Forgiveness is the process of giving up resentment towards a person or situation. It is showing empathy when someone has done wrong towards you. Holding on to pain and anger only hurts you in the long run, so deciding to accept what has occurred and release the associated negative emotions is empowering. Letting go of the emotions does not mean restoring trust in someone, but it does mean not letting the situation have power over you. There are certain transgressions that are more difficult for us to move past. Forgiving others for actions that have physically or emotionally harmed such as abuse, neglect, or us is more difficult as there has been a loss of trust and boundaries crossed. These are situations where forgiveness can occur in order to move forward, but having those persons in our lives may not be possible.
Here are some strategies that allow you to take the necessary steps to start the forgiveness process and begin moving forward.
- Focus on the present, not the past. There is nothing that prevents being able to forgive more than directing too much energy toward the past. Mulling over what could have happened, what should have happened, or what would have happened usually causes negative emotions to develop as a result. Focusing on the past prevents us from being truly present in the current moment and from moving forward in our lives. One major step to forgiveness and letting go is to stop obsessing about what was and focus on what is yet to be.
- Practice positive thoughts. Do you find that you tend to replay or fixate on negative ideas or situations? And the more you try to tell yourself to stop thinking about things, the more you seem to obsess about it? The solution is to shift the conversation in your head in a positive direction with positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is being optimistic and encouraging toward yourself and your life situations. It is giving yourself the grace and understanding that you often give to others. This is the key to breaking the downward spiral of pessimism and letting go of the negativity that prevents you from being able to forgive.
- Silence your biggest critic, your own inner voice. Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than others. We hold ourselves accountable for things that we cannot control, and we do not forgive ourselves for our own mistakes. One powerful step towards self-forgiveness is to show ourselves the same grace that we show others. Also, to prevent the vicious cycle of negative and self-defeating thoughts, it is important to develop a sense of self-worth. Once you realize the amazing person that you are and know that you are good enough, you will begin to tolerate simple mistakes. You are more comfortable with the idea that no one is perfect, including you, and that you have flaws. You can then begin to silence your biggest critic, your own inner voice!
The opinions expressed here are solely my own as a psychiatrist and public health advocate. I receive no support from any pharmaceutical or device company.
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