Saying goodbye to the links, people and places that have enriched us in the past is not always easy. But, to advance on the path of life and stop suffering, we must stop clinging to those relationships, things or situations that are no longer part of our life.
Many of our moments of suffering in life are related to the inability to let go. We fear change: stop being who we are if we distance ourselves from a person or if he leaves us, even when the bond that unites us has fulfilled its function, has completed its cycle. We are afraid of being left in a vacuum if we leave a job, even if it does us more harm than good.
We fear losing our identity if we move from home, neighborhood or city, even when there are good reasons for it. We are terrified by the death of loved ones who come before us in life and who, according to natural law, will inexorably depart before us.
But do a simple test. Hold two balls, one in each hand. Previously, place a third ball on a table, near you. Try to grab it. If the balls are a size that occupies your hands, it is very likely that the task will be impossible for you. If you really want to keep the third ball, if you really want to play with it, you will only have one way left: you will have to release one of the other two.
LIFE WITH MEANING
We become convinced that we are what we do and that if we stop doing it, we will stop being. Thus, our love or vocational intentions, the bonds that have enriched us, the places where we were happy, the people with whom we grew up or whom we help to grow become powerful chains that trap our ankles and prevent us from advancing on the path of maturity, freedom, emotional and spiritual development.
Knowing how to let go is one of the keys to a meaningful life. Stephen Tobin, a renowned Gestalt psychologist, states that “the greater a person’s ability to conclude situations or relationships, the more authentic those relationships and situations are.” And he notes: “People who can say goodbye with a good bye are better able to fully engage with others in a realistic, fresh and meaningful way.”
A good goodbye is one that allows us to face life, and not back, as happens when we remain clinging to the past or with our hands occupied with some balls that prevent us from catching another that allows us to experience a new game. Goodbye helps us recognize that what we leave behind has contributed to who we are. A good goodbye –also when the other person has died– is one in which, even in the midst of the sadness of parting, we can recognize what nurtured us and allows us to feel whole after letting go, because in every situation or in every relationship there is something that has been incorporated into us and that, although we still do not recognize it, has made us grow. It has made us change.
LETTING GO CAN BE A TEST OF LOVE
A good goodbye is, in short, synonymous with detachment. And detachment, knowing how to let go, is often a great proof of love. Love of a son, to let him be an autonomous individual. To a beloved person who leaves life, so as not to interrupt the cycles of existence.
To a group or to a job, as proof that they have been nourishing for our development and that we are now in a position to continue our exploration of life. To a house or a city, because leaving to mature is to recognize them as nests and not as cages.
When we detach ourselves, our heart is impregnated with love towards the one or that of whom we do it. When we refuse to let go, it is not love that predominates in our bond but the fear of losing what we cling to and, with that fear, suffering. We do not let go because we fear suffering and we suffer for not letting go.
IS IT TIME TO SAY GOODBYE?
Suffering, precisely, is an indicator. In attachment situations, someone suffers; if it is not us, it is the other. And when that suffering manifests itself, repeats itself and stops, it is time to let go. When we perceive that, in a certain situation or bond, we are stagnating and that, even if we try something different, the stagnation persists, it is time to let go.
“Attachment is a test of non-acceptance, of not admitting that things are the way they are,” says John Stevens, another prestigious Gestalt psychotherapist. Acceptance is a capacity of mature people, of those who feel that, being neither complete nor perfect, they are in a position to fend for themselves. These people have learned to let go from different circumstances, as they have learned valuable new existential resources from goodbyes, even those that are painful.