By Michelle Mclean
When disappointments happen it’s common to be told to let go, move on or move forward. Often this is well-meaning advice, dwelling on negatives for too long is not good for us. Sometimes though it can be plain dismissive.
I’ve come to believe that this dismissiveness is about the other person’s comfort. Emotional reactions can be discomfiting for some people to witness. Taking their advice to move on, might make things easier for them but what about you? In keeping the peace for others, what is the cost to your own peace?
Recently, I suffered a small disappointment and I was upset. The circumstances had been entirely outside of anyones control but I just couldn’t help feeling grumpy about it. The thing itself was small but the wider impact was quite a bit bigger and my grumpiness was a symptom of my worries about the bigger thing.
Someone who was also impacted told me that I needed to “just move forward”. Their view was that there was no point in being upset because nothing could be done to change the outcome. Perhaps this practical point of view was right but I felt that my feelings were being policed, that I wasn’t being allowed to feel. To simply move on from things, is to deny reality and I don’t think that’s helpful.
Letting go quickly might come naturally to some people but for most of us, it doesn’t and that’s ok. There is value in taking some time to process our disappointments – minimising the chance of repeating mistakes, regaining perspective and finding acceptance are just a few reasons.
In his book Shut Up, Move On author Paul McGee calls this time of reflection, Hippo Time and describes it as a necessary period of acknowledging what we are feeling. McGee advises to exercise caution with how long we spend in Hippo Time though. That’s the tricky bit – allowing ourselves to feel the feels without letting it take over.
There’s a time to hold on and a time to let go and only we will know when that time is right for us.