By Dr. Ken Larsen
This is one technic for catching monkeys. Hollow out a large gourd, leaving a small opening at one end. Inside the gourd put a piece of fruit that monkeys like a lot. Then anchor the gourd securely and move on out of sight. Soon, a monkey will come along to check out the gourd. Finding the tempting piece of fruit inside, he reaches in and tries to pull it out. But the opening in the gourd is just big enough to get his hand in. Once he grasps the fruit inside, his hand is just too large to pull back out of the opening. Not wanting to let go of the fruit, the monkey is trapped with his hand in the gourd.
I wonder how often we grab and hold on to something that we think we want and need in spite of the harm it’s doing to us.
Some of the more destructive things we habitually hold on to are resentments. Something happened to us in the past that was harmful or hurtful. Sometimes the memories of these hurtful events haunt us and we play them again. There are many reasons for “playing the old tapes” and none of them are good. Each time we revisit those old resentments, the old feelings come back. We need to let go. Forgive the offender and make a conscious choice not to linger in those painful past places. It takes some effort to do this, but life today will be better if we let the past stay past.
All too often the psychic/emotional pain caused by re- feeling these resentments leads us to looking for relief in a behavior or substance. We feel bad and want to feel good and the cycle of resentment and pain can lead us to some wrong places to find the good feelings we want so badly. Those “wrong places, can be behaviors or substances that are addictive. We cycle from feeling bad to trying to feel good only to come back to feeling bad. We are stuck and don’t know how to let go.
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between a true addiction and just a bad habit. The one distinguishing characteristic that answers the question for me is “use despite harm.” If we’re doing something or using something and it’s doing us harm and we can’t just stop, I think “addiction”.
“Use despite harm” can cover behaviors, substances, even certain relationships. The key to letting go is to recognize that we are holding on to something that is harmful to us and then getting the help and support we need to let go and get free.