Cancel the Debt
“There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness”
- Josh Billings
What does forgiveness mean for you?
When we are hurt by the actions of another it is our wellbeing that is at stake. The actions of the other party may be abhorrent, but the wound is ours to tend. We have said so many times that we cannot change the environment without first consciously choosing our responses to it. If the behaviour of another person is not acceptable, we can challenge it but the hurt that we unconsciously choose to feel as a result of the situation is for us to process. When we reach a point where we can consciously choose not to accept that invitation to feel hurt, we are truly enlightened.
We give others the power to ‘hurt’ us when we allow their behaviour to confirm the negative beliefs that we hold about ourselves. These include the belief that we are not good enough or not worthy of fairness, friendship or kindness. When the actions of another result in our being hurt we usually also find ourselves disappointed in them. Our positive expectations of them have not been met. To address this read more in the following article about how to manage your own expectations: Managing Expectations (resilientpractice.co.uk)
We must remember during this process that every experience is a gift in terms of what we learn from it. When we are painfully triggered, there are immensely valuable insights about the Self to be gained from the experience. If we can learn to sit with the discomfort and follow it back to its origins, we can bullet proof the Self going forward. We also learn about the other person in terms of protecting ourselves in the future, but an uncomfortable altercation is never about us in the eyes of the other party. They have their own stuff going on and they are responding unconsciously from a place of craving safety just as we are.
The truth is that in terms of your wellbeing - the only thing that matters is what is going on for you.
What, then, about forgiveness?
Forgiveness is seen across humanity as something to aspire to even when we have been subject to the ‘unforgivable.’ It is widely documented that forgiveness is ‘good for the soul’ because it gives us ‘closure’ and allows us to move forward. It could also be argued that forgiveness can repair those relationships that are salvageable after a transgression as it enables the party responsible to express regret and show accountability for their actions. This suggests that the affected party might gain some comfort form the knowledge that the perpetrator is ‘sorry.’ An apology might even be a condition required for forgiveness and moving on.
How does forgiveness affect the forgiver?
As much as forgiveness might be sought after by a perpetrator who is feeling remorse, it has huge benefits for the one doing the forgiving.
Forgiveness sets us free. In order to forgive, however, we do need to have identified as the victim in the situation. This puts us in a much less powerful position than if we had simply accepted that another person’s actions are their actions and that the fact that we are hurt is our stuff.
When we are hurt as a result of the actions of another, it can be said that we have experienced a trauma of sorts. When we experience trauma, we often do not process the event fully at the time. This means that our conscious awareness can be repetitively called back to the memory of the event causing us to give it our attention over and over again by thinking about it. It might feel to us that we are reliving the event, but often we are engaging in distorted thinking, remembering it differently and skewing the details to make it fit our belief system and individual model of the world. In other words, we may be allowing our version of events to confirm negative core beliefs. This drives our thoughts, feelings and behaviours – the cognitive behavioural cycle – and leads to the manifestation of further negative situations in our lives. Read more about distorted thinking here:
and the cognitive behavioural cycle here:
When we repetitively leave the present moment to revisit a traumatic event, we are attached to the memory of that event. We also give ourselves a similar dose of those fight/flight hormones to the one that we experienced at the time. This is not good for us. Forgiveness is part of the process by which we cut the cord that binds us to the memory and all the unpleasant emotions that recalling it evokes. When we do the inner work of detaching form the memory, it loses its emotional hold over us. This is known in Shamanic Healing as Soul Retrieval. There are a number of ways to do this, but forgiveness is a great start.
The next time you feel hurt or disappointed by the actions of another press pause:
Step into the shoes of your Observer Self.
This is the part of the Self that is able to bear witness without taking part.
It is the part of the psyche that can report your thoughts and emotions without doing the thinking or feeling.
Notice with a light and gentle curiosity what thoughts and emotions are present without becoming them.
Name them kindly to yourself.
Sit with them and feel them.
Let the body sensations of those emotions be acknowledged fully and the melted away by positive Self-regard
Listen with deep compassion to the stories that you are telling yourself.
Understand that they are a product of seeing the situation through the unique lens of your individual beliefs. Some of these are tainted with fear.
Fear of not being good enough or worthy.
They are not truth.
Give yourself a psychic hug.
Challenge the content of those stories.
Reword them to reflect what you know to be true.
Now picture the situation from your Observer standpoint and understand that none of this behaviour nor the outcome of the situation has been about you for the other person.
Rather it was about that person’s own need to feel safe.
You can recognise your own need to feel safe in that refection.
The fact that it happened at your expense is unfortunate but incidental to what was going on for them at the time.
Cancel the debt.
Let it go.
If you can, wish that person well
Ask that the fear that they felt which led to the actions that caused your hurt be dissolved as easily as your pain.
For a practical exercise to help to free yourself from an unpleasant past experience and many more to enhance your mental wellbeing see our book How to Rise: A Complete Resilience Manual