Holding On by Letting Go

We can hold on to what’s most important by letting go of the little stuff. We can improve our relationships by learning to let go of the minor details. So often it boils down to the little pieces – how things get done, when things get done. We forget we can save energy and spare anger by trusting our partner.

This is particularly important when relationships start to falter: we’re on guard, defensive, and digging in to keep control. This is, however, when we gain the most from letting go, showing our partner we trust them and believe they are capable. This opens the door for the partner to achieve and excel. A win-win. By letting go of the little pieces, we can hold on to the big ones.

A while back, I was cooking with a friend to create some dishes for a potluck. In the flurry of activity, I was feeling out of control. I tried to snatch it back by micromanaging him toasting the slivered almonds. A brilliant physician, he can handle toasting almonds – and if he failed, I forgot, it wouldn’t really matter. Eventually, he looked at me, paused, and said, “I can toast almonds, I won’t burn them. Go take care of yourself.” Not only did I lose time I should have put to my own culinary tasks, I undermined the trust we had and revealed my doubt in his ability.

Control is the goal in micromanaging: with control, we feel relaxed because our world is predictable for the moment. When we lose it, our anxiety spikes. With our world in flux, exerting control when and where we can soothes us. Unfortunately, it is self-defeating because control inherently constrains others, which inevitably leads to conflict.

Trust is an antidote to our need for control. The more we trust, the less we depend on control. Trust takes practice, like letting go of control takes practice. And that practice is difficult. When we show trust, and reap the rewards, it becomes easier the next time. Less energy is lost trying to control and suffering the imagined consequences. As trust becomes stronger, the need to control is diminished, and the mutuality of a partnership is fortified.

Just as trust must be earned, it must be given – like so much in relationships, it is a reciprocal process. The trust one shows by letting go and allowing your partner to do on his own isn’t obvious, but it is essential. We see its importance most vividly in its absence, as our partners’ confidence fades. We undermine trust by giving unsolicited directions, and ‘suggesting’ our method — by controlling. The absence of trust is powerful and pervasive. Its toll is much greater than the cost of having something done well, if not ‘perfectly.’

This is one of those ‘wrongs’ that seems too minor to justify a ‘real’ grievance, so it often flies under the radar. It often seems ‘petty’ when we practice verbalizing it, so we let it slide. But, they fester and erode the trust and respect that form the foundation of a strong relationship. When we can let go of control and trust our partners, our partners feel empowered and reciprocally invested. We can hold on to what’s important by letting go.

You can learn to let go of control and re-build trust by calling me at 720-468-0676 to set up a free thirty-minute consultation. Read more about my practice at www.LeBauerCounseling.com