Consciously Letting Go of Mental and Emotional Dead Weight

Updated: Apr 4


Conscious awareness skills teach how us to become increasingly engaged in the present moment, and not allow distressing past situations or events to keep us endlessly dragged down by their mental and emotional dead weight. Although it is wise to not live with total pie-in-the-sky delusion and to maintain a healthy sense of realism in terms of what has come before may indeed influence what is both current and what will be, many people allow the scars of the past to remain unhealed for what they rationalize, justify or excuse as legitimate reasons to keep them open that unfortunately can create on-going paralysis and self-perpetuated misery.

Attachment to pain and misery is often just as common as addiction from pain and misery.

That pain and misery is compounded by how we talk to ourselves. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron said during a retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center a few years back:


"I'm just going to make a blanket statement, and then it will probably be a subject of a lot of conversation: There's no way to stay stuck in misery without talking to yourself about it."

A miserable mental and emotional state that prompts negative self-talk does not foster emotional, social or ethical intelligence, yet cultivating each one is key to breaking the cycle of pain and misery and letting go of the dead weight that keeps pushing us back into it. Yet when you are stuck in this pattern its hard to know where and how to start. This is one of the main reasons the self-help industry was created, yet available research suggests that many self-help books might not help people help themselves to actually do the work required to completely change the pattern of self-created misery.


An intentionally conscious approach to managing the voices and events of the past that keep spinning 'round in your head is not about trying to control, dialogue with, or suppress them, as that often strengthens this negative, painful experience rather than diminishing it. Awareness of their existence helps us to at first begin to let go of, and then with daily practice strengthen new neural pathways of response, transcend them altogether, and be done with the negative mental/emotional spin cycle once and for all. This approach involves practicing purposefully, without self-judgment, noticing and observing when you automatically start to drift into negative mental rehashing and buying into negativity, and then calmly, deliberately redirecting your attention back to the present, to right here, right now.

It may be helpful to consider this approach in terms of linking these unproductive mental patterns to an obnoxious radio or television talk show host. Visualize or imagine that the negative mental and emotional spin and misery-producing self-talk rooted in old baggage that suddenly arises into your mind as coming from the most annoying talk show host you've ever heard, who is encroaching upon your personal space, shouting and spewing their bad energy right at you.

Being consciously aware of the noise is not so much about trying to turn the talk show host in your brain off in annoyed or angry reaction, but changing the way you listen, absorb and process the input. Using deliberate mindfulness as your ally, you can first turn down the volume, and with practice, calmly change the channel. By first working on reducing the volume, the disruption and stress levels are toned down simultaneously. You won't argue with the barrage as reflexively, and you won't give it the power to get the best of you. The mental and emotional garbage running around your head may still roar at you while you're creating new grooves of mental response, but you have now intentionally chosen how much dominance you will give to their noise level. Eventually, with focused practice, it will lose its power over you.


Remember that conscious, mindful awareness is not about quick fixes and "instant enlightenment." It is a daily, lifelong practice of inner refinement that honors the fact you are an imperfect human being (just like everybody else), and as such, you will make mistakes and sometimes need to begin again – yet with support, self-compassion, courage, humility and patience, slowly and steadily you can gain graceful equilibrium and take the wheel of the ship of your life in a natural, unforced manner.

An intentionally conscious approach to letting go of mental and emotional dead weight includes these three components:

Recognition/Ownership/Awareness: Until we recognize, own and become consciously aware we are holding on to a bunch of mental and emotional dead weight that is unproductive and even harmful to ourselves and others without self-judgment of that reality, we'll remain stuck in the perpetual spin cycle it creates and continue our battle. Letting go and moving forward unencumbered will remain something we feel is unattainable; as I say all the time, radically self-honest recognition is the first step toward liberation. It is also one of the cornerstones of living an Ethically Intelligent life and be an inspiration for others to do the same.

Inspired Motivation: People only do what they want to do. Although part of our process of inner change is done for the positive impact it has upon those who our lives come into contact with, the bottom line is you have to do this for yourself, and do it authentically; otherwise, as soon as you hit even a minor stumbling block, you'll just give up. Inspiration must feed your motivation at all times, even when it gets tough. This is why it is so important to keep the company of supportive, positive, virtuous people, because the energy we put out is contagious - and the old saying is true that "misery loves company."

Committed, Patient Pro-Action: Know that you can't expect to heal all those old deep wounds and create new pathways of productive responsiveness in your brain overnight, in one weekend, or even one month. The process is often in small steps, building success by repetition and perseverance, as well as engaging in patience and kindness toward yourself in the process. You can't beat old habits and patterns into submission as they will rise again - and doing this is an act of violence toward yourself. Healing and transcendence is the goal here. That may mean you will likely take a few steps forward, and then fall back a step – but the commitment is to choose to do so without beating yourself up about it, and get up and begin again. It is a process, and the only way you can possibly fail is choosing to give up. But if you're reading this, it's highly unlikely you're going to do that – you've picked yourself up and began again more than once, right? And so you can do it again, and again, each time with more insight and purposefulness than before. Here are a few short practices I created to assist you in letting go of at least some of the mental and emotional dead weight that you may be dragging around like a ball and chain.


But none of these self-awareness and reflection practices are "one and done." Any old, worn-out behavioral patterns likely became ingrained over time, and upgrading your inner operating system isn't just a simple download (Note: If you are experiencing extreme stress, trauma, or abuse of any kind, only do these practices with the approval of a licensed care provider.)

Self-Empowering Meditative Practices:


PRACTICE: Letting Go of Attachment to Pain and Misery


Gently focus all of your attention upon any benefits (aka "secondary gains") you feel you are receiving when holding onto mental and emotional baggage from the past. Whether it may be using it as an excuse to move on, self-pity, self-punishment, an addiction to drama, playing victim, or any number of pay-offs you may be getting, allow yourself to see that all of these attachments to pain and misery are handcuffs and leg irons that keep you bound in a living hell.


Allow yourself to look into the mirror of your own mind, and clearly hear all the negative self-talk you've chosen to perpetuate that reinforces your own suffering. Calmly yet deliberately, release any self-judgment that looking deeply within at these attachments may trigger you to experience. This practice is simply intended to teach you how to be consciously aware of the impact your own thoughts have upon your own state of mind, body and spirit – and how they are extended into your choices, behaviors and actions.


Allow this practice to help you to begin to recognize that any negative payoff of holding onto your pain and misery you've been receiving will never lead you to happiness and peace within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

PRACTICE: Letting Go of Denial and Avoidance


Gently focus all of your attention upon any time you have slipped into denial or avoidance of any uncleared mental or emotional baggage from the past. Look deeply within the mirror of your mind and see whether you have engaged in pretending or not acknowledging a situation is there, and by doing so, just thought it would go away. Look deeper and see if you have engaged in drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs, gambling, excessive "comfort" eating, reckless spending on credit cards and/or other numbing behaviors to push away dealing with facing and letting go of your own baggage. You can't drop baggage when you deny that it exists. All the avoidance tactics and addictions you may have employed as coping devices to keep you from doing the work of dealing with the junk you've neatly stowed away in your subconscious will not keep it from permeating your entire life and impacting the people close to you. Let this practice help you to begin to recognize that denial and avoidance of facing and letting go of mental and emotional dead weight will never lead you to happiness and peace within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

PRACTICE: Letting Go of Blame, Victimhood and Martyrdom


Gently focus all of your attention upon any time you have not acknowledged your role in any situation from the past that has now become mental or emotional dead weight, and instead have chosen to blanket yourself in blame projection toward the other party/parties, "poor me" victimhood, or behaving like a martyr. Look deeply within the mirror of your mind and see whether you have engaged in thoughts of violent retaliation, a desire to punish or make others suffer endlessly regardless of whether they have some responsibility or connection with the past events, decided to punish yourself to manipulate the other party/parties with guilt in order to "make them pay somehow," etc. Although in most situations, the responsibility is spread across all involved, we are responsible for doing the work to facilitate our own recovery and healing. Who caused the problem is ultimately not as important as what you are going to do about it. Are you consciously choosing to live in pain and misery well after the event(s) have passed, regardless of whose fault it is, and allowing it to keep you forever bound in anger, hate, guilt-tripping, mind games and similar mental and emotional dead weight thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors? Let this practice help you to begin to recognize that choosing blame, victimhood, and/or martyrdom instead of facing and letting go of mental and emotional dead weight will never lead you to happiness and peace within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

PRACTICE: Letting Go of Wishful Thinking and False Hopes Gently focus all of your attention upon any time you have engaged in wishful thinking or held out false hopes for past situations and people to magically change in a way that benefits you, or suits your expectations. Look deeply within the mirror of your mind and see whether you have engaged in thoughts of simply and naively waiting for a better future to appear, or waited for someone else to “get it" while not dealing with all that has accumulated as mental and emotional dead weight in the mean time. Allow yourself to see that these behaviors can keep us stuck in fantasies and delusions for a very long time. Although it is fine to hold a sense of healthy and realistic hope and optimism about the future, letting go of wishing thinking for a different future to suddenly appear or "manifest" allows us to focus on being in the present and doing the inner work that is front of us here and now. Let this practice help you to begin to recognize that waiting for things to magically change in the future without lifting a finger in the present and not facing and letting go of mental and emotional dead weight will never lead you to happiness and peace within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

PRACTICE: Letting Go of Fear of Conflict and Self-Assertion


Gently focus all of your attention upon any time you have avoided conflict and confrontation out of fear and instead chose to run away and not stand up for yourself. Allow yourself to look deeply within the mirror of your mind and to understand that when faced with a stressful or provocative situation, people who fear conflict and confrontation often feel that expressing anger and asserting themselves means risking losing control, hurting someone else's feelings, or appearing to be a rude, unlikable, or "bad" person. By side-stepping healthy anger expression, conflict avoiders may suffer more than just frustration and resentment: feeling out of control, panic attacks, depression, submissiveness, headaches and chronic physical as well as mental and emotional pain often torments people who fear – and therefore avoid - expressing what they are feeling to another person in a conflicting or challenging situation. Are you consciously choosing to hold back and repress your feelings out of fear of conflict and self-assertion, and to live in pain and misery on a multitude of levels as you allow it to keep you forever bound in mental and emotional dead weight? Let this practice help you to begin to recognize that choosing to repress and retreat while you allow fear to rule you instead of facing the conflict and assertively yet calmly do what is necessary to assist you in finally letting go of mental and emotional dead weight will never lead you to happiness and peace within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

PRACTICE: Letting Go of the Fear of Change Gently focus all of your attention upon the dynamic of change and how it makes you feel. Change of all sorts is very scary and difficult for many people, and the tendency is to grasp onto what they know, even if it causes and perpetuates suffering. Allow yourself to look deeply within the mirror of your mind, and ask yourself if fear is holding you back from releasing your mental and emotional dead weight because the past is what you know. Look deeper and see if fear of mistrust of yourself and others, lack of confidence in your ability to create a new, healthier and more empowered life, and resistance and unwillingness to muster up the courage to do the inner work necessary and persevere through the discomfort of actualizing positive change is keeping you from taking necessary risks to grow, learn and change. The truth is you will face difficult challenges in the process – just like everyone else does. You may fall down, make mistakes, get hurt - and you will need to become radically self-honest about the impact of the thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors you have engaged in up until the present moment. This is a huge component of becoming Ethically Intelligent. No one said deliberately living consciously every single day, in every single situation, with eyes-wide-open authenticity and transparency is an easy path, but by facing your fear of change and deciding that you don't want it to run your life any longer and keep you marinating in pain and misery is the only way toward finding peace and happiness within. Extend forgiveness and self-compassion inwardly, and make a commitment to yourself to choose differently, and to release and empower yourself from your own self-created emotional and mental prison, with a greater sense of mindful determination, from this moment forward.

May you find the strength and courage within, and the support without to let go of any and all mental and emotional dead weight that is holding you back, and the time effort and energy you invest in yourself reveals a happier, more peaceful and empowered life that allows you to live by conscious, emotionally, socially and ethically intelligent example that in turn inspires others to do the same.

© 2020, Suzanne Matthiessen, innerevolution media. All rights reserved.

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Original Site Content ® 2001 - 2020, Suzanne Matthiessen/innerevolution media. All Rights reserved.

Please read the "Legal Stuff" and "Sharing Site Content" pages for your protection.