Holistic medicine

Let go - strength instead of weakness

Let go - strength instead of weakness

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Let go and find a hold

Let go affects our need for security as well as that of curiosity. Both drive our existence. How can we live with the contradiction of shedding old things and still not losing our footing?

"Most of all, we love the things that have passed long ago, we should learn to do without, but we can't do it." (The dead pants)

It is difficult for us to let go, because our brain always brings something new back to familiar patterns because it saves energy. Digitization is irreversibly changing what was previously familiar, and the changes are happening faster and more rapidly than ever before in history. A lot of people have problems processing this cognitively.

Why is it hard to say goodbye?

We live in a relationship in which we no longer understand each other. We know that a clean separation would be best for both parties, but we are sticking to it. We are not satisfied with our job, we are pregnant with new challenges - and yet we are stuck in a hard-to-bear workplace.

Brackets on the current status

We make plans and then slow them down again. We paint the future in bright colors, know which steps would be necessary, and still stick to old habits. We even cling to habits that we know are not good for us.

The most frustrating situation is: The time has come to restart. We have a chance. Reaching the goal in mind would probably do us much more than the status quo. We have been talking about it for months. But now, at the crucial moment when the world is open, we are depressed to say goodbye and start a new life. Instead of looking forward and moving forward with full strength, we sway. Should we take the risk or stay in the familiar?

To stand still means to stand still

See why it is important to let go of what it means not to be able to let go. They pause and stand still: they remain trapped in grief over the loss of their dog, ex-girlfriend or deceased grandmother. They are stuck in guilt about something they did. You are tormented by opportunities that you missed in life and therefore do not see what opportunities life offers them today.

Not letting go has consequences

Serious illnesses arise because people cannot let go. One becomes an alcoholic because he cannot let go of the thought of the job he lost; another apparently selflessly sacrifices herself for others because she did not get away from her place of birth and therefore did not complete the degree that she once dreamed of.

Don't let go - be a victim

Those who cannot let go offer themselves to be victimized by others: they remain in a toxic relationship with a partner who terrorizes them; he always demands the same from his “lazy” son, without this ever changing. Life is rushing past now.

Not letting go makes you sick

People who cannot let go of actions, things or an environment that harms them get sick. The consequences are psychosomatic illnesses, especially headaches; clinical depression and panic attacks or anxiety disorders; Impairment of concentration, obsessive-compulsive disorder or sleep disorders.

People bind

To bind yourself to other people, but also to places and things, corresponds to our basic social needs and is firmly anchored in the biochemical processes of the brain. Our life begins with attachment - for the baby, the attachment to the mother is vital. It grabs the finger, the face and hugs the teddy bear. To be alone would be the death of the infant.


Safety is also a basic biological need for adults. The unknown, associated with letting go, not only triggers curiosity but also fear.

The unknown needs energy

Our brain is "lazy", or rather it does not waste energy that it urgently needs in an emergency. If we stay in familiar places with familiar people, everything stays in the usual corners of the synapses. The brain needs a lot of sugar and oxygen to process new things.

It is better to let go if you are bound securely

A child is considered to be safely bound if the adults respond appropriately to their needs, i.e. they neither neglect nor overprotect them. Such children voluntarily seek closeness to their parents, grandparents and siblings and also voluntarily explore their environment when they have obtained the emotional input. Curiosity and commitment are not opponents, but mutually dependent.

On brittle ice

The hardest thing to do is to let go of people who stood “between the chairs” as children. Adults behaved unpredictably towards them. Sometimes they cuddled, sometimes they rejected the little ones. Sometimes they overprotected the youngest, sometimes they let them "jump naked into the cold water". Such people cling to the structure. They feel like the ice is carrying where they are right now and could break in any other direction. So these people lack a clear bond, and later they are most afraid of letting go - even destructive relationships keep them tense.

Fortunately, there is no determinism in humans. People are looking for bonds, that is part of our nature, and even those who have experienced the closest relationships as insecure can learn to let go through new and secure bonds. A variety of relationships are important here that show alternatives to experienced insecurity. This can also be a loving partner in later life.

Who is particularly at risk?

It is particularly difficult for perfectionists and people with a compulsion to let go. Since they want to be in control of everything, it is difficult for them to let go and admit that they have no control. They also blame themselves if things don't work - instead of letting things go.

Who can let go?

It is best to let go of people who are generous in general. Anyone who does not look at every penny, but invites friends over for dinner, does not count the minutes that the partner appears too late at the date, even lets five be straight when the neighbor turns on the music, who listens to others, i.e. their time overall, it is easy for him to let go.

Learn to let go

If you have immense problems letting go, you can overcome them with psychotherapy. Often, those affected already suspect that their fears are early childhood characteristics that have nothing to do with today's changes. It is important not to put yourself under pressure. Learning to let go and welcoming change is a process, not a snap.

If you try to break free from all stressful ties overnight, you will probably achieve the opposite: you push away the fear of loss, compensate for the still rampant fear with the above-described emotional armor and thus ensure that you no longer communicate your fears can.

Become aware

In the first step we make ourselves aware that we become freer when we let go of certain things - through slow, systematic thinking. Harmful habits, senseless, negative feelings, fears and disastrous bonds with people usually creep in unconsciously. Our brain is "lazy", it works in the mode that requires the least energy, and that means unconsciously. By deliberately thinking, we drag these unconscious behavior patterns to the surface.

Sure, if, for example, you were traumatized by the separation of your parents when you were in kindergarten, it is not enough to just be aware of the post-traumatic patterns. If serious psychological problems are the cause of not being able to let go, you need professional help.

Most people cannot say goodbye for far more harmless reasons. Becoming aware of the causes not only clears the mind, it often leads directly into the plot: giving away things, removing traditional symbols and rituals from everyday life, leaving associations and the like.

Be thankful instead of clinging, forgive instead of brooding

They cannot fundamentally influence other people's feelings and behavior patterns. If an old friend or the best friend from school goes different ways and has other interests, then it is so. Take stock and be thankful for the past relationship, but don't cling to something that is no longer.

Can't you let go of guilt? Assuming you didn't commit a serious crime, make it clear that people make mistakes, you've made a mistake, regretted it, and learned from it, and now it's good. Can't you let go because someone wronged you? A tough cost-benefit calculation is the order of the day.

If you block yourself because you are rotating in thought about this act, you are only harming yourself because you are depriving yourself of positive experiences and blocking your own development. On the other hand, if you forgive, you help yourself first and foremost. Again, this is about harmless everyday cases and not about advice for people who have been victims of a crime.

Fresh start instead of giving up

Think of the perspectives: letting go may seem like giving up. However, this is often necessary to start over. Do not expect ad hoc solutions. From becoming aware of what you want to let go to the action itself requires patience as well as training.

Stop the carousel of thoughts

You can train, for example, to stop the typical carousel of thoughts when you are alone in bed and think of your past partner. Here you can say out loud: "No" or "Stop". You can also design an action program that comes into force whenever such thoughts rotate: wandering through the park, reading a scientific book, writing a page of diary etc. - these alternatives gradually increase the new perspective.

Take stock

Make a list of pros and cons for the things, events, structures, and relationships that you are considering letting go of. Force yourself not to demonize or pretend here. Everything (!) That belongs to these topics is added to the list. Review the list in changing moods until the sketch you design feels reasonably realistic.

You can also use this list to learn how to deal with fear. For each aspect, write down what could happen if you abandoned it - worst, or at best. So list the advantages and disadvantages as differently as possible.

Be aware that the first phase of letting go of things that were once meaningful can lead to grief, but above all to uncertainty. Allow both. If you have thought that it was right to let go, you will soon feel liberated.

Let go in small steps

We often connect objects with people. In relationships as well as in objects, it can make sense to gradually detach yourself from them instead of making tabula rasa. Let's say your brother died in a traffic accident. Now you have his book collection at home. All of these books remind you of your brother. But you cannot shape your own life if you surround yourself with an open-air museum of the deceased. Throwing away the books appears to them as if it is used to humiliate their brother.

There are now public bookcases in many cities and second-hand bookshops accept used books. If you put most of the collection in such a closet or give it to a second-hand bookshop, you appreciate what was important to your brother by reading it and at the same time you are freed from it. You can keep a few books as a symbol to remember your brother.

Accept the past

Letting go means recognizing the past as something that is neither today nor can be changed today. If you notice that your life is changing, when you have finished your studies, the children are out of the house, or your best friend has moved to America, there is always the temptation to cling to a phase of life that is over.

Keep symbolsYou can prevent this systematically by keeping something (!), But not everything, and using a symbol pars per toto. When the children leave the house, look for a handful of things from the old children's room and otherwise remodel the room.It is not just about the material burden of things from a past era that are now blocking the place for things of the present - it is even more about the emotional attachment to these things.

Cling to something that is no longer

Letting go is easy to train by thinking about whether what we cling to still exists. In reality, she doesn't let go of anything when she realizes that her child is no longer a child, but only recognizes the current state.

Important and unimportant

We can let go of too much. If you want to let go sensibly, you should take stock: When we meet three times a week in the village pub with elementary schoolmates with whom we no longer have anything to say, even though on these evenings we “actually” do further training in IT want, then clinging to the old blocks the sensible or even necessary new.

Letting go now means differentiating which things and relationships are important in our current phase of life, from which we “really” don't want to separate because they are close to our hearts and which senselessly take up space, block us in everyday life and give us thoughts block your own perspectives. Separation can be painful, even if it is necessary.

It's not about demonizing the objects, and even less about the people whose relationships have survived. Appreciation leads to integrating what has been let go into our lives - as part of the past.

What did you learn?

Think carefully about what people and things they let go of in their lives, what sense old habits had. Recall the experiences and happenings that connect you with what you let go. Ask yourself: What have you learned from this?

Pathological bonds

Taking stock does not count when it comes to destructive ties. If her husband beats her, her son loots the account, or her colleague bullies her, there are no pros and cons to set off. You have to get out and you have nothing to lose.

Seek help if you need it

However, many people remain in bonds that are purely negative. Mostly similar destructive patterns of childhood are the cause here. If this is the case with you, you should urgently approach these patterns in psychotherapy and break out of the circle that keeps driving you into similar disastrous relationships.

Formulate goals

To detach yourself from something, it is important not only to define what you want to detach yourself from, but also for what. You can formulate life goals for this, ideally as concrete as possible. Ask yourself: What am I going to do in my life? What is really important to me? We not only bind ourselves to people and things, but also to goals. The more this goal matches our idea of ​​ourselves, the more it gives us meaning, support and structure - the sooner we can detach ourselves from everything that stands in the way of this goal.

Why can't I let go?

A warning signal should be for you if you realize that you are not going to do certain things because you are afraid of (imagined) negative consequences. That means: you are dissatisfied with the situation, but too afraid to change it. If your marriage is empty and you have no hope of changing this state because you and your partner live different lives, then you should not stick to it because you are afraid of having less money in a divorce.

Learn to differentiate

If you find that you no longer have a common interest with a friend, even hope that he doesn't report at the weekend so you can do what suits you, don't depend on the relationship because you are both like that know for a long time. However, in such a case you do not have to break up the friendship. You can still come for your birthday.

But: With a thorough examination and absolute honesty, you could also see that there is potential in a difficult relationship to develop it positively. Then break away from stagnation, things you never talked about, break away from bad habits that crept in between you and your partner without either of you wanting to. You can then separate yourself from the bad things that strain the relationship without breaking up the relationship itself.

Please note: It is not always right to let go. There is also the opposite of “not letting go”: people who keep breaking down all the bridges behind them and keep banging on the cold floor, who try to escape because they are afraid to take a standpoint in the literal sense .

Let go of desires

Sometimes we are forced to let go of ideas, to bury dreams. Be it that we worked fanatically to become a writer and realize after years that despite the greatest effort, we never come out of the amateur league. Or you are a woman and have had a great desire to have children since puberty, but you learn that you probably cannot have children.

Change the perspective

When it comes to life issues, letting go often only works by changing our perspective. At the beginning there is the question: What do I associate with this life topic? Then there is the question of an alternative: How could I find meaning in my life?

Let go of wrong ideas

Sometimes life's desires contain misconceptions, and in retrospect you realize that the only thing you let go was wrong ideas. Often, however, by letting go you only make peace with not being able to achieve everything in life and gain the wisdom to take care of what is possible.

How do you realize that you can't let go?

Those who cannot let go sometimes do not notice this themselves, because habits that have been handed down, survived relationships or emptied things are commonplace. Again and again they freeze in a certain situation, always in the same mood, and again and again they chew circles of thought that have long had nothing to do with the present.

Relatives and friends often realize that something is wrong. Those affected remain in an unsatisfactory relationship, seem permanently tense, can hardly concentrate in the long term, are "out of order" due to depression, use addictive drugs, and constantly circulate in the same thoughts? These are important indicators that these people cannot let go.

Losses are lessons, mistakes are teachers

Some people have problems letting go because otherwise they would have to admit that they were going the wrong way, had plans that could not be realized, or the picture they had of a partner was not true. So they get stuck in a relationship because they cannot admit that what their partner and they can give themselves is not enough for both. Trial-and-error relationships are part of life. In retrospect, we often see that it was good not to have met a woman adored to.

Visit opportunity rooms

In order to learn to let go, it helps to visualize such situations in the past, to look into the future and to ask: What could my life be like in a few years if I let go of my partner (and the unsatisfactory relationship)? In order to let go, it helps to wander into such potential spaces.
Example need not only be seen negatively. (Image: Chaiyawat / fotolia.com) [/ caption]

Persevere at all costs?

Authoritarian mentalities are responsible for many people struggling to let go. “Biting through” to endure a bad situation was considered a virtue in this country. Children still often learn today that they "only have to make more efforts" if they don't like something. This is pedagogical nonsense. Especially in today's society, where we have a wealth of opportunities, we can and should concentrate on what suits us, what we like to learn and live in. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • GBP e.V. Society for Biodynamic Psychology / Body Psychotherapy (ed.): Transitions: separation - farewell - death: contributions from the 13th GBP conference in Goslar 2010, Books on Demand, 2014
  • Mapelli, Mario: "Learning to let go. Education on end-of-life accompaniment", in: Encyclopaideia, Vol 18 No 39, 2014, EnCP
  • Duhigg, Charles: The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do, Berlin Verlag, 2012
  • Gaschler, Katja; Buchheim, Anna: Children need closeness: building and maintaining secure bonds (brain & mind), Schattauer, 2012

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