Letting go of thoughts that bother you doesn’t always have to involve self-talk. In my clinical work with clients I tend to prefer a variety of experiential approaches. Here’s a simple experiential technique of how to literally let go of the tension that comes with the rumination. I first described this in my 2010 book, Present Perfect, but I’ve been using it for years and my clients seem to always like it.
When wanting to let go, try this. Think of the worst part of what happened. As you do, clench your fist as tightly as you can. Notice the tension. Think of this as the tension of holding on to the past. Recognize that you have a choice right now: you can stay tense or you can let go. Decide if you want to hold on to the thought about what happened or if you are ready to let go of it. When you decide to let go, gradually open your fist to drop the issue. Notice the release of the tension. If the thought still has hold on you, repeat until it doesn’t. If what happened bothers you in more than one way, think of the next worst part. Repeat the sequence.
This simple letting-go technique builds on a couple of old psychological methods such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and exposure-based response prevention (ERP). But unlike the classic PMR and ERP (which can take up a lot of time) this hand-opening/mind-opening technique is a kind of coping short-cut. And this on-the-go simplicity is coping power.
In sum, open your hand to open your mind.
Adapted from Present Pefect: a Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need to Control (New Harbinger, Somov, 2010)
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Last reviewed: 7 Sep 2012