How Letting Go Could Save Your Life

I’ve no problem understanding why people commit suicide due to financial worries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they made the right decision, but I can see how it could have appeared that way at the time. Financial worry is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face– worse even than my long battle with alcoholism.

Let go

The Fear of Losing Everything

I used to be fearless when it came to my finances. During my twenties, I lost it all but still managed to climb out of the gutter and go on and build a good life. This experience of hitting bottom removed my fear of ending up homeless with no money. I knew afterwards that I’d always find a way to land on my feet no matter how bad things got. Things changed when I got married though and my son arrived on the scene. As a single guy, I could easily survive financial meltdown, but I’d rather die than inflict that on my family.

My financial worries are not really about my own standard of living. I like having the latest tech toys to play with, but I could easily survive without them. I sometimes even envy those guys who are able to reduce their possessions to only the bare necessities – it must be a nice way of life. I sort of agree with the sentiment, ‘you don’t own your possessions, your possessions own you’. My financial worries are really only about my ability to take care of my family, and I think this is the same for many people.

I can think of few things worse than not being able to provide for my wife and son. When things went a bit wobbly with my career last year, this fear almost caused me to fall into a deep depression. For weeks, I was trying to behave as normal but inside my head was this silent scream. I found it hard to even look at my family because I felt like such a failure. The only time when it was safe for me to fully face my fear was at night. I would be there in bed listening to the sounds of my wife and son sleeping – my thoughts would be racing, and it would feel as if there was a large stone in my stomach. Yeah, I can understand how such feelings could convince people to go for a long walk off a short pier.

Letting Go of Financial Fear Might Save Your Life

I’ve written a number of posts on here about the importance of letting go, but I’m always disappointed with my failure to really pin-down what I’m trying to say. The problem is that this potentially life-saving technique is often presented as some type of spiritual payoff – a reward we might get to enjoy if we meditate for 10,000 hours or spend enough time with the right guru. Basically, we assume that we will learn to let go once we are able to get our act together. This type of thinking is complete bullshit of course. It’s just like saying ‘I’ll start to exercise once I get fit’. As far as I can see, letting go is one of the most important skills we could ever learn. It really could save our life.

When the Shit Hits the Fan, All You Have is Your Training

I remember hearing somewhere how elite soldiers (maybe it’s the SAS) are taught that when the shit really hits the fan, the only thing that can save them is their training. I’ve found this to be true in my own life. I struggle to think rationally when things are going wrong because my fear paralyses me. It can be almost impossible for me to take on new information, so the only thing that can save me is my current resources.

I’ve known for a long time about the importance of letting go. It sounds deceptively simple, but for years I’ve struggled to let go of worries and concerns. There were times when I even began to suspect that the people who claimed to have developed the ability were just faking it – they were just better at hiding their fear. Despite my cynicism, I continued to work at letting go of things, and it was this training that probably saved my sanity last year.

While lying in bed one night during the middle of my financial crisis, experiencing a silent mental breakdown, something unusual happened. Out of nowhere, my mind became clear and the stone in my stomach just disappeared. Without even trying, I was able to let go of all my fear. I could see that it was my choice to allow this worry to destroy me, and I had the option to let it go. My training kicked in when I needed it most. My efforts to learn how to let go hadn’t been a waste of time at all because it was this that saved me.

Let Go of What?

The problem with trying to describe the process of letting go is the words can get in the way. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that letting go is about just accepting defeat. Things are made even more complicated because in a way it is a type of defeat but only in a battle where we had no chance of winning anyway. The universe does its own thing, and being a good person does not seem to be enough to keep us safe from incredibly shitty things happening. We have a choice, we can spend our time trying to force the universe to follow or desires or we can learn to accept what is there. I don’t have enough faith in vision boards, affirmations, or positive thinking to choose the former option.

For me, letting go is not about practicing equanimity while I wait for the universe to shower me with goodies. Instead, it is the understanding that all I’m obligated to do is to show up each day and try my best – that’s it. Sometimes trying my best will produce favorable results and sometimes it won’t. Letting go means I accept the outcome regardless of my personal preferences. I don’t do this because I’m trying to be spiritual but because the alternative would be insanity or jumping off a building. The remarkable thing is that by letting go like this, it opens me up to the real riches in life – a wealth that does not depend on an account balance in a bank that could go bankrupt at any minute. Suicide is now the the number one killer in the developed world , so the ability to let go might be the most important treatment there is.

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12 thoughts on “How Letting Go Could Save Your Life

  1. I liked this post. I also liked how you said ‘The problem with trying to describe the process of letting go is the words can get in the way.’

    Saying ‘let go’ can be a nice and easy thing to say to our friends and family but when we have to apply it to our own lives, we’re suddenly holding on to our personal baggage like it’s a life jacket.

    All I can say is good luck and I hope it gets easier.
    Lani recently posted..7 Outdated Stereotypes about Teaching in Thailand

  2. Great post Paul, I really enjoy reading your reflections on life. For me, financial worry can be a big burden sometimes especially because I also have dependents. I have a son who is basically THE best thing (person) that ever happened to me and to let him down would be unbearable. I am not really a suicide person and I have often wondered just how distraught, sad, and hopeless those people who do commit suicide must feel to be able to do it. As my sense of failure has increased on certain occasions, I have definitely felt myself growing closer to that point where I could consider it. I even considered how I would do it quickly and (hopefully) painlessly. It’s actually pretty damn selfish but I was thinking I’d book a shooting session at the Bangkok shooting range and when the instructor was looking away quickly stick the barrel in my mouth and finish it. I can’t do jumps, knifes, or any other method really, and that’s the only way I see myself getting hold of a gun. Anyway, that’s just my imagination running wild, cos I always felt it’s too selfish to kill yourself. There’s always someone who needs you, and loves you.

    Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that I can’t provide for son how I’d like to, but the best thing I can really do is just remain positive and try my best, cos I don’t think I can benefit him at all when I’m an emotional wreck!

    Keep up the good blogging….
    Ryan recently posted..How to Stay Safe in Thailand

    1. Hi Ryan, I would imagine that feeling like a failure is a major cause of suicide. It is a very selfish thing to do. They are right when they say it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

      Yes, all we can do is get up each day and do our best. As far as I can see, so long as we do this we are meeting our obligations. I can’t see how we could do any more than this.

  3. Hi Paul, just to say thank you for this great post, I needed these words very much. Thank you thank you thank you, and keep on posting! Katriina

  4. Hi Paul
    Another great read as with all your stuff, however “suicide the no 1 killer in the developed world” ,
    Am I missing something here?

    1. Hi Rob, if you click on the link for that quote, it will take you to the Newsweek article that I used as a source. In 2010, death due to self harm was the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 49. The number of suicides also significantly surpassed the number of people killed due to war in 2010. The Newsweek data comes from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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