Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

5 Clues You Should Be Letting Go of Something: An Interview with Eileen Flanagan

EileenFlanagan 2.jpg
A week or so ago I discussed Eileen Flanagan’s book, “The Wisdom to Know the Difference.” It is with honor that I interview her on Beyond Blue today. If you’d like ot learn more about her, visit her website at



Therese: What are five clues you should be letting go of something?


1. You find yourself repeating the same complaint to different people.

We all get frustrated from time to time, but it’s not good for our mental or spiritual health to wallow in frustration. I remember once I got irritated with another mother at my kid’s nursery school after she did something that inconvenienced me. I complained to the first mother I ran into, and then the second. When I heard myself repeating the story for the third time, it hit me that I was making myself more agitated, not less. I was also putting poison in the community well. Someone had made an honest mistake, and I needed to get over it.


2. You’re churning over in your brain what you wish you (or someone else) had done.

You can’t change the past. Period. If you can’t stop thinking about something that has happened, reframe your internal conversation by asking what you have learned from the experience or what you want to do differently next time. Just replaying the same tape isn’t going to get you anywhere.

3. Your body is showing signs of anxiety.

Often our bodies give us clear messages about what is going on inside of us. For some people, anxiety manifests in not being able to sleep. For me, heartburn is a frequent symptom, as well as tight shoulder muscles. If you pay attention to how you feel when you are at peace as well as when you are anxious or angry, you can learn to use your body as a barometer. Awake at 2AM again? That may be your sign that you need to let go of something.


4. You are scheming how to make someone else do something.

Face it: you can’t force anyone else do anything, and the more you try, the more likely you are to push that person away. You can tell them what you want, but if you find yourself imagining ways to get them to do what you want, it’s time to back off and let go. (i.e. “Accidentally” dragging your boyfriend past the diamond store in the mall is not going to make him ready to get engaged, if that’s what you’re hoping.) Focus on making yourself happy, rather than trying to manipulate someone else.


5. You can’t appreciate the life you have because you keep focusing on what could be.

Every one has something to be grateful for, even if it’s just breathing. If it takes you more than several seconds to think of five things you are grateful for, you are probably focusing too much on a picture of how you wish things were. Counting your blessings is a time-tested way to let go of what you don’t have and focus on what you have.


Therese: And in reverse, what are five clues you should be making a change instead of giving up?


1. You can’t let go.


An inability to forget something may be a sign that you need to make a change. If you just can’t accept the fact that your boss doesn’t respect your work, maybe it’s time to polish your resume. If you are still grieving a lost friendship, maybe you need to write the person a letter to repair the relationship or get closure. Sometimes we need to take action before we can let go.



2. The problem will persist if you do nothing.

Forgiving someone for an honest mistake is one thing, but if someone continually does something that you find hurtful or annoying, you probably need to let the person know. Maybe if your neighbor knew that his music was bothering you, he would turn it down. Maybe not, but he won’t turn it down if you never tell him, and you are likely to get a better response if you mention it calmly when it is a minor annoyance, rather than waiting until you are exasperated.


3. You feel jealous of someone else’s accomplishments.

Jealousy can be toxic if we wallow in it, but it can also point us toward our unrealized goals. If you find yourself resentful of a friend who just published her first novel, maybe you should ask what creative venture you have put off. That could be the impetus to look for a writing class or take some other step toward what you want. 


4. People you trust believe you should make a change.

We have to be careful about following other people’s advice, but the truth is that sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Psychologists say that depression, for example, is often recognized by loved-ones before the depressed person can see it. Be open to the observations of people who have your best interests at heart, especially if they think you need some kind of help.


5. You angrily deny any problem.

If you get angry when someone suggests that you should be making a change, that’s all the more reason to take the person’s concern seriously. Anger is a typical symptom of denial. One way to break through denial is to look for objective evidence. One man I interviewed for The Wisdom to Know the Difference denied that he had a drinking problem until a counselor gave him a 20 question survey about drinking. When he answered yes to 18 of the 20 questions, he was jolted out of denial, giving him the boost he needed to join AA, a change that transformed his life.


To get to “Living the Serenity Prayer” by Eileen Flanagan, click here. Or visit her website at

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue! And click here to follow Therese on Twitter. And click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • linda

    I very much enjoyed reading this article – finding the right balance to what to change and what to let go can sometimes be very difficult – self awareness is so important. The book looks very interesting, i think i will be adding it my bookshelf very soon!

  • kAREN C.

    How do you let go when the source of your complaint is with you every day? I’m in tears right this very moment as I write this. I feel as if I matter to no one I just want to die. The pain is mental and physical . What do I do ?

  • Silver

    Karen C:
    I was in your situation 6 years ago. I was looking for trees that I could drive my car into, so I could just avoid being with that person another moment.
    My advice: GET OUT. Get away, do not look back. Cut your losses.
    Learn that YOU are important and worthy of love.
    Read Melody Beattie’s Co-dependent No More and The Language of Letting Go daily devotional.
    But for the sake of your own mental and emotional well-being — get away from that situation as fast as possible.
    Just my .02 —
    blessings, Silver >>

  • Your Name

    To Karen C;
    If it is a person who is mentally or physically abusive to you, Silver is right. You have to get away from the situation. If you don’t have even one person to take you in and let you heal & try to help you find resources, then please start looking into womens shelters. If you are to depressed to even begin to look, and you don’t have someone to do the footwork for you, then maybe you can post what city you live in here, and a reader from that city might look into it for you and post some suggested places. Anyone reading your post on Terese’s website will understand. I certainly do.

  • Marie

    Hi, Eileen and Therese –
    This is a great post! You very clearly capture the tailtale signs that something needs to change.
    Sometimes our compulsive thinking is a signal there are deeper issues at play . . . sometimes we can’t “just let it go”. I really encourage people to dig deeper to find the heart of the issue — sometimes that is best done with the help of professionals.
    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  • tina

    i have been married for almost 18 tears and it’s been crazy if i do say we fight a lot and things hurt but i believe we love each other.My problem is i am NEVER able to let go of the past i always hold love for my exs and when we talk i am forward then run i am a confusing person to others and myself but it’s weird i think waht ifs but if they come back with something like ok we’ll give this a go i say bye??? I did go through abuse in kindergarden very badly and well i feel the constant NEED to be loved at all times by past lovers and my husband and if i don’t feel it i try soo hard to win it..weird huh?

  • cynthia henderson

    this article was so doggone good!!!! and so very much on point for me at this particular time in my life.

  • LancasterCorina34

    People in every country get the personal loans in different creditors, because that is simple and comfortable.

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