• Cheryl Iliadis

Why forgiving someone is really about you

Contrary to popular opinion, the practice of forgiveness is not about condoning or making excuses for unfair treatment and other hurtful behaviors. It's not about getting an apology or a show of remorse from the offending party. And despite what's portrayed in films, novels, poems and love songs, it's not necessarily about reconciliation. Granted, reconnecting with loved ones can be a wonderful byproduct of forgiveness, but it's not a requirement or even a goal in some cases — especially if doing so would subject you to more harm.

The expanded version of forgiveness that I love to teach is a deep, soul-level letting-go of our pain, our sorrow, our suffering and we do that be cause we want to be free. We do that because we want to be healthy and we want to have peace of mind."

Without forgiveness, accumulated resentments extract a toll.

Those emotions turn into disease, We just stuff it, and that becomes toxic ... it turns dysfunctional.

Methods to practice forgiveness:

1. Tell your story.

Dissect the offending behavior and how it affects you. Spew it all out — the anger, the hurt, the bitterness — all the ugly, gory feelings you've been carrying inside you.

While "traditional" forgiveness wants you to pretend you're not angry or hurt by someone's behavior, actual forgiveness begs that we honor all of these raw emotions.

One quick note of caution: When doing this work, move only at a comfortable pace for you, and seek professional help if you need it.

Ways to prepare for this step: Turn off your phone, get rid of distractions and create a space of privacy, choose someone to play witness — someone who can listen with compassion and without judgment. Otherwise you can do it on your own by speaking your story out loud or writing it all down.

When the anger starts to bubble up, dive deeper.

Ask yourself: "What's underneath that anger?"

Anger is a "secondary emotion," one that guards our more vulnerable feelings, such as grief, fear, abandonment and disappointment.

So, make sure to give yourself permission and time to really dig deep to unearth whatever your anger is hiding.

2. Feel the feelings.

Close your eyes and evoke the event that's causing you pain. Let it bubble up without intellectualizing. Turn off your thinking brain.

"Cry it out or scream it out if it's anger, Get a pillow and beat the sofa with it. Just get that energy out of the cells of your body.

Don't be surprised if the exercise triggers memories of other times in life when you also felt abandoned, betrayed or similarly hurt, forgiveness work often uncovers behavior patterns that we don't see in ourselves — especially when we're blaming others for our pain.

By exposing the obvious — and less obvious — roots of our own reactions to others, we can begin to see a different way to respond.

3. Bring a fresh lens to your story.

Reexamine your perceptions of life events that have trapped you in the role of victim.

A situation you may have misinterpreted as a child can taint your important adult relationships. Putting an adult lens to child-centered woundedness can provide a clearer perspective of hurtful events — one that frees us to discard the old story and replace it with a less judgmental and, perhaps, more accurate one.

That can lead to reconnections with forsaken loved ones. Beware that your ego may fight to maintain the destructive stories that create separation in our lives, like "My relationships never work out." Or, "I can't trust anybody!"

When we do forgiveness, what we're doing is we're unwinding that intense pressure of the ego to stay separate.

4. Reframe your story.

Instead of viewing the offending behavior as something done to you, imagine there's something bigger at play: that its true purpose is to reflect something inside you that's ripe for healing.

Imagine looking into a mirror and seeing a smudge on your face. To clean off the smudge, you don't start wiping the mirror; rather, you clean your face. Likewise in life, often what you spot in others — negative and positive traits — are those you share. Just acknowledge that there is something in you that is being shown in the mirror of this person.

Even if you're certain the offending person's behavior has zero to do with you, suspend your disbelief and play along.

And remember, forgiving someone is not about them and their behavior — it's about you and your well-being.

"I do it for me, do it to ease my sensibilities" I don't want to be upset. I don't want to be walking around pissed off. I just don't. ... So, I do it to get that energy out of my system."

5. Integrate the learning, and express your gratitude

We're here to learn lessons, and even from the most horrible things that have ever happened, there are treasures, and we can find them, we can learn from them.

We can say, yes, I want to keep the lesson. I want to let go of the pain. And that is possible through this forgiveness practice."

(IMDHA forum)

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