When to Hold and When to Fold

CC Photo: Marcus Spiske

I am not a card player, but I know the rules of the game apply to life. As a psychotherapist, I often encounter people who have a confused relationship with “holding” and “letting go” life energies. To understand what I mean, answer the following questions:

Is this you?

  • I hold on to confusion and pain from the past.
  • I hold on to feelings of fear by attempting to control my reality.
  • I hold on to ideas, projects, etc. as part of my identity and self-worth.
  • I hold stress in my body, constricting my breath and tightening my muscles.
  • I let go of compliments and praise.
  • I let go of pleasure by denying or criticizing myself for wanting.
  • I let go of positive emotions. I am more familiar with painful ones.
  • I let go (reject) touch or kindness from others or even myself.

To move towards greater health and well-being, it is helpful to both hold and fold instead of either/or mentality and behavior. I’ll give you two cognitive and two somatic examples of healthy both/and actions.

Cognitive Example #1

Acknowledging your uncomfortable emotions and bodily sensations and honoring the truth of this place in the moment creates a type of holding yourself in love and compassion. Self-validation offers vital nutrients for body and soul.

Just as important is the release and letting go of holding, which creates more freedom, or choice to take action or to make room for a new emotion. You let go by expressing the feeling to another, setting limits, grieving loss, or by simply observing feelings and body sensations as they crest and wane.

Cognitive Example #2

Acknowledging compliments and praise and honoring the truth of this place in the moment creates a type of holding yourself in love and compassion. Receiving validation from others offers vital nutrients for body and soul.

Letting go of ego validation helps you to mature from the confines of ego entitlement or grandiosity or narcissism, which creates freedom to accept your humanity. You let go through humility.

My third example is illustrated through the breath, the body. Not just breath: deep breath.

Try it. Your breathing should be slow and deep. Take three to five seconds to perform the inhalation, then pause (hold) for one second. Take even longer — four to six seconds — to do the exhalation (letting go), and again pause (hold) for one second. (Let go) and exhale. Repeat. From a body perspective, you need both the holding in of oxygen and the release of oxygen, consistently and ongoing, to be vital and generative.

Our bodies tend to constellate towards “holding it together” energy, which has its purpose to get us through the day. Letting go of tight muscles through regular micro-movements brings relaxation and a counter-balance for more ease in thinking and action in the moment. Below is a second somatic example to try:

Body Practice: Breathe-and-Drop

Step 1: Breathe

  1. Inhale. Expand your belly outward and “open” your pelvic floor without lifting your chest. Feel the air filling the receiving area of your lungs.
  2. Exhale. Let the air out of your lungs. Relax your belly.

Step 2: Drop

  1. As you continue to exhale, visualize your breath descending out from your pelvis as you simply drop your pelvic floor muscles and let go. Don’t push or strain; just drop. If there is any tension anywhere in your body, this will help release it.

Becoming mindful and with practice, I find my therapy clients are able to accept more of their current both/and reality. You, too, can learn right timing of holding and folding in your daily life.

You, too, may come to bless each opportunity.

Much as you would if you were playing a card game like poker.

It may help to use a psychotherapist as a coach and accountability partner as you learn to embody a both/and lifestyle.

Carrie Burke, LCSW is licensed clinical social worker in Raleigh, NC. She helps clients to claim their personal potency. The result is greater authenticity, creativity, and pleasure in life and relationships.

This article was originally posted at carrieburkelcsw.com.

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