How does letting go actually work?

The short answer is that it happens in several ways which I will describe in ‘The Power of Letting Go’. (Jacq Burns has been editing it.) In the meantime, here is a particularly interesting technique which anyone can use. David R. Hawkins M.D., Ph.D. (see photo) was a psychiatrist who wrote ‘Letting Go – the Pathway of Surrender’, published by Hay House. Chapter 2 is called ‘The Mechanism of Letting Go’, in which he says:

* “It is not thoughts or facts that are painful but the feelings that accompany them.”
* “It is the accumulated pressure of feelings that causes thoughts.” (One feeling can cause thousands of thoughts.)
* “Therefore, when we relinquish or let go of a feeling, we are freeing ourselves from all the associated thoughts.”

He then goes on to describe how most of us handle feelings, through suppression, repression and escape. None of them solves the underlying problem. Here is his solution:

“The technique is to be with the feeling and surrender all efforts to modify it in any way.” “A feeling that is not resisted will disappear as the energy behind it dissipates.”

As usual, I have been experimenting on myself. I have noticed that, if I am feeling unhappy about something that has happened – or not happened – I usually respond in one of two ways: (a) I suppress the feeling and try to focus on something positive; (b) I try to escape the feeling by taking lots of action. That includes taking action to try to address what I perceive to be the external cause of the unhappiness. The problem is that I still feel bad inside, which generates lots of unhelpful thoughts.
Whenever I notice what is happening, I stop, sit down, close my eyes and feel the feeling, without judging it, labelling it, or trying to do anything else about it. I simply feel it for as long as it takes, which is often a minute or two, but could be longer in some cases.

Afterwards, I usually feel lighter. There are fewer thoughts, particularly negative ones. Sometimes I have ideas about new possibilities. I feel a lot better.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. All comments / feedback welcome.

16 Comments » for How does letting go actually work?
  1. Dan Belloso says:

    I see the need to letting go in our extremely hectic lifestyles. I see that at work, society and even geopolitics. This powerful concept may not be new but is particularly needed nowadays. Stop and letting go may be a good way to progress.

  2. Conor Neill says:

    Just read the book! was searching for some more material online, and your blog popped up. Great to read, thanks for sharing.

  3. Aaron Keeney says:

    I have read the book & used the techniques myself. What I don’t understand is he talks about people surrendering to the sensations of bad symptoms & they eventually went away, but how does that work with positive good sensations or things? If I surrender to the feeling of health or strong muscles does it go away? If not why not?

    • John Purkiss says:

      Hello Aaron – David Hawkins is no longer ‘in the body’, so we can’t ask him. However, my understanding is that we should let all sensations pass through us unhindered. It’s unhelpful to cling to the sensation of good health or strong muscles. We can then keep doing what’s required to remain healthy and strong.

  4. Zaks says:

    Does anyone know of a practioner in the tri state area that practices the surrender / letting go methodology?

  5. Martyna says:

    I have just finished reading the book “the power of letting go” for the first time.
    I have a few questions.

    is the key technique about listening to the feelings, hearing them, feeling them and surrendering. Without trying to understand or visualising what may be happening or seeking the cause?
    Should we do than anything else? When the feeling is gone, should we try to understand it intellectually?


    • John Purkiss says:

      Hello Martyna – in The Power of Letting Go I’ve broken the process down into three stages: (1) Observing our thoughts and letting them go, (2) Feeling the pain which generates thousands of thoughts, and letting it go (the completion technique), (3) Surrender, which is when we let go completely.

      There’s no need to understand what’s going on. All you need to do is visualise what happened, and feel the feelings that accompanied it. There’s no need to look for a cause. What happened happened. Once you’re complete/whole, you can get on with your life.

      There’s no need to understand the feeling intellectually. In fact, if you’ve used the completion technique thoroughly, you may have difficulty remembering what it was that used to cause you so much pain. In my case, events in the past are like books in a library. I can go into the library and take a book off the shelf from time to time, but the event it describes no longer runs my life.

      Once you’ve let go completely you’re ready to start manifesting what you want in life. Please send me a message via this website if you want to know more about that.

  6. Derrick says:

    Hello John! I really enjoyed reading your article. Would you please explain to me a few things
    about the process though?

    1. Do i need to get to my thoughts that generate negative feelings first? Do i need to go thru every single thought that relates to a certain subject? I also noticed that you said that we have to let go of our negative thoughts that relate to a certain negative situation in our life, but how do i let these negative thoughts go? What exactly should i do with them?

    2. Do i need to just focus on the negative feelings and basically focus as much as possible until they will go away?

    3. Do i need to do everything separately like first i need to focus on a certain thought, let it go, focus on emotion, let the emotion go, then get to another thought that relates to the same subject, let it go, etc etc.. or do i need to go thru all my thoughts about a certain subject, let all of them go and focus on the feelings?

    Thank you!

    • John Purkiss says:

      Thanks Derrick

      1) It’s the negative feelings that give rise to negative thoughts. As David Hawkins says, “It is the accumulated pressure of feelings that causes thoughts.” (One feeling can cause thousands of thoughts.) I recommend you turn inwards and scan your body until you find the negative feeling. It could be a feeling about a particular event, or a more general negative feeling. If you relax and listen to the negative thoughts, it will help you to find the negative feeling that’s causing them.

      2) You don’t need to focus on the negative feelings intensely. Just rest your attention and feel them fully. If you do this patiently, the negative feeling will begin to subside. It may require several sessions. It’s very much like grieving. If you allow yourself to feel the pain from beginning to end, it eventually leaves your body.

      3) You don’t need to focus on any thoughts. Just notice them coming and going. Then look for the pain which is causing negative thoughts and feel it from beginning to end (as above).

      If you do this, you will notice that your mind becomes quieter. You will still have thoughts, but they are likely to be positive, creative ones.

      I hope this helps you


      • Derrick says:

        Thank you so much for your response!

        What do you think is the best way to do it? Should i do this every time i feel negative emotions? Like let’s say that i started to feel negative by thinking about something on the while going to the shop. Should i basically focus on the feelings no matter where i am or just spare sometime like 30 mins a day and do this at home? Or it doesn’t matter at all?

        Also, i noticed that i started to feel negative in general. Is it because i started to practice this technique and my negative feelings started to show up?

        Once again, thank you for your information! It’s very helpful.

        • John Purkiss says:

          Hello Derrick – you don’t need to spend 30 minutes at a time on it. I do two things: (1) If I’m feeling negative, I stop what I’m doing, sit down, close my eyes and look inside myself to find the pain (which is always located somewhere in my body). I then place my attention on the pain, without judging it, suppressing it or trying to avoid it. I keep doing this for 1-5 minutes. (2) I sometimes do the same exercise for longer periods at home, particularly before going to bed. I feel much better afterwards. If more and more negative feelings come up, I regard that as helpful. They’re leaving my system. I feel them and let them go. You can read more about this in my book, ‘The Power of Letting Go’:

  7. Ramon says:

    Hello John,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the technique.

    After listening to Dr. Hawkins book twice, I still had the annoying feeling of not really grasping the meaning of letting go.

    Your shared experience has helped me clarify my doubts.

    Warmest regards.

  8. Jade says:

    Hi John,

    How you’re well 🙂

    I’ve just read your blog and found it really helpful in terms of how you simplify / break down the technique.

    I did have a couple of questions that I was hoping you could help me with …

    My mind is so used to shutting down currently programmed in a way that when I have a negative thought – I sometimes find it hard to actually identify the feeling itself.

    I do stop and go inward and ask myself how this makes me feel but a common feeling that comes up is “fear”. Should I just go with that? Or dig deeper to really identify the feeling …

    I’m probably over thinking it but an example of this would be – “you are not good enough … you’re never going to get that career you want… oh here are those thoughts again” etc etc. I’m so used to that dialogue that I do struggle to identify what the underlying feeling is.

    I’d also love your thoughts on this – when you “let go” – what does this look like? Are you visualizing releasing the feeling? Are you saying to yourself let go? Are you imagining the feeling disappearing? Or is it just happening organically ?

    I hope that all makes sense !

    Thanks in advance for your help. X

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