1. Express gratitude.
Maybe your old survival methods are preventing you from living the life you want right now, but you’d better believe they protected you from something in the past.
Thank them for that. Gratitude will serve several purposes in the process of letting go:
First, expressing gratitude for what the old survival method helped you survive means admitting that something bad happened to you. It means you have faced the past, and that’s necessary to heal.
Second, gratitude helps mitigate the feelings of frustration when a survival method takes longer to go away than you’d like. It gives you a better understanding of why it’s there and why it’s taking so long to leave.
2. Accept your emotions surrounding the situation.
Just because you know your survival method doesn’t mean it automatically disappears. Just because you expect the emotional reaction doesn’t mean you don’t have to experience the feelings.
An unhelpful response when the survival method crops up would be I can’t believe this is still a problem! and then trying to stuff the feelings of fear or anger or anxiety down so you don’t have to deal with them.
A more helpful response would be I accept and feel this fear/anger/anxiety. It just is, like the weather. I will feel it and then it will pass and I will still be here.
3. Then, while you’re still feeling those emotions, practice other responses.
You are allowed to feel how you feel. You’re also allowed to do what you want. The more you respond with actions of trust/hope/love to feelings of fear/anger/anxiety, the more your psyche will be able to let go, little by little, of the old fear based response.
Back to the relationship with trust issues example: say your partner stays at work late. When they come home, you may feel fear and anger – there’s no helping that – but you may also choose not to yell or start a fight. You may choose to act lovingly towards your partner even though you feel anxiety.
There are no guarantees that your old survival methods will ever go away completely, but I’ve found the more I look fear in the face, accept it, and do what I want anyways, the easier it is to live with, even if it never goes away.
A couple more things…
Just in case you misunderstood, all of this applies to old survival methods, developed in the past and no longer helpful to your present life. If, for instance, you were still in that unfaithful relationship, it would be ludicrous to try to lay your suspicion to rest. That’s called denial. Letting go of old survival methods is about developing a deep understanding of yourself and why you react the way you do, not denying reality.
Also, there is chasm of difference between an old survival method developed in an unhealthy situation and trauma developed in an abusive situation. I am in no way qualified to talk about trauma, but there are many, many therapists who are. If you’re not sure which category you fall under, it’s never a bad idea to find a great therapist.
What about you? Do you have any fear-based responses that you overcame to live a fuller life?