I don’t know about you, but this week has been a time when I’ve looked hard at some absolutes of my life that I had been tenaciously clinging to, and done a little second guessing. Which was a good thing, because those absolutes… they may have served me at some point, protected my younger, vulnerable self, but they’d certainly morphed into mal-adaptive coping mechanisms by this point. And so I’m glad to let them go. And in years past, I might have looked at this process as letting go of the past so I can be in the present, and I think that is a helpful way of seeing things… but this quote from Lao Tzu brings its own wisdom.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”-Lau Tzu
In a way, when I or anyone else cannot let go of the past, cannot let go of a way we coped with pain or trauma in the past… we are recreating that pain in the present. We are still coping with life as if the pain is present (whether or not we argue that it actually is). We are not leaving the past in the past. (And on the metaphysical level, we might be inviting similar situations to recreate our old pain in our present moment to keep it alive, and so our old coping mechanisms are surprisingly useful in those recreated situations.)
And yet, it is not at all useful to hear ‘just leave the past in the past.’ If that was a skill set the average human had, this world would be a very different place. Like it or lump it, we carry our pain with us wherever we go. Letting go of it is a process of attaining a deep sense of health that is in our bodies, but more than just our bodies. It is a process of healing that involves our souls and our minds as well.
And today, when I think about that quote from Lao Tzu, I’m thinking of all these negative assumptions, all of these old reactions of mine to the pain, fear, and trauma I’ve encountered, and I think, yes, when I let go of these negative ways I define myself, I really do become someone even more beautiful, someone even more quietly powerful, someone the likes of which I’ve imagined I might one day be.