Learning to let go of bad habits, people who are holding you back, past traumatic experiences and much more is not an easy
task for anyone. This is stressful, often in the extreme. Therefore, mostpeople simply do not do it. They make
excuse after excuse as to why they should not change, rather than decide to confront the negative influences in their lives.
One way to encourage yourself to let go of your “baggage” is to imagine a metaphorical scenario of “letting go” to get the emotional feeling of what it is like when you do so. You can synthesize imaginary “experiences” in your mind. The human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and an experience that you imagine and visualize. Your nervous system reacts to what you think or imagine to be true.
Alfred Einstein created imaginary metaphorical scenarios to help him emotionally and physically experience the principles of the universe. Once he visualized himself walking alone down a street and “falling in love.” Two weeks later, he would imagine meeting the woman he fell in love with for the first time. How can you fall in love with someone before you meet them? This particular imaginary experience helped him to formulate his thoughts about acausality.
In another example, he pondered over the concept of time. What is time? How can time be understood as another dimension? This is how he described “time” to a group of reporters who had difficulty understanding his claim that “time” is the fourth dimension.
Imagine a scene in two dimensional space, for instance, the painting of a man reclining upon a bench. A tree stands behind the bench. Then imagine the man walks from the bench to a rock on the other side of the tree. He cannot reach the rock except by walking in back of the tree. This is impossible to do in
two-dimensional space. He can reach the rock only by an excursion into the third dimension. Now imagine another man sitting on the bench. How did the
other man get there? Since the two bodies cannot occupy the same place at the same time, he can only have reached there before or after the first man moved.
In other words, he must have moved in time. Time is the fourth dimension.
Once you’ve visualized this metaphoric scenario, you emotionally feel the experience of time as the fourth dimension in life. You can feel yourself experiencing the abstract notion of time without using words. What’s more you can relive the experience whenever you choose to do so.
Metaphoric scenarios are also excellent tools to facilitate behavioral and cognitive changes. Suppose you have experienced some traumatic experiences in your past that you can’t seem to forget. Intellectually, you know that reliving these things over and over prevent you from moving forward toward your goals and desires. They produce apathy, helplessness, a feeling of inadequacy, a negative energy. You want to truly “let go” of these experiences. You need to stop constantly thinking about them and get on with your life.
Take a few moments and try the following thought experiment.
THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Take a moment, relax, breathe deeply and imagine you are a mountain climber. Visualize how you look dressed in your
mountain climbing gear.
You are climbing one of the largest mountains in the world and are very close to reaching the peak. This is a goal you’ve had all your life. You’ve prepared yourself physically and mentally to reach this goal by constant training for years. You feel strong and great. You are about to begin the final stretch to the peak, when you decide to rest on a small ledge which juts out about three feet from the mountain. There is a sheer vertical drop beneath the ledge. You fasten yourself securely to the ledge.
You see another climber approaching you from below. Eventually he reaches the ledge. He lifts himself up and sits down next to you on the ledge. “Wow,” he says, looking over the edge, “It’s a long way down.” He’s wearing a rope tied around his waist and holds the loose end in his hands. He holds out the end of the rope and says, “Take this. Hold it tight and whatever you do, don’t let go.”
You take the rope and, to your surprise the man stands up and jumps over the side of the ledge yelling, “Don’t let go! I’ll fall thousands of feet if you do.” You hold on with all your strength. The man is suspended over the ledge, and sure to die if he fell.
You try to pull him up but he is too heavy. You offer suggestions about how he could climb back up the rope hand over hand. The man shouts back, “Hold on. Don’t let go. If you let go, I’ll die.” You tug and pull but nothing works. The afternoon is beginning to fade. It’s getting colder and the wind is blowing harder. You have to do something, otherwise you’ll not reach the peak which you can see through the mist and clouds.
You think of a way the man can wrap the rope around himself and eventually pull himself up and shout the instructions. The man replies, “No, please, please don’t let go. I’ll fall to my death if you do.”
You coax, wheedle, scream, and yell at the climber all to no avail. You realize you are running out of time, and if you don’t do something, you will not reach the mountain peak. Finally, in desperation you shout the instructions one more time and say, “If you don’t do this, I’m going to let go of the rope.”
The man responded, “No, No, please hold on. If you let go, I’ll die. Just hang on tight.”
You let go of the rope and climb to the peak of the mountain.
Now, take a moment, and think about the scenario. What is it in your life that you are holding on to that is represented by the climber? What is it that you are holding on to so tightly that it is keeping you from getting on with your life? Think about that thing at the end of the rope and think about what it would mean to let go of it? Was it worth staying stuck in order to keep that thing at the end of the rope alive? What really would happen if you let go of it?
Once you can imagine yourself letting go of the climber, you feel a tremendous emotion. The power of metaphors lies in the fact that they speak in the more primary process of the unconscious mind. Metaphors encourage unconscious processing of information. This will make it easier for you to really “let go” of your fears and past traumatic experiences by visualizing this story over and over.