Talking about forgiveness feels a little like talking religion or politics. It can be a heated and controversial subject.
I'm not here to change anyone's mind about forgiveness.
I'm here to help people know how to forgive when they're ready. This article can help you get ready - if you're ready to be ready.
Following are the two most consistent views I hear regarding forgiveness.
School of thought #1: Forgiving others brings peace to the victim
The first school of thought says, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Unforgiveness causes you to re-experience the original trauma over and over again.
When you forgive, it helps you release the pain associated with the past event.
School of thought #2: Never encourage a victim to forgive
This school of thought says forgiveness is an emotion and we don't get to choose our emotion. Asking someone to forgive blames you, the victim.
Just writing this fires me up on so many levels. . .More on that in a minute.
What if you're not a victim?
A victim identity keeps the offense fresh in your mind.
Your identity determines your thoughts and beliefs.
A "victim" identity keeps you stuck in thoughts of injustice and makes you feel broken.
You might replay the offense over and over in your mind. Or you may think about how angry or hurt you are. There's a good chance you think about the person who hurt you more often than you'd like. It may seem like they're always with you in your head.
When my marriage ended ten years ago I was immersed in my story of being a victim. I had never worked and had a high school education. I started working as a waitress making less than minimum wage and my ex wasn't paying the court-ordered child support. I felt SO sorry for myself and thought continually about all the crappy things that had "happened to me" to put me in that situation.
It was a very dark place.
Then I realized I was making myself miserable. I thought, "What if I'm not a victim?" I decided to say, "It happened. It's over. And now I'm safe." A huge weight lifted from me. I decided to take responsibility for my life and forcibly create the life I wanted.
When I released my status as a victim I was able to walk forward being empowered. I released "victim" and exchanged it for "victorious".
Unforgiveness changes the chemicals in your brain and body
The act or emotion of unforgiveness releases toxic chemicals in the body. Holding onto a victim status affects our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
When we choose to let ourselves heal (and it starts with a choice), we experience peace beyond what we thought possible.
We become free to take on the identity of a victor.
Then we get to live the life of our dreams instead of re-living the misery of the past.
Forgiveness releases happy, healing, feel good chemicals in the brain and body.
You can change your emotions on the spot
I'll show you how to easily do this in the steps below.
This is hypnosis. And you're already doing it.
The emotions you feel now are an old loop. You're feeling them because you're stuck repeating the way you felt at the time of the offense.
We're already choosing our emotions. But we're doing it on a subconscious level based on events that took place long ago.
Our brains want what's best for us so they put programs in place that say, "When so-an-so looks at you funny, you have a meltdown." So you react based on something someone did years, maybe even decades ago.
Forgiveness makes you smarter because you're able to assess each situation as a stand alone event and CHOOSE how to respond.
The most valuable thing hypnosis has taught me is that I DO get to choose my emotion.
A couple days ago my boyfriend said something that triggered an old wound. He was speaking in love and kindness but it reminded me of something my dad said when I was six years old and I started bawling. It hurt so badly.
I felt that old heavy depressed wounded feeling. In the past I would've felt like I had to work through that depressed feeling or just ride it out til I felt better. It did take a few hours for me to decide to put on my big girl pants and use the tools I have. But when I DECIDED to change my emotion, I knew how.
When I felt depressed about his comment I was responding as six-year-old Lori. I was running an old program.
When I realized this, it gave me the opportunity to go back and heal that little six year old and teach her that I'm ok now. She doesn't have to be pouty and miserable anymore. I whispered in six year old Lori's ear the secret of how amazing she is. How powerful and beautiful she is.
And no certain conditions had to be met. We can choose the way we feel. We often chose based on the past instead of what's happening now.
We're running an old loop that doesn't serve us anymore. We're hypnotized into acting like the past is the present.
5 step to easily forgive when you're ready
1. Imagine the hurtful scene on a movie screen out in front of you. Make the picture black-and-white and move the screen down near the floor so you're looking down at it.
As you look at the you in the movie ask yourself, "What does the "me" in the movie need?"
Example: Six-year-old Lori was standing outside hearing her dad say, "Stand up straight and suck your stomach in so you don't look fat."
If I imagine watching that scene on a movie screen I realize that Lori needs confidence and self-assurance.
2. When you identify what the you in the movie needs, let yourself feel that thing now.
Example: Six year old Lori needed confidence and assurance. So I let myself think of a time when I've felt really confident and self-assured. I pretend I'm actually in the scene where I felt confident and self-assured so I can feel it in this moment.
3. Send the feeling to the you in the movie.
Example: I imagine sending the confidence and self-assurance I'm feeling to six year old Lori. I watch her start to feel confident and self-assured as she hears her dad say, "Suck in your belly and stand taller" and notice the way it changes the whole scene.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the offender.
Example: I ask, "What does my dad need in this movie?" and I decide he needs to be able to relax and not feel so insecure. So I imagine sending him the gift of self-acceptance and being able to enjoy life.
This makes the movie change even more. Now I can think about the event and realize my dad was speaking from his own insecurity and it had nothing to do with me. I can also realize that six year old me was perfect just as she was and that helps present me feel good about myself now.
You and I both know this exercise doesn't change the past. It drains the emotion of the event so you can be free of the pain.
It tells your brain, "It happened. It's over. And now I'm ok."
So now, when I have a conversation with my boyfriend I can react as present Lori who is confident and self-assured instead of wounded six-year-old Lori.
5. Now that you've neutralized the memory, you can choose to forgive the offender. You don't have to feel anything to forgive. It's just a choice. You may feel like nothing has changed at first. But as time goes on, you will notice that you feel neutral toward that person instead of feeling angry, hurt, or vengeful toward them.
And this will translate into how you feel about yourself and others. You'll experience peace like never before.
What forgiveness is NOT. . .
Forgiveness does not mean it was ok for the other person to do what they did.
Forgiveness does not mean you need to keep letting the person hurt you. It may be perfectly appropriate to keep them out of your life. The above exercise will help you love yourself enough to keep them out of your life, if necessary.
Forgiveness does not mean you need to interact with that person on any level. Forgiveness is for YOU, and nobody else. There's no need for you to tell them you forgive them.
Forgiveness does not mean you are betraying yourself. Instead you are able to release yourself from the yucky emotions you've been living with since the offense. Forgiveness is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself.
If you need more help to forgive.
Sometimes it's tricky to get enough perspective to heal ourselves. Some people have experienced trauma or abuse that goes much deeper than the example I shared.
What would it be like if you absolutely knew you could be free of that old hurt forever? If you'd like further guidance in finding forgiveness and peace from trauma or abuse please reach out. I'm here for you.