A Sentimental Journey

A while back, I donated a gift I received and I felt a little guilty about it. Pretty normal, right? What might surprise you, though, is what was rumbling underneath that guilt.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the same hesitation or struggle to let something go, whether a gift, an heirloom, a photograph, or your son’s first pair of shoes – even when you know you’re ready to say goodbye.

The struggle is real.

So what’s stopping you?

Most likely, an old story.

The beliefs you created when you were young are alive and active no matter your age today. And it’s those little buggers that are tripping you up.

Maybe you were accused of being an ungrateful kid and you’ll be damned if you let that be true.

Maybe you were taught that others’ feelings and needs are more important than yours so forget what you want and do what makes them happy.

Maybe you tell yourself that it would be disrespectful to let it go or you can’t possibly go against what people think you should do.

You see, you’re not so much holding on to the sentimental item as much as you are avoiding uncomfortable feelings about it.

When I donated that gift, what was going on for me was a fear of hurting the giver’s feelings. But even more than that was an old story playing in my mind that says If I ever hurt someone or make them unhappy, they won’t love me anymore and will probably never talk to me again.

What?! Yup, all this was packed into what I thought was just run-of-the-mill guilt.

Hanging on to sentimental items so you don’t have to feel the pain ends up compounding it and delaying the inevitable. As you consider letting something go, let yourself feel whatever comes up.

If it’s sadness, have a good cry.

If it’s guilt, unpack it.

If it’s anger, smash the item against a wall.

OK, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

If you go through life trying to protect yourself from the bad stuff that might happen, you’re also protecting yourself from the good. As Brené Brown said, “You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other effects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”

Sitting with the discomfort instead of avoiding it is a loving thing to do for yourself. Otherwise, instead of you having feelings, your feelings have you. And a bonus benefit: letting those feelings in can be a pretty cool doorway into discovering what else you’ve been carrying around so you can let that go, too.

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