The trick is not only to let go. This is what people in denial have done. They have simply said, “Oh, I’ve dealt with that! I don’t need to go there anymore.” And then when a friend, family member, or therapist tries to dig a little bit, they get upset and they try to stop the conversation right there. Well, if they get upset, that’s a cue that they really haven’t let it go at all. They’re still “triggered”. They have skipped over the most important part of letting anything go. Noticing it! Yes, ironically, the trick to letting go is not to deny but to notice whatever one is attempting to let go. And, yes, this can hurt. No doubt, this is difficult work!
Wait, you may say, “I don’t want to hurt myself more.” Well, aren’t you hurting yourself already, by storing the trauma and the loss in your body? And, over the long-run, if they are simply ignored or pushed away, feelings of trauma and grief tend to come back. You might not notice them, but they return and come out when you least expect.
I think this is why the practice of noticing is key. A particularly helpful thing in Mindfulness Meditation is to notice the “in-and-out” rhythm of the breath. In this way, one can practice becoming attuned to one’s own body without focusing deliberately on the emotions around trauma and grief. What the ancients have given us here is the gift of directing our attention where we wish it to go. The gift is the realization we have lived through the trauma and the grief somehow. We are still alive!
While focusing on our breath, we will notice that things come into our minds: thoughts, feelings, actions, scenes, images, sensations, beliefs, etc. Whatever comes into the mind, just notice it. Acknowledge it. “Oh, there’s a thought. And there’s a feeling….” Whatever it is, notice it and come back to your breath. Practice this for at least 20 minutes each day. It is another trick – actually a test of commitment to oneself – to actually focus on the breath for 20 minutes a day.
Now, I notice you have started to attend to your breath as you have been reading my blog. After you’ve begun a daily breathing practice for about a week, check in with this blog for the next step.