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Are you often bogged down by negative emotions? What’s Letting Go by David R. Hawkins about?

In Letting Go, David R. Hawkins looks at common ways we avoid dealing with difficult emotions. To help with this, he offers strategies for identifying, accepting, and releasing unhelpful emotions.

Read below for a brief overview of Letting Go.

Letting Go by David R. Hawkins

Are you often bogged down by negative emotions? Does this keep you from getting what you want from life? In Letting Go, David R. Hawkins explains how to move from feeling stuck to being happy and at peace. He argues that if you release unhelpful emotions and welcome positive emotions, you can improve your mental and physical health, strengthen your relationships, and invite greater success in all areas of life.

Hawkins (1927-2012) was a psychiatrist who specialized in treating schizophrenia and addiction. He founded or cofounded numerous organizations for psychiatric care, and he received many awards and citations for his contributions to medicine. Despite his prolific medical career, Hawkins is best known for his work in philosophy and spirituality. He spoke at many conferences and appeared on talk radio shows—including Oprah Radio—to discuss his research into the nature of human consciousness, as well as holistic health care practices that encompass physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. His other books include Power vs. Force, Healing and Recovery, and Truth vs. Falsehood

How We Avoid Dealing With Emotions

According to Hawkins, most of us carry unhelpful emotions because we fear them. Instead of confronting them, we avoid dealing with the emotions, so they stay with us. This harms our mental and physical well-being. 

Hawkins says that every emotion has an energy frequency, and the higher the frequency, the more positive the emotion. Furthermore, similar energy frequencies are attracted to each other. Therefore, if you’re constantly avoiding or feeding negative emotions, those emotions will attract more negativity. You’ll be unhappy and less successful in all aspects of life: relationships, finances, and health. 

In this section, we’ll examine the three most common—and ineffective—ways we avoid confronting our emotions:

  1. Distracting ourselves from our feelings
  2. Burying our feelings
  3. Sharing our feelings with others

Method #1: Avoiding Emotions Through Distraction

Hawkins says some people avoid unhelpful and uncomfortable feelings using external distractions. In today’s world, there’s no shortage of distractions that allow us to ignore our inner worlds. For example, you might open Instagram whenever you feel sad—scrolling for hours prevents you from diving into that feeling and thinking about why you’re sad. 

Though distraction may provide short-term relief from negative emotions, it ends up taking more energy from us than addressing the feeling would. Even if we ignore the feeling, it doesn’t go away, so we end up carrying its negative energy around with us. Over time, this hurts us mentally and physically (ideas we’ll explore later in the guide). Ignoring our feelings also prevents us from connecting deeply with other people and improving ourselves, as we’re spending all our energy avoiding our emotions instead of opening ourselves up to positive opportunities and relationships. 

Method #2: Burying Emotions Deep Inside Ourselves

Another method we use to avoid dealing with uncomfortable emotions is burying them inside or deeply internalizing them. Hawkins explains that we typically do this when we’re unsure what to do with a feeling, we’re afraid of it, or we feel guilty about it. For example, you might bury your jealousy of your friend’s success because acknowledging the emotion makes you feel like a bad friend. 

Hawkins notes that burying feelings can happen with or without our conscious awareness. When it’s conscious, we endure the feeling but act as if it isn’t there. Despite our efforts, the feeling usually manifests later as mental and physical problems such as irritability and headaches. 

When we unconsciously push away a feeling, it’s typically because we feel too much shame and anxiety to experience it consciously. To protect us, our minds deny the feeling before we’re even aware of it. 

Method #3: Sharing Feelings With Other People

Finally, Hawkins argues that we sometimes avoid dealing with feelings by sharing them with others. This sharing might happen verbally or through our body language. We often do this because we think it will make us feel better. 

However, sharing an unhelpful emotion doesn’t actually release us from it, contrary to what many people believe. Instead, it relieves just enough of the feeling’s weight to allow us to bury the rest of it and avoid dealing with its root cause. Additionally, putting our feelings on others can damage our relationships, as the other person then has to find a way to deal with the feeling as well. The negative feelings can build up and strain our connection with the other person. 

How to Release Unhelpful Emotions

If the above strategies represent problematic ways to deal with difficult emotions, what is Hawkins’s solution? He argues that the best way to handle unhelpful emotions is to completely release them, a process that we’ll explore in this section. Once you learn how to do this, you’ll feel less attached to external experiences and objects. You’ll be free to enjoy things without depending on them for joy and fulfillment—if something goes how you want it to, that’s great; but if it doesn’t, you know you’ll be all right. This means you’ll no longer rely on anyone or anything other than yourself to feel happy and at peace. 

The Process of Releasing Unhelpful Emotions

Hawkins’s first step for releasing an unhelpful emotion is to recognize the emotion and allow yourself to feel it fully. As you experience a feeling, don’t try to alter it, push back against it, or ascribe moral value to it. Fighting the emotion is what gives it power and allows it to grow. When you release all your opposition toward and associations with an emotion by recognizing that it’s no more than a passing feeling, you allow the energy of that emotion to leave you as well. 

If you start experiencing the same emotion later on, it means that you’re still holding on to some of its energy. You may require a continual practice of release to free yourself from the emotion because you’ve spent most of your life ignoring it or burying it. Alternatively, especially intense emotions are sometimes made up of lesser emotions, and you have to release the lesser emotions until you get to the root. In this case, continue releasing the layers of emotion until you get to the root. 

The Benefits of Releasing Unhelpful Emotions

Now that we’ve discussed some of the broad benefits of releasing unhelpful emotions—such as less attachment to external experiences and a greater sense of control—let’s explore some of the more specific, tangible benefits that Hawkins cites. In this section, we’ll dive into three of them:

  1. How releasing negative emotions rids you of self-imposed limitations
  2. How it improves your relationships
  3. How it reduces your vulnerability to health problems

Benefit #1: Ridding You of Self-Imposed Limitations

According to Hawkins, releasing negative emotions rids you of the limiting thoughts and beliefs that accompany them. Our thoughts are rationalizations of our feelings—therefore, if your feelings are always stuck in a negative state, your thoughts will reflect a pessimistic outlook. When you’re no longer mired in negative thoughts and feelings, you learn that nothing can stop you from doing anything you want. You can be brave and bold instead of fearful and inhibited. 

For example, say you’ve always wanted to run a marathon, but you convinced yourself you’d never be in good enough shape. You don’t want to completely give up, though, so you practice releasing the fear of failure that drives these unhelpful thoughts. Once you’ve successfully released your fear, you realize that nothing is stopping you from pursuing your dream. You start training and exercising every day, and you sign up for a marathon that’s a year from now. You know that when the time comes, you’ll be able to do it.

Benefit #2: Improving Your Relationships

Hawkins argues that releasing unhelpful emotions can also improve your relationships. As we’ve discussed, this is because your emotions affect the people around you, regardless of whether you consciously express them. Therefore, the things you feel about another person affect how they feel about you. To avoid negatively influencing someone’s feelings toward you, you must release the emotions that might invite that person’s negative energy. 

For instance, pride is a common unhelpful emotion that can hurt relationships. When you’re prideful—feeling like you always have to be perfect, or like you’re superior to others—it’s often because you have an unconscious desire to gain others’ respect and approval. Instead of getting the respect and admiration you desire, however, you most likely get jealousy and competitiveness from others in return. When you can release your pride, you recognize that you don’t need the approval of others to feel worthy, and others will naturally come to appreciate and respect you when you respect yourself. 

Benefit #3: Reducing Your Vulnerability to Health Issues

Finally, Hawkins asserts that releasing negative emotions can protect you from diseases and other health issues. He argues that beliefs take form in the physical body, and you’re only as vulnerable to health problems as you believe you are. 

According to Hawkins, your beliefs determine your physical health because emotions, thoughts, and beliefs have energy, and the more we focus on them, the more likely they are to appear as physical symptoms. If you perceive the world as full of danger and disease, then you’ll get sick more often. 

For example, if you’re constantly afraid that you have cancer, then every ache and pain you feel will be magnified as you attribute it to that fear. You’ll frequently feel physically ill because you’re already convinced that you’re going to get sick, and you’re giving your stress enough energy that it appears in your body the way you think it will. However, if you let go of your fear and anxiety, you’ll likely find that your health issues begin to disappear. 

The Energy of Emotions

Now that we’ve discussed the mechanisms and merits of releasing negative emotions, let’s take a closer look at the energies of specific emotions. In this section, we’ll examine three unhelpful emotions with low energy frequencies and three beneficial emotions with high frequencies. We’ll also explore how to apply Hawkins’s advice on releasing emotions to these specific feelings.

Low-Frequency Emotions

As we discussed earlier, Hawkins states that low-frequency negative emotions attract negative experiences and hinder personal growth and success. Let’s take a closer look at three of the most common negative emotions: grief, fear, and anger.


Hawkins argues that grief arises when you believe that you need something external to complete you, and then you lose that thing. You might typically associate grief with losing people, but it could also come from losing a relationship, a worldview, or a dream you have for yourself. When you place a lot of importance on external attachments, every loss you experience feels like losing a part of yourself

You may be tempted to bury your grief or ignore it because it feels overwhelming. Instead of protecting you, however, your unwillingness to accept the feeling keeps you in a state of grief. Staying in this state leads to hopelessness and regret. 

To release grief and move into a state of acceptance, you must allow yourself to grieve fully. Recognize that you’re capable of handling the feeling and that you can love and care for people and things without attaching them to your sense of self. 


According to Hawkins, another emotion with a low frequency is fear. Because fear has been connected with survival throughout our evolution, it’s highly pervasive, and it manifests in many different ways. 

Some fears seem small and insignificant, while others can prevent you from living the kind of life you want to. For example, a fear of spiders likely won’t affect you often, but a fear of leaving the house will prevent you from connecting with others and being adventurous. 

As we touched on before, fear is also problematic because its energy draws in the things you’re afraid of—if you believe something is going to happen, it often does. Once the thing you’re afraid of comes to pass, it acts as evidence of the fear, keeping the cycle of fear going. For example, let’s say you’re afraid to be vulnerable with others because you think that they’ll abandon you if you show the messier sides of yourself. Because you won’t show any vulnerability, people do often give up on getting to know you, and you feel more alone. Though your fear is actually what’s driving this loneliness, you take others pulling away from you as confirmation that the feeling is valid. 

To free yourself from fear, Hawkins says to start by recognizing that you don’t need to be afraid of being afraid. As with any other negative emotion, you must learn to sit with fear if you are to release it. Recognize that it’s not protecting you, but rather holding you back. You can also shift your mindset by making decisions out of love instead of fear. For example, don’t eat a strict diet just because you’re afraid of developing a disease later on in life. Instead, choose to eat nourishing food that makes you feel good because you love yourself, and you deserve to be well taken care of.


Hawkins argues that anger can be useful, though it’s still an ultimately destructive emotion. You might bury your anger because you feel guilty or think it’s undesirable. However, keeping anger inside leads to long-term health problems and harms relationships. Even if you don’t express your anger, it draws negative energy toward you.

Anger isn’t all bad, though—it can energize you and propel you to action, and you can direct that energy toward a good purpose. Instead of subduing your anger or unleashing it on the people around you, use it as motivation to improve your situation or yourself. For example, say you hold a lot of anger against your parents for the ways they treated you as a child. Instead of holding that anger inside or lashing out and damaging your current relationships, use it as motivation to go to therapy and learn to treat others better than your parents do. 

High-Frequency Emotions

Hawkins states that to reach an ultimate state of peace where you’re unencumbered by negativity, you must release unhelpful feelings and make room for beneficial ones. These positive emotions attract success and fulfillment with their high frequencies, and they help you become less attached to external sources of joy and acceptance. Now, we’ll examine three of the most powerful positive emotions: courage, love, and peace.


According to Hawkins, courage represents the transition from a mindset of limitation to a mindset of capability. You no longer think of all you can’t do and instead turn your attention to what you can do. 

When embodying the energy of courage, you’re able to be joyful, centered, and self-assured. You have faith that you can get the things you want and need with abilities you already have, and you learn to respect yourself. When you invite courage in, you’re willing to take risks and make mistakes to grow.  


Hawkins asserts that love is more than just a high-frequency emotion—it’s a way of life. Whenever you offer love and kindness to other beings, you’re improving the world around you. Putting out love freely also means that it’ll come back to you freely. 

Once you’re no longer holding on to your negative emotions, you realize that love is everywhere, just waiting to be discovered, and it can manifest in countless ways. For example, love can be found in a teacher letting a tired student sleep in class because the student’s struggling at home, or a friend taking the time to listen to your favorite song. When you exist in a state of love, your presence and actions encourage the people around you to be better, too—to be calmer, more considerate, more patient, and so on. 

On an individual level, love makes it easier for you to forgive yourself for perceived faults. You’re able to accept yourself as you are. Additionally, it becomes easier to feel grateful to be alive and thankful for the things that bring you joy and happiness. Thus, your life becomes better, and you make other people’s lives better. 


Hawkins names peace as the highest, most evolved emotional state. Peace is the ultimate goal of emotional release, wherein you’ve freed yourself from all negative energy. In many spiritual traditions, someone who’s achieved true peace has reached enlightenment. 

When you’re at peace, you feel inner stillness, unity, and contentment. No outside force can disturb this internal quiet, and you no longer experience earthly suffering because your sense of self is no longer tied to your physical body. 

Finally, true peace also means you no longer experience desire. You don’t need to covet anything because the energy that you put out is so strong and positive that anything you need automatically arrives in your life. 

Letting Go by David R. Hawkins: Book Overview & Takeaways

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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