One of the hardest things to let go of is the way we want things to be.
We have fantasies of how our lives could be like, what we could be like as people, what other people should be like, what the world should be like.
These are fantasies, but we rarely recognize them as such. And so it’s hard to let them go, because we want them so. But in truth, these fantasies are hurting us.
- Example: I wish I had more muscles and less fat. But: This might happen eventually, but the truth is, at this point it’s just something I fantasize about. The fantasy isn’t important, it’s just something I want. And not having the perfect body is making me feel bad about myself, as I am right now.
- Example: I wish my kids would learn to clean up after themselves. But: Sure, they might, and maybe they should. But what does should mean? It just means I wish it would be that way. A fantasy. Anytime we hear the word should, we should recognize that as fantasy. And in this case, the fantasy is causing me to be less happy with my kids as they are right now.
- Example: I wish my day would be slow-paced, with no interruptions, no distractions, no clutter, no rush. But: Of course, I can make it that way, partly, but there will always be interruptions unless I’m on a mountain with no one else and no electronics. Even then, a bear might interrupt me. Point is, it’s a fantasy. And the fantasy is making me frustrated with how things are.
- Example: You might wish your wife would be more lustful towards you, or your husband would be happy with the level of lustfulness you have for him. But: While these are definitely things to discuss with your significant other, in truth, it’s a fantasy. You wish things were different. You’re unhappy with your spouse.
Fantasies aren’t necessarily things that will never come true. They might, but that’s not the point. They’re things that we wish would be true. And we hold onto these wishes, these fantasies. And the fantasies hurt us: they cause us frustration, anger, anxiety and disappointment when we can’t get them.
So how do we let go?
- Recognize when you’re having a fantasy. If you’re telling yourself “should,” or wishing people would be different, or are frustrated or stressed out … you’re having a fantasy. Turn inward and see what story you’re telling yourself about how things should be or how you wish they were.
- See that the fantasy is hurting you. If you’re frustrated or angry, it’s because you wish things (or other people) were different. It’s because of the fantasy, the story you are telling yourself. See that this is making you less happy, and is hurting your relationship with other people. Wishing things or people were different isn’t helpful if it’s hurting you. It’s not a useful tool in this case.
- Turn to the reality in front of you, with curiosity. Really try to see the reality, without the filter of the story or fantasy. See it as it is, without judgment. See if you can appreciate it as it is. Appreciate the beauty of it all, as messy as it might be. Be grateful you can experience it. That includes everyone around you, as they are. That includes you, as you are.
- Act as if you didn’t have the stories. You might still be holding onto them somewhere inside you, but for now, try acting as if you were free of the fantasies. Breathe, and release. Smile, and be grateful for what is. Learn to love yourself, others, and all that’s around, as it is right now, without fantasies, without wishing things were different.
If someone else is acting a certain way, is that good or bad? It’s only bad if we wished they would act differently. So tell yourself, “She’s acting exactly as she should, given who she is and her circumstances. She’s doing the best she can. She’s learning, as we all are.”
Well, all of a sudden, you can smile and have compassion for her. You can help ease her pain, or listen to her, or give her space. You can figure out how to act compassionately, and do what you need to do, without getting worked up because she’s not acting the way you wished she would.
All the world becomes OK once you decide it’s OK. When you start wishing it were different, recognize this, and let that wish go. And then say, “It’s OK as it is.”