Six Tricks to Let Go of Pain and Accept the Stuff That Sucks

“Let it go” isn’t just an overplayed Disney song, it’s also a common self-help mantra repeated in times of crisis.

When something bad happens — whether it’s feeling the aftershocks of a past trauma or dealing with the fallout from a current one — our tendency is to get caught up in our emotions and stay stuck in our pain long after it has anything to teach us.

It’s only when we can “let go” of what was, and also “accept” what is, that we can finally start healing and moving forward to find some peace.

Unfortunately, “letting go” and “accepting” are both easier said than done, (especially since most of what you read about this topic doesn’t actually explain HOW to to it, just that you really, really should.)

The truth is, it’s a process not a destination. There is no one easy way to let go, but hopefully one of these six tricks can get you started in the right direction.

1. Break it down

Having something bad happen can be like getting a giant load of dirty laundry delivered to your hoarder house. You can’t even wrap your brain around the idea of cleaning it all up at once.

So, what if instead of accepting everything about this situation, you just focused on accepting pieces of it and letting them go little by little?

For example, let’s say you get fired from your dream job and it derails and devastates you personally and professionally. What would happen if you broke those feelings down and found one small thing about this situation you COULD accept?

For instance, maybe you really loved that there were free K-cups in the break room at your old job. As dorky as it sounds, could you let go of just your anger and sadness over that?

  • Maybe it inspires you to find a new job which also has free K-cups.
  • Maybe you decide not working there was ultimately a good thing since you were probably drinking too much coffee.
  • Maybe you just feel super sad about the K-cups for while.

Whatever the resolution, the process helps you let go of some of those some sad feelings, which will make tackling another piece of the pain puzzle seem more acheviable.

2. Debate it

Another option is to present some rational arguments to yourself about why you should or should not let something go.

Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side of the paper, write down the pros of letting go of your feelings. On the other side, write down the cons.

Then, take a moment to digest what you’ve written and decide which argument makes the most sense. For example…

3. Feel it… all of it

The pain we keep bottled up inside from old hurts can do a lot of damage, (both emotionally and physically).

What if, rather than holding those feelings in, you let them out instead? You could…

Whatever it is — telling cancer to go screw itself, having a good long cry about an childhood abuser, writing the perfect comeback to that burn that still stings a decade later — get it ALL out and then say goodbye to it.

4. Change your story

Pretend you’ve just met someone who has asked about the horrible thing that happened to you. Take a moment and write down how you would respond to them, using as much detail as possible.

When you’re done, take a look at what you have written. Maybe it says…

I had an operation a few years ago and the surgeon botched it. The result has been horrible chronic pain, which has lasted for years. Now I am a shut-in, forced to rely on medications and live on disability. Even worse, I never received an apology from the doctor.

What sorts of words are you using in this story? What is your tone? Is there a hope of a happy ending? If not, why? (If you can’t leave the door open in your imagination for things to get better someday then what chance do you think you’ll have of it happening in real life?)

With these thoughts in mind, if necessary, rewrite your story. For example…

I live with chronic pain from a failed surgery and work with a team of doctors and specialists each week in order to regain some mobility and reduce my reliance on medications. My injury has forced me to make self-care a priority and has made me a more compassionate and resilient person.

Re-read this new story to yourself out loud. Then do it again tomorrow and the day after that. Keep reading it to yourself until you’ve programmed yourself to believe it might actually be true.

5. Fake it until you make it

If you can’t let something go, then consider simply pretending to do it.

Start by creating an image of a future-tense you in your head and ask yourself, “If I were a person who has accepted [fill in the blank] and let go of [fill in the blank feelings], what would that look like? How would I sound or act? What sort of things would I be doing with my days?”

Visualize that person and that payoff, and then program that picture into your head by journaling about it, meditating on it, drawing a picture of it or making a collage or Pinterest board with photos about it. Now, act as if that transformation is already in process.

At first you may fool the people around you into believing it’s true. After awhile, you may even fool yourself. Later, by the time you’re done wondering whom is fooling whom, you will eventually realize you’re not fooling anyone anymore — it’s the truth.

6. Be here now

The final way to let go is to fully appreciate the things you have now. When you do, you’re less likely to feel duped or cheated when they’re lost or taken away someday.

For example, I can no longer ride roller coasters. It’s a bummer, but it wasn’t something I had to struggled to accept. That’s because the last time I rode a roller coaster, I fully appreciated every minute of it.

I sat in the front row. I threw my arms into the air on each hill and felt my body lift out of the seat and float up against the shoulder harness. I laughed and cheered and screamed. Basically I wrote the CRAP out of that sucker. As a consequence, I have ZERO roller coaster regrets in life.

Treat every ride as if it were your last, my friends. Because change is the nature of life. Eventually we have to let it all go.

Interested in this topic? Please follow me on Medium to read more posts about chronic pain and my new book, Chronic Pain Recovery: A Practical Guide to Putting Your Life Back Together After Everything Has Fallen Apart, now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.