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Letting go

How? How do you let go? How do you let go of something you still want, but can’t have? This isn’t a trick question, nor is it a post with any insightful wisdom, rather a plea for others’ insight. Insight into something that seems so trivial – we hear people toss that phrase around regularly, “You just have to let go,” – that’s all well and good, but tell me how? It’s just like when people tell you that you need to love yourself – yes, I know this, but again, tell me how?

I’m struggling at the moment because I don’t know how to let go. I don’t know how to accept the things that have happened in my life – the unfairness I feel, the unluckiness I’ve experienced. I’m struggling because despite all of it, I still feel unaccomplished – I had a dream and I haven’t achieved it. And yes, I understand that I need to “let go” of wanting to “make it” – but isn’t that essentially letting go of my dream? A dream that society also tells me that I should “chase”?

Due to a few recent emotional episodes, people close to me have observed that I’m only reacting this way because I haven’t dealt with the other things in my life. And they’re right. I haven’t. I haven’t dealt with them because I don’t know how to. And their solution is always the same – “You need to see someone.” Will this someone be able to offer me the answers I’ve been seeking? Will they be able to understand if they themselves haven’t been through similar? And how will I connect with them when therapy is a very one-sided relationship?

What I’m finding is that I have a lot of anger, resentment, and bitterness towards others in my life. Resentment towards others who have achieved what I’ve wanted. Anger towards those who have prevented me from achieving my goals. And bitterness towards my entire life. But what I think is behind all of those emotions is actually anger towards myself. I’m angry for the decisions I made that hindered my opportunities. Angry for not learning the lessons I’ve clearly needed to learn. And angry for not knowing then what I know now.

I read something the other day from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, “Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power…Everyone has insecurities. When you show yourself in the world and display your talents, you naturally stir up all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity. This is to be expected. You cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others. With those above you, however, you must take a different approach: When it comes to power, outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all. Those who attain high standing in life are like kings and queens: They want to feel secure in their positions, and superior to those around them in intelligence, wit, and charm. It is a deadly but common misperception to believe that by displaying and vaunting your gifts and talents, you are winning the master’s affection. He may feign appreciation, but at his first opportunity he will replace you with someone less intelligent, less attractive, less threatening.”

I wish I had read this ten years ago. I realise now, through no intention of my own, that many of the conversations I have had with people in authority would have done just that – threatened them. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that encouraged questioning and that supportive environment allowed me to become the outspoken individual that I am. But it’s this exact outspokenness, combined with a base genetic intelligence, that has caused these people in power to be dismissive of me and worse yet, attempt to get rid of me.

So there it is. For my entire life I’ve believed I have been doing what’s in the best interest of the team – offering my observations and knowledge, based on my experiences and studies, and believing that it might create the change the culture so desperately needed. And instead of this knowledge being considered, I was being perceived as a threat. I realise now more than ever that intelligence isn’t a blessing. It’s a bloody curse. Or so I’ve been made to feel.

I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and there’s a particular story that is heartbreaking. Chris Langen, one of America’s smartest individuals (IQ of 195), did not achieve as much as might have been predicted. Through Gladwell’s storytelling, it becomes clear that the one thing Langen lacked more than anything was what Robert Sternberg defines as “practical intelligence” – “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect,” (p. 101).

What I’m struggling to understand though, is if intelligence is a natural, unavoidable threat, how then, do intelligent individuals navigate their way and get what they want without triggering those insecurities in people above them? Would that not require these individuals to become someone they’re not? And how is that considered practical intelligence and not inauthenticity?

I don’t have any answers. I actually don’t have much right now other than a wealth of pain, a pain that I’m not sure how to let go of. Or how to deal with. Or how to process. I’m very aware of where I’m “stuck” – of the limitations in my perception, but I’m less aware of the mechanisms to alter such limitations. I’ve often wondered, if I just neglected to think about anything from the past, could I not just live freely in the present? Why is that concept so difficult to conquer? What evolutionary mechanism caused us to hold onto the pain from the past and what purpose does it really serve? Why is it so hard to “let go” and live in the present? And why are some people so seemingly okay with the events that have unfolded in their lives while others, like myself, continue to be tormented by them?

Perhaps letting go is merely grieving in disguise. Perhaps it isn’t. I don’t know. What I do know is this: I don’t know how to let go. And this not knowing, this inability to let go? It’s destroying me.

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