The Danger of "Just Letting Go"

The Danger of “Just Letting Go”

In many spiritual communities, there’s an emphasis on letting go: letting go of old patterns that are no longer serving us, letting go into trusting a higher power, or if you use psychedelics or plant medicines, letting go and surrendering to your medicine of choice. Today’s video with Dara del Rio is on how that kind of language is not trauma-informed, and on the importance of going through a stage of having control before surrendering or losing control.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Hi, this is Dara del Rio with Somatic Spiritual Counseling. And today’s video is on the importance of going through a stage of having control before surrendering or losing control. In a lot of spiritual communities, there’s a lot of emphasis on letting go: letting go of old patterns that are no longer serving us, maybe letting go into trusting a higher power, or if you use psychedelics or plant medicines, letting go and surrendering to your medicine of choice.

just let go trauma-informed

And all of this languaging can be really triggering for somebody with trauma, because oftentimes, when we are in traumatic situations, well, I mean, trauma by default, when we are in traumatic situations, we don’t have a choice and we don’t have a sense of agency, and so we’re almost forced to surrender to the situation. So there can be an equation or a coupling in our minds with loss of control and trauma. And so, when we’re in these spiritual circles and everyone is saying to let go, to surrender, to forgive, those things can be impactful, and perhaps even subtly shaming to those of us that really are actually missing a sense of control and feel out of control all of the time, because we’re looping in trauma, and our nervous system is dysregulated from it.

So, there are different stages to perhaps opening up to being able to surrender in a kind of spiritual sense, or even just to the flow of life. It doesn’t have to be to any particular thing or substance. So, what are these stages? The first stage that we typically find ourselves in when we’ve gone through trauma, or really we’ve just lived a normal human life without much training in how to use our minds and bodies effectively or appropriately, most of us in the western world are disembodied by default because others around us are, and we’ve imprinted on them. So we’re probably carrying a lot of baggage even if we don’t know it, or if nothing in particular, nothing bad, has happened to us at some point. So this is really meant to speak to a wide audience, not just those of us who have had specific acute memories of trauma.

So, we usually find ourselves at first, when we do an honest inquiry into our own body and our own mind for the first time, that we’re kind of in a state of chaos. And this is a really common experience for first-time meditators, where they realize, “Oh my god. I think all the time. I’m always thinking. And I’m not in control of my thoughts. And this is kind of horrible. It feels really bad. I’m maybe feeling a bit trapped inside of my own head, or just a victim to my own psyche.” So, in this state of inner chaos, we don’t have any control. We don’t have any sense of agency. And that state can be thrust upon us as well, when we’re forced into a situation that is non-consensual. And this doesn’t just mean violence or abuse or rape or sexual assault. It also means a car accident. Car accidents are non-consensual. When you’re hit, that’s not something you wanted to happen. It’s something that’s essentially forced upon you in a way. So this really is quite broad.

letting go trauma

And this inner sense of chaos can feel really bad, and it can feel really desirable to move out of that into a state of openness, unity, oneness. So, sometimes when spiritually inclined people are coming in with a lot of unhealed emotions, maybe a dysregulated nervous system, unresolved issues with their parents, with their siblings, any number of things, they want to immediately transmute the inner chaos into spiritual surrender and opening and deepening into forgiveness, oneness, unity, love. And that’s really beautiful, and that’s really great, and I don’t think it works. And here’s why: Because we need to have a sense of control to be able to lose our sense of control in an empowered way. If we don’t have a sense of control to begin with, and we’re just operating out of chaos, we’re reacting to patterns, we’re going through the motions of our life, but we don’t really have a sense of stability, of resiliency, of agency, the ability to clear our minds, the ability to set boundaries, that kind of thing. We need to do that. We need to have those things.

So, moving from a state of chaos into a state of control, where we’re able to say, “Oh, I’m noticing I feel a lot of anxiety in my chest when I do XYZ.” What is it like to just feel that anxiety slowly and move through it? What is it like to be able to negotiate the terms of what you’re experiencing with your own body and say, “Hey, I can’t experience this in its totality right now. Is it okay if I just experience a little bit of it?” What happens when your body responds? You develop a sense of agency. You develop a sense of choice and a sense of trust in your own self, in your own ability to regulate. So, we’ve moved from Stage 1 of total inner chaos, no control, into a state of regulation, of control.

And this isn’t control in like a dictatorship sense. This is control in like an enlightened kingdom or queendom sense. There’s the inner ruler that’s governing his or her people with ease and grace and sensibility and trust and harmony. And so, what does this state feel like? Well, it feels like having a higher degree of agency in your ability to choose how you’re feeling, what you’re feeling, and then move through those things. Of course, we can’t always choose what we’re feeling, but we can choose how we respond to what we’re feeling. And this is really where we can develop a sense of agency and of healthy control.

So, that’s really important to do before we move into the Stage 3 of surrender, of blossoming, because as I said a few minutes ago, the only really empowered way to release our control over our decisions, our control over perhaps our mission in life, and to surrender to something larger too, is to have a sense of agency to give in the first place. So, here we’ve really cultivated a space. We’ve cultivated this inner wisdom and this gift that we’re then able to say, “Hey, this is something that I want to share with something larger than myself,” and move into a state of greater cohesion with perhaps God or the universe or nature or water or fire or a plant spirit or really anything that you connect to. And this is part of a bigger healing journey because when we move into that Stage 3, we can develop a deeper and a broader sense of meaning, of purpose, and deeper tools for increased resiliency.

I’m just thinking of someone I know who has a lot of physical limitations, and that’s never going to change in his life. But because he has a connection to spirituality, there’s like a deeper sense of resiliency that comes forth, even though his healing journey doesn’t mean returning to a fully functional body. And that’s almost always the case with healing in my experience. Sometimes we do recover, and it looks like a return to the old way. Like maybe if we break an arm and it heals, it’s like, “Okay, great.” It’s pretty much like it was before, but with these deeper healing movements and journeys that we go on, we don’t end up in the same place that we started. And that’s not really the goal.

nervous system health control

The goal is to transform into something new. And maybe that means taking on some scars of some kind and letting those scars be a sign of that transformation and transmutation of pain into wisdom and into gifts.

So, I’m wondering if anything in this video in particular stands out to you. Maybe it was a bit confrontational to something that you found yourself doing in the past in terms of spiritually bypassing your need for emotional regulation. Or maybe you agree with me, and you’re happy to hear somebody say this in a video. In either case, I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you’d like to share them with me in the comments below. On our website, you can reach out to us at somaticspiritualcounseling.com/contact. And we’d love to hear from you.

Learn more about somatic therapy here.

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