Letting Go of What You Can’t Change.

Author Jonathan Morris once wrote, “Letting go of things that really do need fixing can feel like injustice, irresponsibility, or indifference on our part.” I would imagine some of you can relate. It’s natural to want to do something about things that feel out of our control. When we are faced with situations in life where we are playing tug-of-war with ourselves or something we just can’t fix, we often find ourselves pushing and pulling wanting to perfect the circumstance or make it right. We want “all things to be right with the world.” But, what we often find is the harder and harder we push back or try to make things perfect or right, the more things seem to fly out of control anyways. And it can be a humbling moment when we just have to relinquish control and let the chips fall where they may.

One of the happiest moments in life is when we find the strength and courage to let go of what we cannot change. Life is a series of events and situations that we don’t have power or control over and when we realize this, there can be so much freedom in doing nothing. The discomfort we experience initially in opening our hands and letting go may mean we could experience a little more peace. It’s not an easy task to accept the things we cannot change…but I recommend it as a regular practice. It requires a cognitive shift, changing the way we perceive and react to situations, as well as loosening our grip on what we can and cannot change. When we let go of those things we can’t control, you’ll be amazed at what you can refocus your energy on.

How Large is Your Feeling Vocabulary?

Therapists often get a bad rap for seemingly always asking, “How does that make you feel?”

While there’s certainly truth to that assumption, I believe counselors the world over ask that question so often because it’s rarely ever asked of adults in any other spheres of their lives. When’s the last time you were asked such a question?

Even in my office, my clients sometimes have trouble answering that question. Their “feeling vocabulary” is rather limited. Part of my role is to work with them to develop a stronger feeling language and explore healthy ways of expressing their feelings, especially about the challenges they’re facing.

Expanding your feeling vocabulary and learning how to clearly and confidently express what you’re feeling is an essential aspect of healthy relationships.

As presented in The Stories We Tell Ourselves, Step 3 of the Auxano Communication Approach© is, “Share with the other person the feelings you have as a result of the story you made up in your mind.”

This means the speaker may have to dig deeply into their feeling vocabulary. You’ll know when a speaker isn’t sharing his or her feelings if they’re actually sharing their perspective, opinions, or beliefs and not their feelings.

One of the phrases I recommend such people use to help kickstart their ability to relay their feelings is, “After hearing you say that, what I’m telling myself now is ….” This ought to open the door on how they truly feel about the situation at hand.

Inside Out

If you haven’t seen Inside Out, check it out. In typical Disney Pixar fashion, it’s a smart, engaging tearjerker for kids and adults alike.

Inside Out may also be one of the best movies depicting the actual Stories We Tell Ourselves. With characters portraying Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust living within the mind of the movie’s heroine, Riley, Inside Out gives real voices to our internal chatter.

Spoiler alert: if you have yet to see the film, don’t read any further.

The ultimate plot conflict occurs when Riley runs away from home. Because Joy has been accidentally removed from her role as central command leader, Riley’s other emotions have taken control. Anger, Fear, and Disgust try to make the best decisions they can for Riley, but those decisions are always based in anger, fear, and disgust. Consequently, Riley interprets everything she hears and experiences through those internal voices.

In other words, she begins to believe the story she’s telling herself about her parents, her friends, and her world. Her made-up story says: “Your life was better where you once lived. If you can just get there, all will be better.” So she leaves. But she soon realizes what a mistake she’s made.

Today, consider the stories you’ve been telling yourself. Ask yourself what internal emotion may be driving that narrative.

Is Anger making you frustrated with others?

Is Sadness turning you inward?

Does fake Joy help you bury emotions you don’t want to feel?

Is Disgust causing rifts in your relationships?

Is Fear preventing you from attaining your goals?

Certainly, we all succumb to many more emotions than these, but we don’t have to allow them so much control over the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and our relationships.

Instead of relating to those characters in your mind, choose to live outside in: be present in your relationships and allow others to tell you their stories.