Why letting go is so damn hard (and what to do about it)
I think every person who struggles with insomnia or anxiety in general will agree – it’s not easy to let go of trying to control the situation. In fact, the whole “surrender“ venture feels illogical when there seems to be an obvious problem that needs to be solved.
But as we talked in the previous letters, when it comes to things we don’t control, such as sleep, emotions or worrisome thoughts, actively trying to problem-solve these things eventually becomes THE problem.
Thanks for reading Sleep Talks Letters! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
While letting go might feel counterintuitive as opposed to applying effort to solve the problem, as such, it is not unnatural. Look at the nature: does water need to control its path to get where it needs to get? Does a sprout need special techniques to get through concrete?
Effortlessness is something we subconsciously are attracted to, but due to the nature of our minds that are super powerful problem-solving machines, effortlessness makes our minds sweat.
And since the control-seeking mind has been running the show for the biggest part of our lives, it is going to be confused when it faces the situation that requires no efforts.
Often people write to me: “Last night was terrible. I went to bed feeling the dread and I tried to let go but the fear stayed there. I simply can’t do it! Am I doomed? Are there any techniques for it?“
I completely understand their frustration from not being able to stop trying to control the outcome. And in hopes to bring you some relief, I want to say this:
No one knows how to let go, for the most part of the journey.
I haven’t seen a person who would instantly surrender and relax into the uncertainty. I’m not saying such people don’t exist, but for the rest of us, the “unenlightened“ ones, letting go is a really, really tough thing. Not because we are incapable or broken but because we haven’t been yet presented with enough opportunities to practice the art of letting go.
It’s like learning a skill. Those who remember their first attempts to learn to ride a bike will know what I’m talking about. For cycling to become effortless and natural we needed to spend some time getting to know the bike, how it behaves on the road, how to keep balance and so on. And at first it was hard to trust it.
It is very similar to learning to let go of trying to control. To truly understand how to do it, we need to go through the up-and-down process of not being able to let go of control. On other words, it is expected that you will not be able to let go at first.
Don't beat yourself up for struggling with surrendering – it's completely normal to suck at it at first. Why not give yourself permission to not be good at it and take the pressure off? It can actually make it easier to let go because you won't be held back by the need to be perfect right away.
By allowing yourself to not be good at something, you can lower the barriers to practicing it. Surrender is a process that takes time and practice in order to become a natural state. So, keep at it and don't worry about being perfect from the start. No one is.
Hi Alina, would an example of trying to control sleep be trying to sleep in a different position if I wake up wide awake in my current position? I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I don’t change positions because I read most people change positions several times throughout the night. I am comfortable lying on back but can’t sleep through the night right now. Would this be because I’m not turning over to another position or that sleep is just not there right now? Thank you