Thursday, October 20, 2011

Forgiveness is the healthy thing to do to free YOU from resentment prison.

Can we talk about forgiving? Why is it so hard to do? Forgiveness is a misunderstood notion. When I discuss forgiveness with my clients, there is usually a load of resistance and a need to express to me how I must not REALLY understand what happened or I would be recommending they beat the crap out of the offender, NOT forgive them! Trust me, forgiveness is for “us” not necessarily for “them”.

The most common misconception about forgiveness is that two people are required for it to work. This is not true. We can forgive people who are no longer here or with whom we no longer have contact. Forgiving is all about you. Holding anger or releasing it occurs in your mind. How do you want to feel? What do you want taking up space in your brain/body? It’s your choice. Forgiveness is not condoning the actions of the other party. It is not rolling over and giving up. It is not giving in or losing anything. Forgiveness is the healthy thing to do to free YOU from resentment prison. It may not be easy but its worth the effort.

1. Commit to letting go. You aren’t going to do it in a second or maybe not even in a day. It can take time to get over something. So commit to changing, because you recognize that the pain is hurting you.

2. Think about the pros and cons. What problems does this pain cause you? Does it cause you unhappiness? Think of the benefits of forgiveness — how it will make you happier, free you from the past and the pain, improve things with your relationships and life in general.

3. Realize you have a choice. You cannot control the actions of others, and shouldn’t try. But you can control not only your actions, but also your thoughts. You can stop reliving the hurt, and can choose to move on. You have this power.

4. Empathize. Try this: put yourself in that person’s shoes. Try to understand why the person did what he did. Start from the assumption that the person isn’t a bad person, but just did something wrong.

5. Understand your responsibility. Try to figure out how you could have been partially responsible for what happened. What could you have done to prevent it, and how can you prevent it from happening next time? This isn’t to say you’re taking all the blame, or taking responsibility away from the other person, but to realize that we are not victims but participants in life.

6. Focus on the present. Now that you’ve reflected on the past, realize that the past is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes problems — unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What joy can you find in what is happening right now?

7. Allow peace to enter your life. As you focus on the present, try focusing on your breathing. Imagine each breath going out is the pain and the past, being released from your body and mind. And imagine each breath coming in is peace, entering you and filling you up. Release the pain and the past. Let peace enter your life. And go forward, thinking no longer of the past, but of peace and the present.

8. Feel compassion. Finally, forgive the person and realize that in forgiveness, you are allowing yourself to be happy and move on.
Being healthy is not always easy but always worth the effort.

By Eric Allen Bell.
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