Apparently, you love to let go. With shameless conviction you daily proclaim your resolve to just let it go. As your father, I fear you don’t fully comprehend your own tone-deaf declaration. I fear that your muse, Queen Elsa, doesn’t understand either.
Disney (shockingly) grossly oversimplified the difficult and profound process of letting something go. It’s been distilled into one glorious, momentous, emotional, dam-bursting moment of self-actualization. It’s Elsa’s ultimate mountain-top experience.
Before, she was holding on. After the music and ice, she was not holding on. Toss in a little ‘true love is the answer’ seasoning and poof! – all is well in the Kingdom of Arendelle.
In reality, letting go of deep wounds is more akin to surviving years in a sun-bleached desert. Here is what to expect.
1. It takes time
The best way to reality-check a Disney movie is to consider the next morning. When Prince Charming marries Cinderella and the movie wraps in a crescendo of glitter and love, ask yourself, “what happens next?” When Elsa boldly sings away her past on top of her snowy mountain, what happens the next morning?
Elsa grew up in a prison. She lived a fearful life devoid of human contact, languishing in her loneliness and shame.
Nobody can eradicate that pain in one evening of emotional ecstasy. That kind of prolonged suffering requires a backhoe, not a paintbrush.
In reality, her mountaintop experience amounts to a decision and nothing more. Every person who runs a marathon at some point decides to run a marathon. What remains is the training, conditioning, and actual running of the marathon.
2. It’s never fair
A massive part of letting go is learning how to forgive both yourself and others. The difficult thing about forgiveness is that it never feels fair. You rarely get in return what you feel like you are extending. The very act is sacrificial.
Without forgiveness, you will never let go. That pain will always grip your heart. Eventually, you will come to see that living with bitterness is too costly. It’s better to pay the price and extend forgiveness. It’s the path to a free heart.
3. It’s a process of intense grief
Letting go is a process of intense emotional and mental grief. Elsa needs to grieve her lost childhood, her non-existent relationship with her sister, her dead parents, and much more. She can’t simply banish these experiences by force of will.
It’s been said that anger is the feeling of protection and sadness is the feeling of healing. In order for Elsa to heal, she needs to let herself be sad.
Adeline, truly letting go is a journey into the saddest moments of your life. You need to face them and feel them. Only then can you drop them for good.
4. It requires building new habits
Letting go requires a new lifestyle. How do you think Elsa would fare if she went back to the castle and sank into her old patterns? She needs a new way of thinking, living, and interacting with the world.
In fact, this can be the fun part of the entire process. You discover new passions and walk fresh paths. You learn to think differently about yourself and others. You go on an adventure and forge a new life.
Adeline, by way of difficult and intentional work you can indeed let go.
The watershed Disney moment is a terrible myth.
Sometimes it is only darkness. Other times you chase a light. Some days you run with the wind at your back. Other days you curl up and cry. Through it all, though, you journey on.
And one day you will wake and things will be just a little lighter, the desert a few degrees cooler. After much work, you may come to find that you truly have let it go.