I’ve no problem paying lip service to the idea of letting go. On an intellectual level I understand that it is always going to be best to just go with the flow and stop trying to micro-manage the universe. The reality is that almost all of the important lessons in my life have been gained through suffering. It has been due to this pain, that comes from doing things the wrong way, that I’ve been forced to adapt better ways for coping with life.
It is not good enough that I know intellectually that letting go of things beyond my control makes sense. I’m stubborn and the wisdom has to be really beaten into me before it takes hold and changes the way I act. This is why I’ve become a tiny bit sceptical about things like self help and spiritual development books. For me at least, reading wise things is pleasurable, and I’ll probably always engage in this activity, but it doesn’t have much of an effect on my long term behaviour. It is learning through experience that forces me to adapt. Maybe the best that other people’s wisdom can do his help me make sense of it all.
Learning Lessons in Dreams
I’m now finding that it is not always necessary for me to suffer a great deal in real life in order to produce significant change in the way I deal with the world. I can gain the experience I need in other ways. Over the last week I’ve had this recurring dream, and I’m convinced that it has caused a shift in my thinking. Something real has changed for me, and I’ll never be the same again. The lesson of this dream was on letting go – although it took me a bit of time to figure that out.
I keep a dream journal, but I don’t put much effort into analysing the content. Over the last week though, I kept on having the same dream, and it was disturbing enough for me to think back on it when I woke up. I guessed that this dream contained an important lesson, and this is why it kept on repeating. Looking back now the message is so obvious, but it took a couple of long walks before it finally clicked.
The dream involves a simple incident. The exact event never took place in reality, but there were similar events, and I can definitely identify with the strong emotional aspect of this dream.
I’m in a relationship with this girl, and I’m obsessed with her. We share a group of friends, but they are more her friends than my friends. She tells me that she wants to go somewhere for the day with one of the lads from this group. It is an innocent enough request, but I’m horrified because I know that if she goes with him they are going to have an affair. I get angry, and I try all types of manipulative tactics (sulking, tantrums, accusations…) to stop her from going. I feel bad doing this because I know that my behaviour is unreasonable. All of our friends think I’m being a jealous prick, but I just know that if they go on this trip they are going to have an affair. In the end I give her an ultimatum, if she goes anywhere alone with this guy we’re finished, but she calls my bluff. I am in the depths of misery and my world is spiralling out of control.
I woke up from this dream the first time still feeling upset by it. During my years as a drunk I was that guy in the dream. I felt so insecure in my relationships. If the truth be told, I didn’t really have relationships but instead took hostages. I lay in bed thinking about how I should have behaved. Maybe I could have just tried to reason with her in an honest way? I could have explained my fears calmly, and perhaps we could have made a bargain – maybe she would have agreed not to go with this guy? This still didn’t feel like the right solution, but what else could I do? It was either that or just allow her to make a fool out of me without putting up any resistance.
I had the same dream again the night before last, so I knew that my solution to the situation was on the wrong track. Trying to be honest about my feelings was certainly an improvement, but it still boiled down to me trying to manipulate this other person into doing what I wanted them to. I woke up yesterday again disturbed by this dream. I went for a long walk around a local park, and it was there that the only real solution to the situation became obvious. All I could realistically do in this dream scenario was to let go – not because it was spiritually or ethically the right thing to do but because it was the path of least suffering.
The truth was that there was nothing that I could do to stop this girl from having an affair if that is what she wanted to do. If I got angry, and gave her ultimatums, it would just drive her away faster. I would not only lose her as a romantic partner but also as a friend, and my behaviour would also probably mean that I’d lose the friends we shared because they would see me as a jealous prick. Worst of all, I would be mentally fucked up as my self esteem would take a nose dive, and the reality of my powerless in this situation would drive me into a deep depression. Trying to be honest might delay her affair and save the friendship, but I’d still take a hit to my self esteem and end up feeling depressed because of my inability to control the object of my obsession.
The only option in this situation is to let go. Maybe she will have an affair and maybe she won’t, but there is nothing that I can do either way. This other person is not an extension of me, so I’ve no real control over them. If I try to manipulate them into following my will it can only lead to suffering. By letting go I escape with my self esteem intact because I can see that my self worth never actually depended on my ability to control this other person. Also by letting go here I will dodge weeks or months of depression because the reality that I’m powerless over this other person won’t come as such a shock. Sure, I’m bound to feel a bit upset if she does have an affair and leaves me, but I will be able to let go of that too. Life goes on.
The Real Lesson On Letting Go
I was near the end of my walk yesterday when the full realisation of the dream hit me. The message wasn’t about relationships at all – it was about my life up until now. My two decades of alcohol addiction were all about trying to aggressively manipulating the universe into meeting my expectations. I kept on giving ultimatums to life, but it just kept on calling my bluff. Eventually I was forced to admit my powerlessness, and six and a half years ago I was able to give up my addiction to alcohol. I then moved onto a much better approach to living. I became far more reasonable and instead of demanding that the universe meet my desires I tried to negotiate with it – I’ll behave nicely, but I expect my life to go as I plan. This seemed to be working up until a few months ago when things stopped going the way I wanted them to, and I began to suffer again. I’d lost the golden touch, and it all seemed so unfair. After six years of being sober it felt like I was in danger of falling into depression.
It’s been a tough learning curve but my attempts to micro-manage the universe just doesn’t work. A few days ago, I put a post on here about my 10 commandments for life, and one of these was about how I do not know what is right for other people. I should have added that I also don’t know what’s best for me. The things that are most precious to me in my life were never planned – they came into my world despite of me not because of me. I can plant good seeds for the future but ultimately I’m powerless over the outcome. My job is to do the best I can each day and let the universe take care of the rest.
This is such an obvious realisation, but this wisdom has reached somewhere inside of me that it never got close to before. It has caused a shift in my thinking, and I’ve experienced this great sense of freedom. It is such a relief to know that I really don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders. My job in life is simple, and it is well within my ability – do the best I can each day and nothing more. This news is such a relief; I feel happy.