For myself and the many beautiful humans I have sat with as a therapist over the years, gaining mental health and balance has been less about acquiring new skills and more about a gradual letting go of who we thought we were. We are given an identity at birth, (small, middle child, English etc), we become conditioned throughout our life (you must be successful, you are lazy, you are the one who…. etc.) and and we take on roles (mother, son, worker, teacher, athlete, smart, poor..) that we naturally take on as who we are. Then things change.
The problem starts when we ‘lose’ our identity, life changes, and we lose who we thought we were. Or, we identify with a state that doesn’t fit for us. A man becomes bankrupt, a woman loses her job, a teen becomes depressed, a man gets injured, a wife leaves her husband. Who are they now? Are they the same person?
Identities keep us safe. For now, we know who we are and what we are doing and we cling to that. But true security lies in knowing that this job, this role, this relationship, is here for now to do and enjoy, and you will be ok if it passes. Life can be difficult and painful at times.
With mindfulness, we can begin to see all the characteristics and roles we have identified with, and in our moment-to-moment awareness, see them as passing states, not who we are. We can start to see where we grasp on to, usually the good-feeling-states of course! And we can see what we resist and detest, such as negative thoughts and feelings.
In truth, everything will pass and in this realization, we become free.
This realization of your identity is usually accompanied by a softening of reacting to thoughts and emotions, a gentle forgiveness, and a huge dose of understanding and compassion.
“I’m so anxious” becomes “I have anxiety, and it will pass. It’s not who I am.”
“I should be smarter, better, faster…” becomes “I’m doing the best I can and there are areas I want to improve on.”
“I’m a bad mother” becomes “I acted so unconsciously at times.. and I feel sad. I have also been a loving mother.”
“I can’t cope at work anymore” becomes “I am having such difficulty right now but I am here.”
“I’m a failure” becomes “It didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I have learned, and I will find a new way. It’s not who I am.”
These powerful shifts create a whole new path when we can slow down long enough to observe the thoughts and emotions that we thought were our identity.
Only by seeing and letting go of who we thought we were, can we see who we are: a human being who is here right now, in this moment, sitting, breathing, reading, feeling.
- You are not your history or your past.
- You are not this thought or this feeling, because they pass and you are still here.
- You are free to choose your next step, where ever you are
Try it now: Stop and breathe deeply into your belly and lungs. Notice where you are, look around as if for the first time. Take another deep breath. Relax and let your thoughts and feelings be. Your history is not present here, only in imagination (thought). Notice you are free to take the next step.
We have been so conditioned to fear in this world, we sometimes need tools and reminders to practice letting go of it.
Letting go of the burden of fear is what I am teaching in my new online course “From Fear to Freedom.” Right now it is available at a super-low price to reach as many people as possible. We can live without unnecessary fear.
Here are 2 free videos to get you started. Enjoy! Click right here for the first one.