For many, a part of the healing puzzle includes our capacity to forgive – not only others, but ourselves as well. However, forgiveness is not always easy.
Before you can get to forgiveness, you have to be willing to feel the painful experiences of the past and process them in the present moment. Alice Miller notes that when children are asked to forgive abusive parents without first experiencing their emotions and their personal pain, the forgiveness becomes another weapon of silencing. Fast forwarding to forgiveness under these circumstances is not forgiveness – instead, it is a form of denial. Many women feel that in forgiving someone we are saying “that’s okay”. That the other person’s behaviour or transgression is acceptable. This is so far from the truth and absolutely not what forgiveness is.
By forgiving, you are not condoning the behaviour; you are releasing yourself from the trap of resentment. It is saying “the way you treated me or your behaviour is not necessarily excused; however, I release and forgive you, as well as myself”. In the Bible, it says, “forgive them for they know not what they do”. That is what forgiveness is about. For many, saying “I forgive you” leaves the other person stuck in the energy of blame. If we are to be responsible for our actions and perhaps our contribution (if any) in the event, a gentler approach is to say, “I am sorry this happened between us”.
To quote Dr. Christianne Northrup: “Many women have been brainwashed into submission by the misunderstanding of forgiveness. To get to forgiveness, we first have to work through the painful experiences that require it. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened to us was okay. It simply means that we are no longer willing to allow that experience to adversely affect our lives. Forgiveness is something we do, ultimately, for ourselves. Forgiveness frees us. It heals our bodies and our lives. But it is also the most difficult step we must take in our healing process. It takes a great deal of energy to keep someone out of our hearts. This approach teaches that we make amends for ourselves, not necessarily for the other person. But when we make amends to those who have hurt us, both of us are freed. Forgiveness and making amends are completely linked. Holding a grudge and maintaining hatred or resentment hurts us at least as much as the other person.
Forgiveness moves our energy to the heart area, the fourth chakra. When the body’s energy moves there, we don’t take our wounds so personally – and we can heal. Forgiveness is the initiation of the heart, and it is very powerful. Scientific studies have shown, for example, that when we think with our hearts by taking a moment to focus on someone or something that we love unconditionally – like a puppy or a young child – the rhythm of our hearts evens out and becomes healthier. Hormone levels change and normalize as well. When people are taught to think with their hearts regularly, they can even reverse heart disease and other stress-related conditions. The electromagnetic field of the heart is forty times stronger than the electromagnetic field produced by the brain; to me, this means that every cell in our bodies – and in the bodies of those around us – can be positively influenced by the quality of our hearts when they are beating in synchrony with the energy of appreciation.”
I have recorded a powerful forgiveness meditation from Dr. Northrup’s book “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”. This exercise has helped me heal the hole in my heart that was eaten away by unresolved conflict in my relationships. I urge you to practice this exercise as often as you need. You can download it here: https://drchristinabjorndal.com/forgiveness/
Each time you do this exercise you will get closer and closer to forgiveness.
And from Iyanla Vanzant: “When you become so angry with a person that you want to shut them out of your life, you need to know that there is something going on with you that has nothing to do with them.
At this level, anger is a response to your own judgments, the failed satisfaction of your own expectations, your failed attempts to gain control or your subconscious response to fear. If you want to establish and maintain peaceful relationships with other people surrender all judgments of who they are and who they are not.”
In essence, what forgiveness does is it allows you to step out of blame and conflict, which keeps us stuck in a state of fight, flight or freeze (which affects our hormonal adrenal (cortisol) function) to a place where we can start to process our emotions and learn to befriend ourselves and others. Ultimately, our survival as humans is dependent on our capacity to cooperate with others, and that includes extending compassion to your own heart. It is possible to allow yourself to purposely and intentionally open your heart.
Ultimately, when we are able to forgive we enter a state of presence. That person no longer exists in you as a charged or reactive mental emotional entity. They are no longer taking up space in your mind, body or soul. They are no longer living inside your head.
If the transgression was some time ago, recognize it is not the other person anymore who is fuelling the event (maybe they have even died) it is something you are carrying in your mental emotional field – recognize that and it is easier to step back from it and not get drawn into it. Learn to no longer react against it and it drops away.
A litmus test of forgiveness for me is when I think of that person, I am no longer emotionally charged. I can meet the other without reference to the past. People carry grievances in their mind sometimes for a lifetime and the ego loves that. One surviving grievance in you can prevent you from fully healing and awakening. My hope for you is that you are able to use this gentle exercise to guide yourself to peace. May you understand the meaning of love and give yourself the gift of forgiveness.
If you are interested in diving deeper with Dr. Chris, her Weekly LIVE online group program is opening October 16 – register here choosing the Weekly LIVE option: https://drchristinabjorndal.com/coaching/