The Perfect Place To Begin Your Forgiveness Practice Is With Yourself
About once a month or so I volunteer at a divorce workshop that helps women navigate divorce as intelligently and prepared as possible. One of the most common sentiment I hear from women come in comments like:
- It wasn’t like this in the beginning.
- Looking back I should’ve seen the signs.
- My friends have been telling me for years.
- I knew it was wrong when ____ and didn’t do anything about it.
Bargaining, aka “the woulda/coulda/shoulda conversation”, is the third stage of grief. That means, regardless of the type of loss you experience, it is likely you’ll go through some version of “I should’ve…” While it’s perfectly normal to rewrite history as a coping mechanism for grief, if you’re not careful, this counterfactual thinking can easily become emotional self-flagellation.
Beating yourself up for a past you cannot change drastically interferes with ability to write a healthy future. Think about the root fear of your messaging. You’ll find it boils down to an absolute fear that you can’t really trust yourself.
Berating your life choices is not the same as learning from them; self-anger begets deep rooted, hard-to-reprogram self doubt.
It’s easy to think of February’s practice in forgiveness, grace and compassion as something you exercise with others. Think about the kind of pain that wakes you up at 2am though. It is rarely images of how others have failed you. Those sweat-inducing jolts of suffering are made up visions of all the ways you’re afraid you failed yourself!
If you’re like most people, you’ll find that underneath your long-held suffering is a foundation of deeply held fears about your smarts, your abilities and, dare I say it, your worth.
Of course, you are redeemable.
You are, after all, the redeemer.
You know the self-criticizing stories so well by now that they’re just white noise in the background of your consciousness. Dirty little saboteurs informing your decisions with very little knowledge on your part. Dark beliefs about yourself color your experiences with their lens on life, love and whatever hope you have left for your future.
A logical question is: If all of this self-doubt is really that sneaky (masquerading as an alternate version of reality then playing so often your conscious mind stops listening while your unconscious and subconscious takes advice from them) how do you ever have a fighting chance at changing them??
Rewiring For Hope
The brain has a neat little feature called neuroplasticity. That’s a fancy word for “you can learn and unlearn.” Your brain learned to be fearful and sad. You can (with practice) learn to feel hopeful and open once again. That’s what you’re doing in February, actually. Reclaiming the efforts that are currently invested in your painful stories. Then you’re re-directing them toward your helpful stories.
You know all of that through the daily thought prompts. What you may not realize is that you can start your forgiveness practice with yourself.
Love practice and resiliency in a variety of situations rounds out your Love-as-a-state-of-being-not-just-something-you-do skills and move the Forgiveness needle ahead for you.
You’re approaching the Action portion of the month. Your daily emails will guide you to your own, specialized forgiveness methods. Allow your flubs, repeated mistakes and successes contribute to your practice. You need all of them!!
If you want to be surprised by the rest of February’s thought process skip to the “Consider This” section.
If this is the first time you’ve thought of Love as a state of being rather than a verb, like we’ve been taught, then the ideas around forgiveness probably feel brand new to you. So here are the most critical steps to your fledgling practice to forgive yourself and others:
1) Forgiveness isn’t writing off “bad” or mistaken behavior as permissible or “ok.”
If you ignored every ill treatment you’d be the world’s most un-teachable doormat.
Instead: Forgiveness is an exercise in reclaiming the energy you give to the hurtful event.
2) You’re not going to catch every hurtful thought tip-toeing through your subconscious. You’ll catch enough, though, to treat them as an opportunity to first recognize them (Hi, hurtful thought, I remember you) then remember something else that is both helpful and true (in addition to being hurt, I’ve also learned to be strong and I’m getting better at loving myself every single day). Make sure the second 1/2 of this practice feels just as true, if not more so, than the first.
3) Celebrate your wins.
There will come a time when you realize that you haven’t felt that painful weight on your shoulders or had that trauma-inducing memory. Once you realize this, make sure you celebrate your progress. Yes, it’s totally ok if the reason you remembered you’d forgotten is because you’d remembered in the first place. (Read that sentence as many times as you need to….write me if you’re lost).
Pain is pain. It’s real. It’s active and…eventually…it’s over. Suffering is a result of the constant replay of past pains. Additionally, suffering is emboldened by the stories you build out of that pain (like your woulda/coulda/shouldas). You cannot keep pain from happening. You can, however, identify and redirect the suffering.
Stick with the promise you’ve made yourself to find all the ways you are already perfect, you are already Love. In that surety you’ll discover your passion, your purpose and a deep, abiding commitment the growth it takes to live your life fully.
I’d tell you that you’ll get there, except…I’m pretty sure you’ll find you’ve been “there” all along.
Letting go and really becoming Love can be tricky and scary. Remember to reach out when you need help. I’m here for you in a number of ways.