Are you holding onto hurt or anger? Is it difficult for you to let go of grudges? Many times, I have slowly worked through my own pain, to end up in a place of forgiveness. During one of my toughest times, I sought out my most supportive friend, and shed many tears in her arms. I will always be grateful to this gracious individual for her tireless support.
This topic was inspired by my favorite yoga instructor. Since I’ve known her, she has been very congruent with her teachings, and what she goes through in her everyday life. She shares how she has made it through a rough time, and bases our classes on how to overcome whatever situation we are personally struggling with. Like a horoscope, I always can relate her pains to my own. This past week’s class was on forgiveness. She got a big hug at the end of the class!
To be able to forgive is to be able to allow yourself move forward from the past, releasing the feelings associated with it. It’s not always easy to forgive people for what they have done, and it does not mean that you have to forgive them, and also let them back into your life. It also is not always easy to forgive yourself for your own past actions. The act of forgiveness is for you, so you can live without holding onto anger, resentment, blame, pain or stress. It has been proven in many studies that these emotions do affect you. Your mind and your body are related. Your emotions can affect you physically—leaving you feeling worn out, or even make you sick.
I personally have gone through some pretty crappy times with some people who behaved pretty crappy. But, for our own mental health, what can we do to forgive--so we can move forward and live life fully in our happiest state? Forgiveness happens after you have been able to truly identify what is holding you back, have allowed yourself to feel your pain, and be in a place to move towards forgiveness. What can you do?
Seek out support. People in your life can help you make it through. Maybe it is a friend, a yoga instructor, or a therapist. When you have had tough times, is there someone that you have been able to reach out to that will let you talk things out, or just listen? Forgiveness doesn’t come easy, but seeking out support in an attempt to gain a different perspective, or having a cathartic talk--or two or three--can help.
You have the power to set yourself free. Just the fact that you’re reading this now means you have an interest in being able to forgive. It may be a sign that you are ready to move away and heal from past hurts. Sometimes, instead of saying the words, “I forgive you.”, and opening otherwise old wounds, you can acknowledge to yourself or another that you are here, and you care. You have the power to heal yourself, or your relationship with someone else.
Do a release ritual. There are many ways you can go through an exercise to help move you forward. One thing I have often advised my clients to try is writing a letter to yourself, or another, or many, on how you were hurt. This does not mean you have to send the letter. You could burn it in a safe place, crumple it up and throw it away—whatever feels like it will give you the best chance of purging your thoughts and feelings. If there is not someone you feel comfortable sharing all of your deepest thoughts with, a piece of paper is a safe place to air things out. Even if it feels like you may never forgive, this kind of exercise can help to regain a sense of control over your thoughts.
Make a ritual a daily practice. Since we cannot wave a magic wand to make things go away, just as the practice of yoga or taking on any new skill, engaging in something daily that becomes a new way of life can lend to gradually replacing negative feelings, or getting them out so you can move forward. My ex clinical supervisor often shared with our group therapy clients how he and his wife write their, “Morning Pages” daily--originated by Julia Cameron. Click on the following link for more information on Morning Pages. http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ If writing is something that you enjoy, this might be a good daily therapeutic tool. It could also be any kind of meditation, a small amount of time at the beginning of your day listening to music that could work for you, or reading articles or blogs like this on forgiveness to find ideas and inspiration.
Pay attention to how you respond. Try catching yourself whenever you find something is upsetting you. Anything you are feeling is not wrong. Do not disparage yourself for your feelings. Yet, you can choose what happens next. You may have heard the saying that, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond.” This is also something that you can benefit from making a daily practice. If you take your thoughts, and start working on re-framing them in the moment, you can help prevent further resentments. Be your own best observer.
Grasp onto the lessons. Try keeping in mind that you do not have to retaliate when you’ve been wronged, or beat yourself up for your own actions. Instead, try gaining lessons. We never learn anything when things are easy. It is normal to hold onto feelings when we feel we have been wronged or hurt, and your feelings may be very justified. But, when we hold onto our hurt and anger, we stop ourselves from healing. Forgiveness is part of a process of healing from our past hurts.
If you wish to explore this more, always feel free to pick up the phone and let me know what's going on for you.
1. Seek out support.
2. You have the power to set yourself free.
3. Do a release ritual.
4. Make a ritual a daily practice.
5. Pay attention to how you respond.
6. Grasp onto the lessons.