy
it, make it right, or change the situation that appeared to cause it? Have you ever held
on to tension or anxiety even after the initial event that triggered it was long over?
The opposite of holding on is letting go or
releasing: both are part of the natural process of life. This fundamental understanding is
the basis of the Sedona Method. No matter who you are, I can guarantee that you've already
frequently experienced letting go -- often without being aware that it was happening. We
frequently get stuck because we don't know when it's appropriate to let go and when it's
appropriate to hold on. Most of us err on the side of holding on -- often to our
There is an emotional component of holding
on or releasing, and our feelings impact our bodies. For instance, when people are upset,
they often hold their breath: both inhalation and exhalation can be inhibited by holding
on to unresolved emotions. Most of us also hold residual tension in our muscles, which
never allows us to relax fully. Again, it's the unresolved or suppressed emotions that are
the basis for these forms of constriction.
There is an emotional component of holding on
and our feelings impact our bodies.
When we suppress our emotions, rather than
allowing ourselves to experience our feelings fully in the moment they arise, they linger
and make us uncomfortable. Through avoidance, we are preventing our emotions from flowing
through us, and it doesn't feel good.
Have you ever watched a very young
child fall down and then look around to see if there is any reason to be upset? When
children think no one is watching them, in an instant, they just let go, brush themselves
off, and act like nothing has happened. The same child in a similar situation, on seeing
the opportunity to get attention, may burst into tears and run to the arms of a parent. Or
have you ever watched a young child get furious with a playmate or a parent, and even say
something like, "I hate you and will never speak to you again," and then, just a
few minutes later, the child feels and acts as though nothing at all has happened?
This natural ability to release our
emotions was lost to most of us because, even though we did it automatically as young
children, without conscious control, our parents, teachers, friends, and society as a
whole trained us out of it as we got older. Every time we were told "no," told
to behave, to sit still and be quiet, to stop squirming, that "big boys don't
cry" or "big girls don't get angry," and to grow up and be responsible, we
learned to suppress our emotions. Furthermore, we were often seen as an adult when we got
to the point where we were good at suppressing our natural exuberance for life and all the
feelings that others convinced us to believe were unacceptable. (Of course, children need
to learn boundaries in order to function in life, and they need to be protected at times
from obvious danger. It is just that adults can unintentionally go overboard.)
What we are referring to here as
"suppression" is keeping a lid on our emotions, pushing them back down, denying
them, repressing them, and pretending they don't exist. Any emotion that comes into
awareness that is not let go of is automatically stored in the subconscious. You have
probably heard the expression "Time heals all wounds." It's debatable. For most
of us, what that really means is, "Give me enough time, and I can suppress
Granted, there are some times when
suppression can be a better choice than expression: for instance, when you are at work,
and your boss or a coworker says something that you don't agree with, but it is not the
appropriate time to give them feedback. It is habitual suppression that is unhealthy and
We escape our emotions by watching
television, going to movies, reading books, drinking, using prescription and
non-prescription drugs, exercising, and a whole host of other activities designed to help
us take our attention off our emotional pain long enough so we can push it back down. Most
of the items on this list are not inappropriate in and of themselves, but we tend to
pursue these activities to excess, using them as a compensation for our inability to deal
with our inner emotional conflicts.
By the time we become adults, we're
so good at suppressing that most of the time, it is totally second nature. In fact, we
have suppressed so much of our emotional energy that we are all a little like walking
time-bombs. Often, we don't even know that we have suppressed our true emotional reactions
until it is too late: our body shows signs of stress-related illnesses, our shoulders are
stuck in our ears, our stomach is in knots, or we have exploded and said or done something
that we now regret.
Suppression is one side of the
pendulum swing; the other side is expression. If we're angry, we yell; if we're sad, we
cry. We put our emotion into action. We have let off a little steam from the inner
emotional pressure cooker, but we have not put out the fire. This often feels better than
suppression, particularly if we have blocked our ability to express. We often feel better
afterwards; nonetheless, expression also has its drawbacks.
The balancing point and natural
alternative to inappropriate suppression and expression is releasing, or letting go: what
we call the Sedona Method. It is the equivalent of turning down the heat and safely
beginning to empty the contents of your inner pressure cooker. Because every feeling that
has been suppressed is trying to vent itself, releasing is merely a momentary stopping of
the inner action of holding these feelings in so you can allow them to leave, which you
will find they do easily under their own steam. As you use the Sedona Method, you will
discover that you will be able to be free to both suppress and express when it is
appropriate, and you will find that you will more often opt for the point of balance, the
third choice of letting go. This is something you already know how to do.
True laughter, for instance, is one
of the ways that you let go spontaneously, and the benefits of laughter in the area of
health and stress elimination are well documented. Although most of the time you won't
laugh out loud as you let go, you will often smile and feel the same sense of inner relief
that comes from true laughter.
As you perfect your use of the
Method, you will find yourself able to go right to this point of realization and
relaxation, even on long-standing issues that you were tearing your life apart trying to
resolve. You will discover that the answers have been right inside you all along.
There are three ways to approach the
process of releasing, and they all lead to the same result: liberating your natural
ability to let go of any unwanted emotion on the spot and allowing some of the suppressed
energy in your subconscious to dissipate. You can:
- choose to let go of the unwanted
- welcome the feeling -- allow the
emotion just to exist;
- dive into the very core of the
Try this simple exercise: pick up a
pen, a pencil, or some small object that you would be willing to drop without giving it a
second thought. Now, hold it in front of you and really grip it tightly. Pretend this is
one of your limiting feelings and that your hand represents your gut or your
consciousness. If you held the object long enough, this would start to feel uncomfortable
Now, open your hand and roll the
object around in it. Notice that you are the one holding on to it; it is not attached to
your hand. The same is true with your feelings, too. Your feelings are as attached to you
as this object is attached to your hand.
Now, let the object go. What
happened? You let go of the object, and it dropped to the floor. Was that hard? Of course
not. You can do the same thing with any emotion: choose to let it go.
Sticking with this same analogy: If
you walked around with your hand open, wouldn't it be very difficult to hold on to the
pen? When you allow or welcome a feeling, you are opening your consciousness, and this
enables the feeling to drop away all by itself -- like the clouds passing in the sky or
smoke passing up a chimney with the flue open.
Now, if you took the same object -- a
pencil, pen, or pebble -- and magnified it large enough, it would appear more and more
like empty space. You would be looking into the gaps between the molecules. When you dive
into the very core of a feeling, you will observe a comparable phenomenon: nothing is
As you master the process of
releasing, you will discover that even your deepest feelings are just on the surface. At
the core, you are empty, silent, and at peace -- not in the pain and darkness that most of
us would assume. In fact, even our most extreme feelings have only as much substance as a
Please keep these analogies in mind
as you go through the releasing process. Releasing will help you to free yourself from all
of your unwanted patterns of behavior, thought, and feeling. All that is required from you
is being as open as you can be to the process. Releasing will free you to access clearer
thinking, yet it is not a thinking process.
You will get the most out of the
process of releasing the more you allow yourself to see, hear, and feel it working, rather
than by thinking about how and why it works. If you find yourself getting a little stuck
in trying to figure it out, you can use the identical process to let go of "wanting
to figure it out." As you work with this process, you will understand it more fully
by having the direct experience of doing it.
You may have noticed that when you
focused on your feelings in Step 2 of the releasing process, you let them go. They simply
dissipated. Because we spend so much time resisting and suppressing our emotions, rather
than letting them flow freely through us, welcoming or allowing an emotion to exist is
often all that is necessary to allow it to release.
Your experience of letting go through
diving in may be quite different from the processes described above. First of all, it is
not recommended that you try diving in while doing anything else. It works much better
when you take time out, by yourself, to focus inside. It also works best when you are in
touch with a stronger feeling.
For instance, if you receive some
news that gets you upset, you'll start to feel a strong feeling of fear or grief. Sit
down, close your eyes, and relax into the feeling as best you can. Then you ask yourself
questions such as:
- What is at the core of this
- Could I allow myself to go in
consciousness to the core of this feeling?
- Could I allow myself to dive into
You will probably come up with your
own versions of these questions as you work with them over time. You may picture yourself
actually diving into the center of the feeling and/or you may find yourself merely feeling
what is at the core.
Once you start to go deeper, you may
experience various pictures and sensations. You may also notice a temporary
intensification of the emotion. So, keep asking yourself: "Could I go even
deeper?" Cajole yourself to go beyond whatever picture, feeling, or story you may be
telling yourself about the emotion.
As you persist in this direction,
you'll reach a point where something pops inside, or you may find that you can go no
deeper. You'll know you've reached the core when your mind is calm and you feel peaceful
inside. You may even see yourself bathed in an inner light or surrounded by a warm,
welcoming emptiness and silence.
If you're not sure, or you get stuck
and feel like you can go no further at any point in this process, or you do not feel
complete and free of the original feeling, then switch to one of the other forms of
Remember: if the feeling still feels
strong or has even intensified, you are not at the core. All feelings except peace are on
the surface. This may be very different from what you have been told before about going
deeply into a feeling. Many of us avoid diving into a feeling, because we are afraid we
will get lost or it will get worse. However, if you really let yourself go past the
surface and get to the actual core, you'll discover that this could not be further from
the truth, as my student Margie found out.
Margie came to class with a deep
sense of grief that she had been carrying around for over ten years. Without getting
involved in the elements of her story, I asked her the questions from above, and at first,
her grief intensified. As she began to cry, I simply encouraged her to go even deeper than
the sensations and the story, and we kept going. To Margie's surprise, in just a few
minutes, she entered a state of profound peace. She said afterwards that she'd avoided the
grief because she felt like she was drowning in an ocean of it. After she released, she
realized that the grief was always just on the surface. What she'd actually been avoiding
inside, without knowing it, was an ocean of love.
As most people work with this way of
letting go, they find that it gets easier and easier to drop into the core of any emotion
and allow it to dissolve. They notice that every feeling, no matter how traumatic, has
little substance and is much ado about nothing.
When you catch yourself rationalizing
a specific emotion, telling yourself what a useful function it serves and justifying why
you're absolutely right to hold on to it, it is a signal that you're being handed a pack
of lies. As you move further into the exploration of letting go, one of the things that
you'll notice is that the feelings you're releasing tend to argue for their own
preservation. Feelings lie and make empty promises, such as: "Fear keeps you
safe," "If I feel guilty, I won't do it again," "If I hold on to my
anger, I'm getting back at another person (rather than only hurting myself)." All
that's happening is that a particular feeling is perpetuating the problem it appears to be
Two simple sentences that I use in my
classes sum this up. You may find them a little like a Zen Buddhist koan that
cannot be understood unless you just let go. So, here we go: "Feelings only lie. They
tell us we are going to get from letting go of them what we already have from holding on
As you let go, I highly recommend
that you write down your gains, as they occur, to spur you on to even greater
self-discovery. Keep track of these positive outcomes in your releasing journal, or
purchase a second notebook small enough to carry around in your breast pocket or handbag
in which to jot down your thoughts.
The following is a short list of the
type of gains you can expect through releasing:
- Positive changes in behavior and/or
- Greater ease, effectiveness, and joy
in daily activities
- More open and effective communications
- Increased problem-solving ability
- Greater flexibility
- Being more relaxed and confident in
- New beginnings
- To acquire new abilities or skills
- An increase in positive feelings
- A decrease in negative feelings
- More love towards others.
It's my goal to help you learn
everything you need in order to have, be, and do whatever you will or desire. I promise
that if you work faithfully with releasing, it will transform every part of your life for
the better. You will feel as though you're coming back to life. You'll catch yourself with
a smile on your face and laughing out loud as your inner stress and tension easily melt
Practice releasing throughout the day
and also notice ways you already release on your own. The more you focus on this way of
dealing with your emotions, the more the benefits and ease of letting go will grow on you.
Be persistent. The more you explore letting go, the more natural it will become as an
alternative to suppression and expression -- and it will set you free.
Make yourself comfortable and focus
inwardly. Your eyes may be open or closed.
Step 1: Focus on an issue that
you would like to feel better about, and then allow yourself to feel whatever you are
feeling in this moment. This doesn't have to be a strong feeling. Just welcome the feeling
and allow it to be present.
This instruction may seem simplistic,
but it needs to be. Most of us live in our thoughts, pictures, and stories about the past
and the future rather than being aware of how we actually feel in this moment. The only
time that we can actually do anything about the way we feel (and, for that matter, about
our businesses or our lives) is now. You don't need to wait for a feeling to be strong
before you let it go. In fact, if you are feeling numb, flat, blank, cut off, or empty
inside, those are feelings that can be let go of just as easily as the more recognizable
ones. Simply do the best you can. The more you work with this process, the easier it will
be for you to identify what you are feeling.
Step 2: Ask yourself one of
the following three questions:
- Could I let this feeling go?
- Could I allow this feeling to be here?
- Could I welcome this feeling?
These questions are merely asking you
if it is possible to take this action. "Yes" or "no" are both
acceptable answers; you will often let go even if you say "no." Try to answer
the question with a minimum of thought, staying away from second-guessing yourself or
getting into an internal debate about the merits of that action or its consequences.
All the questions used in this
process are deliberately simple. They are not important in and of themselves but are
designed to point you to the experience of letting go. Go on to Step 3 no matter how you
answered the first question.
Step 3: No matter which
question you started with, ask yourself this simple question: "Would I?" In
other words: "Am I willing to let go?" Again, stay away from debate. It doesn't
matter whether the feeling is justified, longstanding, or right. If the answer is
"no," or if you're not sure, ask yourself: "Would I rather have this
feeling, or would I rather be free?" Even if the answer is still "no," go
on to Step 4.
Step 4: Ask yourself this
simple question: "When?" This is an invitation to just let it go now.
Remember that letting go is a decision you can make any time you choose.
Step 5: Repeat the preceding
four steps as often as needed until you feel free of that particular feeling.
You will probably find yourself
letting go a little more on each step of the process. The results at first may be quite
subtle. Very quickly, if you are persistent, the results will get more and more
noticeable. You may find that you have layers of feelings about a particular topic.
However, what you let go of is gone for good.
Upon occasion, you might want to
explore your feelings on paper in self-created worksheets. I recommend that you purchase a
spiral-bound notebook or a simple journal to devote to this purpose.
Make a list of anything and
everything you would like to change or improve in your life; this list will serve as a
declaration of your intentions.
Remember not to limit yourself to
what you think is "possible" to achieve from reading an article: you are
learning to use a tool that will be with you for the rest of your life. Have fun. The
process is so powerful, in fact, and works at such a basic level, that many of the
intentions on your list will come to fruition even without you working on them directly.
This article has been edited and
excerpted from The Sedona Method: Your Key to Happiness, Success, Peace, and Emotional
Well-Being by Hale Dwoskin, foreword by Jack Canfield. This unique program teaches you
how to make positive changes in your life by releasing the emotions that block your
ability to experience peace and happiness in everyday life. This method offers help
dealing with fear, anxiety, anger, and depression -- emotions that rob you of self-esteem
and joy -- in order to create a great life for yourself.
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