In my life, I have come across several people who struggle with letting go. Truth is we probably all have struggled with letting go of something – I know I have. Letting go of romantic relationships, bad habits, unfulfilling jobs, friendships, and emotional baggage can all be very challenging. Despite the challenge of letting go; we usually convince ourselves that the process will be easy. After all, if we make the decision to let go then shouldn’t we be able to let go? It would be nice to think so. However, we will often find that our emotions and our cognitions are on two opposing teams in situations such as these. Our cognitions logically processes our need to let go; while our emotions keeps us emotionally bound to the very thing we are trying to let go. Our cognitions tell us, “this is not good for you”; while our emotions tell us, “but it feels good for you”. Talk about confusing!
When applying this internal battle to various situations; I think of the following examples:
Relationships: Our cognitions tell us that our needs are not being met, that we are not happy, and that the relationship is unhealthy. Our emotions tell us that it feels good to be with this person and makes it hard to put things in place that will challenge those positive feelings.
Work: Our cognitions tell us that we are stuck and unfulfilled in a particular position or place of employment. Our emotions kicks up fears and doubts regarding change and often convinces us that our situation is not as bad as it seems.
Self-esteem: Our cognitions often tell us that we deserve to feel better, look better and experience more out of life. Our emotions reminds us of our lack of confidence and keeps us doing what we are doing. Our emotions, once again, kicks up our fear (an emotion) of change.
Unhealthy habits: I can personally attest to how difficult it is to let go of unhealthy habits. Emotional eating for instance is a struggle to let go for many people I know (myself included). Cognitively, we know the impact that emotional eating has on our bodies and health; but emotionally, it feels good to eat. It makes us happy. When you are feeling bad, stuffing those bad feelings with food usually makes it better (at least temporarily).
This battle between our cognitions and emotions can likely apply to almost any situation where someone is trying to ‘let go’ of something. It is important to understand the role of these opponents in order to better understand the challenge of change. The more one honestly engages their cognitions and emotions, the more likely they are to unite on the same team. They will eventually merge in a way that leads to less confusion, less internal conflict and increased empowerment toward positive change.