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The Night I Learned to Let Go
How to let go of your attachment to dark memories
A while ago I did something I’m not proud of.
My two year old son, Ronnie, is a terrible sleeper. Even for a two year old.
Four times a week, he wakes up at 1am and won’t go back to sleep — no matter how hard we try.
We tried putting a double bed in his room so I could alongside him. It’s better, but still not great.
A few months ago, shortly after adding the double bed, I was asleep next to him and he woke up at 1am. I was extremely tired, after returning home from a multi-day trip to London.
He immediately starts jumping on the bed.
Then on my back.
And before I’m aware of my actions, I quickly jumped up in anger. Ronnie flys off the back of the bed and onto the floor.
He cried his eyes out for ten minutes. While I descended from the best Daddy to the worst.
Why am I telling you this?
I no longer react (at all) when he wakes at 1am — I’m very calm
Reliving that moment used to fill me with deep pain — it no longer does
The reason both of the above are true is due to something I learned from Michael Singer — the ability to let things go.
I’ll handle point one first.
Every time Ronnie wakes up, and I sense anger arising within me, I repeat the words “I can handle this” over and over again (silently in my head).
Why am I doing this?
It distracts me away from the anger
It conditions my mind that I can handle him waking up at 1am
This has worked so well for me that it’s scarcely believable.
I no longer get angry when he wakes up. In fact, I’m (mostly) extremely calm and therefore have been able to find ways to get him back to sleep without upsetting either of us.
I recommend spending five minutes at the beginning and end of each day repeating the words “I can handle this” (silently in your head) as a practice for when frustrating moments happen in your life.
Okay, let’s chat about point 2 (the most important part)
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How to release your attachment to past memories
The idea of how Ronnie must have felt being thrown from bed by his one and only Daddy, filled me with so much pain in the past few months I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it.
But here were are.
I’m writing about it now without a moment of hesitation. Without a seed of pain. Without the dagger like feeling of guilt coursing through me.
How is that possible?
Have I become a sociopath?
Do I no longer care about Ronnie, or the incident?
Neither are true.
Here’s what happened: I released my attachment to the memory.
For months, I’ve relived the moment I threw him from the bed. And every time I did I felt deep pain in my heart, and then I automatically tried to repress the feeling.
Repressing it worked.
Or so I thought.
It worked for a short while. But all it did was bury that memory, and associated emotions, back inside of myself.
Which is why it continued to reoccur.
And every time it did, I felt the same pain, the same heart ache and vision of Ronnie crying that night.
Then I realised something: If using the words “I can handle this” trained me to handle him waking up at 1am, could doing the same work every time the memory came back up?
I was driving back from a cricket match on Saturday evening when the memory and emotion came back with a vengeance.
I’d never felt the emotion so strongly.
But the moment I noticed it I started to repeat the words “I can handle this” in my head.
I didn’t stop for five minutes.
All the while, the memory and emotions continued to wreak havoc — but I didn’t get involved with them. I didn’t try to repress them. I didn’t try to get into them to figure them out. I didn’t try to find a logical reason why it’s ok to feel that way. Or try to change the memory in an effort to twist the past and forget what I’d done.
No, this time I just let the memory play out.
After five minutes I not only felt relief, I felt a release of energy that brought a smile to my face.
Had I just released my attachment to this memory?
Three days later, I’m sure it’s released — otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write this.
Why this matters for ADHD?
Because if Gabor Maté is correct, that ADHD is linked to trauma, then our ability to release past memories that reak havoc should also help us release the stranglehold ADHD can have on us.
My mind is busy because it’s trying to push all the darker, more painful, memories and emotions down below the surface.
My mind became less busy after releasing my attachment to the regretful thing I did to Ronnie.
I’m not proud of what I did. It was awful.
But I’m no longer haunted by it. And I believe that it not only makes me a happier person, it also helps me be a better parent to my son.
Have you had any experiences like this? I’d love to hear from you if you have.