You really messed up this time. You said exactly the thing you should never have said. You forgot their birthday. You canceled on a night out. You called in sick when work was very hectic.
Sometimes, more often than we anticipate, we end up doing things which leave us guilt-ridden, angry and frustrated. Sometimes at other people who caused us pain, but incredibly often at ourselves as well. Even if the other person seems to be the cause of the action we are guilty of, we blame ourselves for reacting that way. Whatever the reason, many people spend a huge amount of time harboring guilt and resentment towards themselves and others… Face it, we’ve all been there! Many of us have also heard it time and time again, “Forgiveness is the only way to free yourself of these feelings.”
And it’s true. Yes, you really do have to forgive someone, even if what they did seems terrible. However, what we are told less often is that freeing ourselves is just as important. Let go of the conclusion that it was a conscious decision of yours to do that hurtful thing or make that hurtful comment. We all act in ways we wish we hadn’t, but the truth is a lot of the time it’s an unconscious way of letting out an emotion or deep frustration from a completely unrelated event in the past. The reason for your action may well have absolutely nothing to do with the situation it actually occurred in.
My own anecdote speaks of the years I spent resenting my mother’s infidelity. Trying to figure out a reason for her actions ultimately led to me deciding that the simple reason was that she wanted to get away from the disappointing daughter she had raised. Maybe my family would have been hurt less if I had just impressed her more and given her a reason to stay. That psychological gate kept me trapped in a cycle of self-resentment, projection of self-resentment through nasty words and manifestations like my eating disorder, and then immense guilt for being unkind to others and making life difficult. Painfully aware of my every action and the negative effect it had I spiraled into self-hate. When you see yourself as a terrible person, how on Earth are you going to see others as good people? It has long been said that introspection is the only way to see others for who they truly are too. My image of myself colored my world in gloomy shades and created a picture of bad intent and malice that encompassed everyone around me. I saw them only through this filter.
In order to forgive my mother and see the reasons behind her actions… or even acknowledge that there was a reason, I had to see the reason behind my own actions.
It took a lot of long years to accept that my actions had been a result of emotions being suppressed subconsciously. I finally realized that my actions were made in a mindset fueled by all the negative thoughts that I had built up inside myself.
Here are the practices that helped me to come to this realizations and heal the endless blame game that was going on in my head. I suggest doing all of the following in a quiet space where you have plenty of time. You may need to repeat these steps a few times. Please know also, this is just my experience. It may be that another method works better for you, and I highly recommend Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything by Iyanla Vanzant
. I read it a few years ago at the start of my journey and it was a turning point to push me to face this part of my life once and for all. It gave me a bunch of great ideas to implement. I hope my favorite techniques can be a part of your solution.
Sit with your feelings
This is perhaps the scariest part for most people. Because it automatically means that you will feel all of those emotions that you’ve been hiding or channeling into actions instead of thoughts. You feel EVERYTHING. It’s painful. It takes courage. But it’s precisely this experience of feeling that allowed me to understand the immense build-up of feelings that must have been hiding behind the hurtful actions of others. It is an invaluable learning experience. However, please make sure that someone is aware of your journey if you need a bit of support.
Sit, notice your breath and the physical feelings in your body and then begin to notice how you feel. You can visualize or speak to yourself about your experience and notice what comes up.
See the reasons behind these feelings
Try to figure out what may have prompted your own feelings and the feelings of others in the situation. No feeling comes without reason. It might, as I said earlier, have nothing to do with the action made. But it’s incredibly important that you can see that it is almost never intentional. It is not an inherently human characteristic to seek to hurt others. You could visualize each action as a shape. Each reason as a flame inside the shape lighting it up and giving it it’s the reason for being, for happening.
Let these feelings and reasons go
Think of yourself as breathing in and inhaling strength and courage from your surroundings. Use this strength to gather everything that has been weighing you down and exhale it. Exhale the fixations on what happened and exhale the reasons for it. You can visualize the exhale of your breath extinguishing the flames within the shapes.
Lastly, give yourself a hug. I know it seems like nothing. But humans don’t give themselves enough hugs. There is something special about being gentle with yourself. Seeing yourself as someone worthy of a hug. Someone who has a pure intention and can be forgiven. You are not deserving of blame and guilt. Neither are others.
I hope this is helpful, at least in a small way. Even if not, remember that we are all different. With the wealth of knowledge, we can now share across the world, there is undoubtedly a path to forgiveness paved just perfectly for you to walk.
Photo: Mean Shadows – Unsplash; Julie Johnson – Unsplash; Jarad Rice – Unsplash.