Forgiveness: Leaving the Past in the Past
Out beyond the concepts of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is
a field. I will meet you there.
When I talk with my clients about forgiveness, I am often faced with resistance. You may confuse forgiveness with letting someone off the hook. If you carry resentment, you may believe that the offending person will continue to suffer for his or her mistakes. The reality is that you are allowing the other person to continue to hurt you even after the event has passed, as if you are drinking poison while wishing the other person would die. Isn’t that lovely? True forgiveness means letting go of past pain so that you can be free to move forward in your life.
Since you have dredged up the past in previous Article, you may have uprooted some anger toward your parents, past caregivers, ex-husbands, or ex-boyfriends who have caused you emotional pain. This “stuck” place of resentment can prevent you from finding a healthy relationship. If these feelings are not addressed, you may unconsciously project old hurts onto new potential mates or continue to attract the same abusive behavior in an effort to change the outcome. Once you are free from the past, you will be able to let love in with a clean slate.
Think about the lists of characteristics you made for your parents and past lovers. Does anyone stick out in your mind who brings up strong feelings of anger or resentment? You may think this is the person who is to blame for your heartache or lack of love.
Almost everyone has a general idea about which events or people caused the problems and suffering in his or her life. There is always one parent whom you did not get along with or one ex-boyfriend or ex-husband who caused you great emotional pain. Even if you rationalized and let go of your bitterness on a conscious level, your inner mind may not have gotten to that point yet. The process described in this Article will help clear away any conscious and unconscious resentments so that you can enter into your new loving relationship with an open mind.
You don’t want those past relationships to continue to haunt you or impede your blissful new love connection. Get out your journal and let’s begin the following exercise.
Journaling : Who You’ re Angry With
Who: Let’s start with who. Who are you still angry with? If you have a hard time thinking of someone you need to forgive, don’t skip over this Article. Use someone who causes you to experience even a slight degree of agitation.
You don’t have to feel full-blown rage toward this person to benefit from the exercise. Actually, sometimes a person who merely makes you feel the tiniest bit of tension might provide the most healing. Write his or her name at the top of a fresh page in your journal.
What: Now that you have identified the person in question, write down what he or she did to you that was so terrible. Include all of the dirty details and allow explicit words to flow if you want to.
How: Next, describe how that person’s actions affected you and your life.
Why: The last step is to uncover the reasons why that person would want you to experience that suffering or end up with that resulting psychological trauma. For example, “Why did Mom criticize me so much that I never had confidence with men?” or “Why did Dad abuse me so that I am two hundred pounds overweight and I hide out from men?” This is a hard one. Why would they want such an outcome for you? Were they truly evil, or was there another reason?
Although there are people who do hurtful things to others, my experiences in life have convinced me that people are inherently good. They attempt to do their best with whatever resources they have. There are many reasons someone would cause harm to another, such as:
• Mental illness (from mild depression to being criminally insane)
• A history of abuse (from having critical parents to experiencing extreme sexual and physical abuse)
• Being abandoned and/or neglected as a child
• Post-traumatic stress from war, accidents, or witnessing extreme events
• And other unique situations
Remember, the purpose of this exercise is not to let the person off the hook, but instead to help you understand the fuel behind his or her actions. Some parents who were abused in their childhood continue the abuse with their own children because this behavior was a “normal” way of being for them. A person who was abandoned or neglected may not have the capacity to love. See whether you can conjure up a small amount of compassion for what is going on in that person’s mind.
Everyone has baggage in the deepest part of the mind, and most people are not conscious of it. They usually act on autopilot, based on their previous life experiences, and continue their destructive patterns.
Fortunately, you have this Article and the tools within it to change your old mental habits. Someday the person who harmed you may have the insight to change his or her ways, but your happiness does not depend on it.