Four Reasons We Resist Letting Go

butterflies - reasons we resist letting go

Why do we resist letting go of unhealthy, or disordered, attachments? What happens inside us that makes us hang on for dear life, even when hanging on is hurting us? Here are some ideas.

  • I resist letting go because, at some level, letting go feels like failure. I don’t want to admit defeat—that I can’t finish a project well, that the relationship is never going to work, that I can’t change a situation no matter how much I want to. Have you ever noticed that we don’t get rewards for failing? People may praise us for working ourselves into ulcers, but they can fall ominously quiet when we decide to cut back our hours in order to live better.
  • I resist letting go because I haven’t found an alternative to this unhealthy attachment. Until I find a new reward, I will keep using cupcakes and cappuccinos. It’s that simple. Detachment leaves a void. If I can’t be at peace with my own company, then of course I’ll grit my teeth and stay in a bad relationship—or I’ll replace it with another relationship right away, which often becomes a mere extension of the last one.
  • I resist letting go because I have become accustomed to this emotional pattern. Time to get honest: Do I thrive on being in survival mode? Am I addicted to a cycle of despair-immobility-hyperactivity-relief? Do I allow my life to get super messy because after a few weeks it feels so good to do a big sort-and-pitch? Do I drag my significant other into an argument because that’s the only way I can work myself into a good cry and then feel better?
  • I resist letting go because I don’t want to face my root problems. Psychologist M. Scott Peck once said that, “almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. . . . We attempt to get out of them rather than suffer through them” (The Road Less Traveled). Hanging on to a disordered attachment is a form of spiritual/mental/emotional procrastination.

I’d love to hear what you think of all this!

About Vinita Hampton Wright 67 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

24 Comments on Four Reasons We Resist Letting Go

  1. Hmm. I don’t know the answers but it also never occurred to me to ask the question: Why do you hang on to things that create issues? Need to think on this …

  2. I am attached to a friendship that seems to be one sided. I am the one that keeps sending text messages, whatsups, always wondering what will happen if I just simply stop sending messages and stop being the one calling all the time.
    The love is there for my friend but the reciprocity from the other side is unknown.

  3. What do we do Vinita when someone very close to us refuses to face up to their root problem, subsequently preventing us from pursuing the growth of our spiritual relationship to God? We all know what his root problem is, and I suspect he does too, but this procrastination has cost us dearly, both monetarily and psychically. I am close sometimes to losing my ability to trust in God to do something about this. I am hamstrung and unable to effect any change in him in this regard. God does not seem to be listening to my cries for help. “thy will be done” seems to be a hollow belief these days, as His will is so unknowable to me. I am at a loss, and my spiritual life has gone almost kaput. Praying is all I can do, but I feel that I am wasting my time, as God will do what He will do in His time. So, do I have a disordered attachment to this chaos? Is helplessness another attachment to cling to? I’ve acted on one decision to pursue life more on my own terms, but every time I try to implement what it takes to do so, I do it knowing that it is an isolating mechanism rather than something that will bring us closer to one another. It saddens me that it has come to this. Which of us has the greater disordered attachment? And how do we help others get over theirs?

    • I suspect you are talking about an addiction issue – drugs, alcohol, gambling etc. Please explore AlAnon – 12 Step program. You will find joyous freedom from your bondage. Millions have. By the grace of God.

    • I agree with Susan. Sometimes we need to seek professional help for a specific problem. Please don’t hesitate to find what you need. Peace to you,
      Vinita

  4. VILMI
    I had a friend wh o similarly left all the contacting to me. After knowing each other for 10 years I decided the last time we met that she must be the one to make contact ” the next time”. She did not. She would readily agree that she was hopeless at keeping in touch with people. She was a nice , sincere lady, but I have always felt a relationship with anyone has got to be a two-way thing and that I would not be the one who was making the effort. She has never bothered since nor have I .

    • This is really tough, but I do think we must be free to let go of anything if God is asking us to do this. Jesus was clear that we must love God more than even family. We must be careful in how we interpret that. Divorce is a critical life change–or, if not divorce, then separation from a person. We need wise counselors, much prayer and discernment in a marriage situation that seems to be tearing us away from God. I do believe that God leads us out of relationships sometimes, even marriages. HOWEVER, especially in U.S. culture, we are quick to place the problem on a relationship when often the real issue is within. It can seem that changing relationships will make the bad stuff go away, but what if the bad stuff we’re attached to is in our own mind and heart? Some people change relationships, jobs, homes, and cities, only to discover that the same harmful attachment is still around because it was always more about the interior life than it was about the exterior life. Does this make sense? I cannot advise you because I am not a counselor, and this site is not for counseling. But I’m trying to help you consider the possibilities. Peace to you.

  5. Someone once told me that Americans were a culture of disposables. Not so we are a culture of attachements! We attach to the here and now so fiercely we lose track of the true reward that awaits us if we renounce all and give ourselves completely to the mercy of God. It is true I think that the fear of failure is a main driver… I had not thought of it that way…apply scientific methods, every experiment provides a lesson … no experiment is a failure… we are never a failure in the eyes of God.

  6. I have been resisting because I really addicted to suffering. Now I can realize that in my life I always take the worst – a husband, a friend, a dress, whatever. Suffering is a very serious addiction. I consider myself a very religious person, but I am not. Actually I have been telling lies to God, as if it were possible. I begged for the worst. I fought to get the worst. God heals my self imposed wounds.
    I lost everything: dignity, honor, money, work and my daughter is my provider. Now I know what means “resist letting go”.
    A warning to readers: enjoy life, accept the best , the dignity, the respect and live life with joy, because time runs so fast and you have only one life to live in this planet.

    • Thanks for your honesty. I don’t think you’re alone in being addicted to suffering. It’s so easy for us to get into a victim mentality and suffer unnecessarily. Jesus offers abundance, but do we want it? Would we rather stay comfortable in our misery, just because we’re used to it? Thank you for posting about this very difficult subject.

  7. I also identify with each of your categories, in particular the last one. Deeply engrained habits are especially difficult to shed. From a different vantage point, perhaps they make up part of the cross I bear as well as that part of me that I must deny.

    • I do consider these growing processes an aspect of our cross. Good change is costly, and I believe that God loves our struggling and desiring to grow and waits for us with mercy and infinite patience.

  8. I spent many, many years living and working going through Crises after crises. When most of it was coming to an end(Many years ago) I did wonder if I had become addicted to this and would I survive without all the hype… Believe me when I say that it was wonderful to live in Peace. It didn’t happen overnight and took a lot of forgiving NOT forgetting. It can be done. However now I am worrying about my sons and daughter and their Families ,I have put it in the hands of our Blessed Lord ; the Sacred Three Plus Mary our Mother. One can’t solve all the troubles Letting go ! sometimes very easy other times very hard.If you can’t actually do anything to help, just let it go to God!

    • It can take a long time and process to let go, especially of patterns we have been building for years. Bless you for sticking with it and making healthy change in your life!

  9. I believe letting go is a process. But is there anything like a re- lapse? N are the reasons the same as above? Thanks Vinita n everyone for your sharing.

    • Of course we relapse! That’s why we are converted every day. That’s why we go to the Table for our sustenance. That’s why the Old Testament prophet tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning!

  10. I suspect in all of our lives there are all kinds of things that we need to let go of and move forward.The sufferings imposed on us by others or at times by ourselves. The crisis sudden illnesses which can accompany ourselves or those we love.
    In this year of mercy it we can cry out to God and His Mother for mercy in our own lives and grace to extend it to others. As already said seeking all or any professional help we may need for our particular situation. At times a listening ear can be just the help we need. Norah ❤

  11. I just read your article about resistance to letting go. I think that people are afraid to let go because they ‘know’ the pain they are experiencing but are afraid to trade the pain for something else, even if it means finding comfort. They become so mired in their own quicksand that they are fearful of the unknown. My son was an addict who was too afraid to change. He lacked enough self confidence to find a way out of his addiction. I wish I had recognized the grace that God sent my way ( and his) to get thru. That grace was recognized only after he died of an overdose. God was present to us both throughout the heartache, and remains steadfast with me today. I am so grateful for His comfort.

  12. Letting go? I have been a widow for 3 years now. I still feel very much married and in live with my wife. Each day she is in my mind and prayers. I have so much of her puctures, music we listened to, her cremains in my room, and an endless list of beautiful memories together. How do you wake up one day and decide to just let go? The recent Vatican decree on cremation has complicated this ‘letting go to receive God’s loving graces’ makes this more difficult for me.

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