Welcome back to the second episode of Mindful Metaphors. This month I am going to focus on a metaphor that addresses the concept of letting go. The idea of letting go is common in our culture. People say it all the time. But what does it really mean? And how can you actually do it?
First, the idea of letting go implies there is something you are holding onto. Of course, we don’t usually mean you are holding onto a physical object (although that could be the case at times). It mostly refers to something internal, a process of the mind. So maybe you could ask yourself, what I am holding onto? It could be many things. The past, an ideal future, a relationship, the ideas of who you think you should be, an addiction. The list is endless. The thing that may not be so obvious is that we often hold onto our pain and even the things we dislike about ourselves the most.
Sometimes our pain becomes so familiar that we take it on as our identity. Or, and probably more commonly, we struggle with our pain. We struggle with the things we dislike about ourselves. We say, “Go away depression, you are not wanted here.” Or, “I’m going to pretend my anxiety doesn’t exist, then maybe I won’t have to deal with it.” It could be a number of things. The point is, we struggle with ourselves. Especially the parts of ourselves we don’t like. And that’s OK. But there is another way.
In this episode, the metaphor is called Tug-of-War with a Monster. Hopefully most of you are familiar with the game tug-of-war where you try to pull the other person or team by holding onto a rope. So to begin this exercise, think of something that you are struggling with in your life and use it as you read the metaphor. It might also help to feel what it is like in your body as you read this metaphor and exercise:
Imagine you are playing a game of tug-of-war. You are holding onto a long rope and on the other end of the rope is a big monster. The monster is anything in your life you are struggling with. It could be depression, anxiety, a relationship, an addiction, etc. In between you and the monster is a large dark pit that you can’t see the bottom of. Feel the rope in your hands. The monster starts pulling on the rope, pulling you forward. The struggle is on. Your issues are coming up. You pull back with all your strength and the monster pulls back. It goes back and forth, pulling and being pulled and your hands start to hurt. “If only I could pull the monster into the pit, it would go away,” you think. The struggle continues. But then, a new idea pops up. “I have another choice here. I can simply let go.” What a different approach! So you let go and you drop the rope. Notice how that feels. At first the monster is confused, and then it gets angry. “Pick up the rope” it says. “You’ll never get rid of me!” it screams. You are tempted to pick the rope back up, but you think “really, what is the point?” You watch the monster protest and beg you to pick it back up, but you know where that game leads to. You watch the monster start to lose its power as you choose not to engage with it. Eventually you turn around and walk the other way, back to living the life you want.
Take a minute to let that sink in. It’s a powerful metaphor that symbolizes a lot of our internal process. Often we struggle with the parts of ourselves we do not like and we try to get rid of them. But those parts of ourselves are not really the problem. The problem is that we choose to fight with them. We don’t have to. We can always drop the rope. Over and over again. Even if you find yourself fighting with your monster a thousand times, a thousand times we can drop the rope. We don’t need to get rid of the monster, just to give up the struggle with it. And eventually it will lose its power.
I hope you found this post helpful. As always, if you have any feedback or questions, feel free to shoot me an email. Best of luck letting go 🙂
Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.
Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Training in Oakland, CA.
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