For many of us, the emotions that hold the tightest grip on our hearts are disappointment, resentment, blame and anger. They place a stranglehold on our happiness and the only person who can release them is YOU!
Although forgiving someone (or ourselves) can happen in an instant, my experience is that it is usually a much more lengthy process requiring great patience, trust, persistance and prayer – more like peeling an onion or a lotus blossoming than a lightning bolt.
Forgiveness and it’s close cousin compassion are emotions associated with the heart chakra (physically: the heart, shoulders, chest + upper back). If you are holding resentment, it’s quite possible that you will feel a tightness in the upper back, between the shoulders, have a sunken chest, have difficulty taking a deep breath and feel deflated or low energy.
How do you know if you still need to forgive someone?
If you still feel a ‘charge’ or get ‘triggered’ when you talk or think about a person or incident, if you feel constricted, tight, feel a flush of anger (even subtly) or a surge of energy physically – it probably means there is some unresolved emotional material for you to continue processing and letting go of.
As my teacher, Mona Miller says – “Our work is to move from JUDGMENT to UNDERSTANDING.”
Here are 4 steps to help you forgive.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY SOMEONE ACTS THE WAY THEY DO
Perhaps, the most important tool and first step in forgiveness is to understand “WHY” someone acted the way they did. Take your parents, for example. It’s helpful to go back and objectively look at their own early childhood. Really imagine what their childhood, parents and home environment must have been like. What do you know? What have you heard? What can you infer?
In psychology, we call this the PRIMARY SCENARIO. Do some basic sleuthing to uncover or imagine why a person (partner, colleague, parent) may have certain defense mechanisms (narcissism, defensiveness, aggression, depression, etc) or personality traits.
What are they trying to protect? What are they afraid of? What basic skills did they learn (or not learn) from their family of origin? Reframe by building a new cognitive framework as to WHY someone might act the way they do.
We are all doing the best we can with the skills and awareness we have. Beginning to ask different questions and understand WHY breeds compassion and helps loosen the ties that bind us to blame. If possible, talk to the person (when you are calm and centered) and ask them about their experience (see below).
2. FEEL. EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS.
We can’t heal what we can’t heal. This may mean digging up long held or buried emotions from the past, your childhood or right now. Our past upsets affect (and in many ways create) our current upsets. Until we fully release the emotions held in our bodies, they will continue to affect our current mindset – creating tension in the body-mind and even leading to illness.
We are animals and have a primal body that registers every emotion we feel, directly impacting our hormonal balance and immune system. It is crucial to address our animal nature by flushing out emotions. Learn to express your emotions in healthy ways.
Do Anger Work. Find ways to primally release anger, rage and blame.
Write the person (or yourself) a letter. You don’t have to send it…but, getting our emotions out on paper gives them a place to live outside of yourself and your body. Validate your emotions by breathing life into them. Journaling at least 3 pages first thing in the morning is highly recommended.
Talk to the person (if possible). This is only helpful if it is safe for you to speak with the person AND if you are in a calm, centered state of mind. It is not usually effective to speak with the other person when you are angry or until you have processed your emotions significantly on your own. Then, if possible, express your feelings in a safe environment. It may be helpful to do so with a therapist/counselor present so you both feel safe and heard.
You can also do this even if the person is not physically present or has died. Sit quietly. Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed. Call in the other person, their spirit and energy. Imagine them sitting across from you, how they look, how you feel. Tell them out loud what you are feeling. Imagine a dialogue between the two of you. When you are finished, thank them for listening and release them in gratitude.
3. REBUILD SAFETY
Once you have adequately expressed your emotions, create new boundaries for yourself within the relationship. This may mean that you no longer see the person, end the relationship or establish new guidelines.
In the case of a breakup, for example, it is often healthiest to cut off all communication and contact with that person (UNFRIEND them on Facebook, please!). In the future, you may be able to reestablish a friendship but your psyche and emotions need time to heal.
I once went years seeing my ex-boyfriend at events without speaking. We respected and cared for each other, but could not talk or be in contact until many years had passed. Now, we are close friends and love each other very much. The love never went anywhere, but we needed a lot of time and space to heal.
This can be very tricky with close family or friends, as the other people involved may not understand or agree with your choice for more space and distance – but it is crucial to protect yourself, your inner child, your tender emotions and hold strong boundaries.
4. LET GO
Fully letting go of a past transgression and completely forgiving may take many months or years (see example above). Imagine the process of letting go like a labyrinth or a mandala – spiraling around and around a center point. You may have a phase of feeling better and then realize that you are still grieving or angry. This is natural. The soul does not heal on linear time.
Give yourself space. True healing happens on the quantum, spiritual plane. Ask for help. Get quiet, mindful + pray.
Here’s a SAMPLE FORGIVENESS PRAYER:
“I ask help in releasing this…. (person, event, etc). I feel….. God/Universe/Spirit/Higher Self, please help me release and let go. Help me forgive. I cannot do this alone and need your support, guidance, strength and love. I ask you to enter my heart now and help me let go. Guide my actions and thoughts today. Thank you.”
In order to fully release, you have to change your version of the story and how you identify with it. This is the meaning of the myth of reincarnation. You are born anew. A new version of the events (an empowered one) arises. You let the other person off the hook through understanding and you redefine your experience as an empowered one.
PLEASE…leave a comment below and let us know who you need to forgive and where you are at in your phase of forgiveness, what works for you.
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