As much as we’d like everyone around us to be shining beacons of positivity, kindness and support, the reality is that this is far from the truth. As humans, we are flawed.
And sometimes these flaws mean that those around us manage to unintentionally hurt our feelings and cause us pain. On the flipside, we can sometimes cause others pain too.
So what do you do when you just can’t get over a past hurt? Discover our easy guide to embracing forgiveness, moving on and clearing your emotional space to feel happy again.
The art of forgiveness
It’s highly likely that until this point you never even realized that you were still holding onto old hurt. You may even have believed that you had forgiven those that hurt you and that you’d moved on.
After all, who’s there to tell you otherwise? And if you scowl a little when you think of a certain person, that’s only natural, right?
Well … actually, it’s not.
That scowl is a pretty good indication that your forgiveness wand is malfunctioning. Perhaps you’ve forgiven that bird that pooped on you instead. I don’t know where the forgiveness magic went, but it wasn’t toward your intended.
Because forgiving someone is darn hard. When someone has hurt our feelings, it’s natural for us to hold onto the pain, both so we can prevent it in the future and because we tend to cling to the negatives a lot more than the positives.
However if you can push past your barriers to forgive those around you, only good will come.
“People who forgive show less depression, anger and stress and more hopefulness.” believes Frederic Luskin, the author of Forgive for Good.
You’ll also find yourself opening up to new relationships and experiences as you realize that although pain is inevitable, your attitude towards it will directly influence your reality and that you can move on from pain to embrace forgiveness.
However, like we said, forgiveness ain’t easy, sister. Which is why we’re going to run you through some ways to fix your forgiveness wand.
Forgive and forget
If you were to make a list of all the people that have caused you pain in the past, how long would it be? A few lines? A page? A couple of pages?
Give it a shot now. Take out a piece of paper and write down the names of all the people who have hurt you. It might take a while, so I’ll wait here sipping my tea while you sort it out.
Now, have a look at your list. Out of the people you have identified, which of these old emotional wounds are still causing you an issue? Which old hurts are still bleeding? Put a cross next to these names.
These names, my lovelies, are the ones you should put on your forgiveness hit list. And let’s be very clear about this – it’s not for their benefit, it’s for yours.
And here’s how you’re going to forgive and let go:
Step 1. Realize that this old emotional wound is probably only causing you pain, not them. Also, they’re probably not going to apologize to you and at this point, you wouldn’t want them to. Because your goal in forgiving them is not to justify or approve their actions (what they did was wrong), instead it’s to allow you the space to move on with your life.
Step 2. Take a breath. Remembering old pain can get us choked up, both emotionally and physically. So give yourself a few moments to relax and allow your body to unwind. Focus on your breath. Be still.
Step 3. Acknowledge that you need to move on. Sometimes we just need a little reminder that holding onto our issues and emotional wounds doesn’t do us any good. But we’re stubborn little buggers and we can often dwell in our unhappiness. Now is the time to nip this in the bud and acknowledge that it is time to let go.
Step 4. Forgive yourself. Before you can forgive someone else, you need to first forgive yourself. We often act and behave poorly, which can make a painful situation worse because we’re both ashamed of our own behavior and angry with theirs.
To start the forgiveness process, you’ll first need to acknowledge the things you thought you did wrong. Once you’ve found these things, remind yourself that you are only human. That you do the best you can with what you have and that all of life is a learning experience.
From here, send little rays of love and self-acceptance through your body. Forgive and let go.
Step 5. Take it one day at a time. It’s going to be nigh on impossible for you to forgive every past pain instantly. Instead, I recommend that you tackle your forgiveness hit list one day at a time.
Each day, sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and think about the person you’re angry with. Tell them, in your mind, that you have forgiven them. Then mentally send them love and acceptance.
This process will take a while, and you’ll probably need to repeat step five a few times before you can properly feel that you’ve moved on.
If you’re still struggling, here are a few other ways you can embrace forgiveness and move on:
- Write a letter to the person you’d like to forgive. Tell them how you feel, what you think they did wrong and why it upset you. Don’t hold back either, give it to them straight! Then, when you’re done, burn the letter. While it’s burning repeat to yourself mentally “Name, I forgive you for hurting me. I am moving on.”
- If you feel that you will be well received, talk to the person who has upset you. Explain what they did and how it made you feel. Then state that you’d like to fix things and move on so you can both retain your existing relationship. Be prepared to talk things out and hear things you may not want to hear. You’ll have to keep an open mind and focus on the end goal: forgiveness and moving past the old pain.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Another strategy is to consider things from the other person’s perspective. They too might be feeling angry and upset over what happened and might believe that they acted rationally. Consider why they may have said the things they did and acted the way they did. Once you can see things from their perspective you’ll increase your chances of being able to forgive and forget.
- Live for now. I have found that if you focus on the present moment you’ll find it easier to forget the past. Our mind is so rarely in the present that we find this really hard to do, but if you can achieve it then the world is your oyster. If not, devise a mental ‘past box’, in which you deliberately place old hurt and emotional upsets into. Then you put the past box on a road labeled ‘the past’ and you leave it there. It has no relevance on your present moment. And while you are who you are because of the past, your future is created in the present moment.
And last but not least, don’t forget that there are experts out there who can help you work through learning to forgive and let go. I think sometimes we can view visiting a counselor or a psychologist as a bit of a failure, but the truth is that they are our mental coaches.
Just like we have coaches for our career, for our health and for our body, there are people out there who specialize in helping you get the most out of your mind and your emotions. So why wouldn’t we use them?
Visiting a psychologist or a therapist isn’t a sign of failure.
Rather, it’s a sign of strength as you’re willing to invest in your emotional and mental health. And besides, it’s always good to talk to an unbiased third party. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel after.