The popular quote “If you love something, let it go” has become a widely embraced tenet for relationships and life. Though its exact origins are unknown, this quote has been repeated throughout history across cultures and philosophical traditions. It encourages non-attachment, surrender, and being in harmony with the natural flow of life.
At first, the notion of letting go of something you love can seem counterintuitive. Why would we let go of something that brings us joy and meaning? Yet within this simple quote lies a profound message – by releasing attachment, we allow for self-determination and new possibilities to unfold.
The Roots of the Saying, “If You Love Something, Let It Go”
The essence of “letting go” has roots across philosophical and spiritual traditions. Buddhism emphasizes non-attachment and aligning with the impermanent nature of all things. Christianity discusses surrendering earthly desires to seek higher spirituality.
Letting go is also a theme in tragic love stories and myths. Think of Romeo and Juliet being unable to let go of their families’ feud, or Orpheus being unable to let go of his desire to reunite with his deceased love Eurydice. These stories reveal how clinging to desire can lead to suffering.
By releasing control and expectations, we open ourselves up to life’s unknown possibilities. Letting go is an act of faith in something larger than our individual wishes. This timeless quote reminds us that true love also means allowing those we care about the freedom to chart their own path.
Why We Resist Letting Go
Yet putting such wisdom into practice is much easier said than done. Human nature makes us resist change and cling to the familiar. Our brains are wired to crave certainty – the primitive parts activate fear and anxiety when the outcome is uncertain.
Relationships also activate powerful neurochemicals that reinforce attachment. Our brains release oxytocin, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals when we’re with someone we love. These neurotransmitters wire the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits to crave togetherness.
So when it comes time to let go, it can feel like going through drug withdrawal. Our brains desperately miss those chemicals lost through separation. Evolutionarily, these attachments increased the chances of survival. But today, they make endings excruciating.
We also tend to romanticize love and relationships with unrealistic expectations. The magic of falling in love creates rose-colored glasses blinding us to compatibility issues and flags. We fantasize the honeymoon phase will last rather than embracing natural ebbs and flows.
By better understanding the science behind attachment, we can view painful endings through a lens of logic rather than just emotion. We are all vulnerable to getting attached. The struggle of letting go is part of the shared human experience.
Knowing When It’s Time to Let Go
Endings often come after warnings and red flags we try to ignore. But there are some clear signs indicating it may be time to let go:
- The relationship becomes unhealthy or abusive. Letting go then becomes vital for self-preservation and growth. Don’t stay hoping things will improve without commitment to real change.
- The relationship feels stagnant instead of life-giving. Letting go can create space for both people to mature and evolve into better versions of themselves.
- You’ve lost yourself in the relationship. Letting go helps you reconnect with your own identity, interests, friends, and goals versus just following your partner’s path.
- One or both of you want fundamentally different things from life. Letting go allows both people to seek more compatible relationships aligned with their long-term visions.
- The relationship holds you back instead of fueling your growth. Letting go makes space for new opportunities and adventures.
- Overall, there is more pain than joy, more negativity than positivity. Letting go refuses to settle for less than you deserve.
Of course, working through issues is worthwhile if both people are fully committed. But staying when you’re fundamentally unhappy just wastes valuable time. Have courage to acknowledge when something has run its course.
Letting Go in a Healthy Way
True letting go is not ghosting or turning off feelings like a switch. It’s reclaiming your hand in shaping your life’s direction. Here are some tips for letting go gracefully:
- Letting go doesn’t mean you stop caring about that person altogether. Feelings naturally fade over time and distance.
- Give yourself ample space and time to fully process the emotional loss. Feeling the pain is part of the therapeutic release.
- Lean on trusted friends and family for support but don’t overburden them. Seek professional help from a therapist if needed.
- Write a letter expressing everything you need to say. Don’t send it, but find closure.
- Remove them from social media contacts to avoid constant reminders and temptation to reconnect before you’re ready.
- Immerse yourself in people, activities, and hobbies that bring you genuine happiness, growth, and meaning.
- Be patient with yourself through emotional ups and downs. Change is a process, not an event. Let it unfold naturally.
By taking care of yourself first, you heal in a healthy way, not a resentful way. You regain power over your inner world, which no one can take away.
The Rewards of Letting Go
While letting go feels difficult in the moment, it bears sweet fruits:
- It creates space for relationships and situations better aligned with who you are now and want to become. Don’t cling to anything that dims your light.
- You reclaim mental and emotional energy once drained by an unfulfilling relationship. Your creativity and passion flourish with renewed clarity.
- Letting go provides needed space for self-reflection and diving fully into your own goals and personal development.
- You reclaim parts of your identity, confidence, strength, and sense of freedom that may have gotten lost over time.
- You feel more in control of your life path, rather than just going with the flow. You’re the pilot charting your course now.
- Weathering the storm of change builds resilience and wisdom. You gain courage to handle life’s uncertainties moving forward.
- Releasing expectations about people and situations anchors you more firmly in the present. You learn to seize each day as its own adventure.
As Seneca said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Trust in your own strength and in the unknown. The next beautiful chapter awaits.
To summarize, letting go of someone or something you truly care for can be excruciatingly difficult. But once you accept that change is necessary for growth, you’ll discover freedom on the other side.
Having faith that ending something today allows better matches and experiences to enter tomorrow is the essence of “If you love something, let it go.” Put this wisdom into practice, and you will thrive.