Forgiveness – how to let go and move forward
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Laura Mellins BA(Hons) Counselling & Psychotherapy, Dip. Couns. MBACP
1st September, 20160 Comments
Many of us have probably been in a position at some point of feeling wronged by someone. After the initial wave of emotions that may include anger, resentment, frustration, hurt and sadness, we face the next challenge, the challenge of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is sometimes quite misunderstood. Many people imagine that forgiveness involves saying “I forgive you” to the person that has wronged them and perhaps involves a hug and forgetting about what happened. So perhaps before you think about forgiveness it’s worth looking at some common misconceptions about it.
What forgiveness doesn’t mean
- Excusing the person’s actions.
- Telling the person they are forgiven.
- Suddenly not having feelings about what happened.
- That everything will suddenly be okay.
- Forgetting that the situation occurred in the first place.
- That you have to involve the person in your life.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change with unique circumstances for everyone. It is a decision to let go of resentment and emotional trauma connected to an event or set of events. This is something that you do for yourself not for the other person. The focus is on you and how you wish to respect and honour yourself and learn to happy.
How do I forgive?
- Firstly there needs to be on your part a desire to forgive. This can take time to achieve. It is really helpful to express all the pain and anger connected to the event or action as often as you need to. Talk to close friends and family or seek professional support.
- It is often overlooked and under rated but writing down your feelings can help to release much pain and anger and bring about new perspectives. Try writing a letter to the person who wronged you, a letter that you won’t send so they will never see it. It will allow you to say all the things you want to say.
- Think about the situation that brought out your anger and try to accept that it happened. There needs to be a personal acknowledgement of how you felt and how the situation impacted on you. Especially give some thought to how this acknowledgement has affected you.
- Look at what you have learnt about yourself and the other person and how this has facilitated personal growth for you.
- Think about the other person involved and their flaws. Sometimes we all act and behave from skewed perspectives as we are all human and make mistakes. Perhaps when you were hurt, the other person was attempting to have a personal need met and never intended for you to be hurt. It’s really helpful to reflect on the idea that people aren’t always what we need or want them to be.
- Have a think about what actions you may have taken in response to the other person. Do any of your actions need forgiveness?
- It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it’s okay to feel not able to forgive. You may need more time to reflect on your pain and anger. It’s your journey so take all the time you need.
The benefits of forgiving
Letting go of emotional pain is difficult. However, forgiving someone can be hugely liberating and brings about better health with less stress and anxiety. It can bring about a sense of healing with new perspectives on many things. Forgiveness can reduce symptoms of depression and bring about greater spiritual and psychological well-being.
Forgiveness puts you in control. With that control you can also make decisions about how and when you move forward always respecting what feels right, and comfortable, for you. You will still remember what happened but no longer be bound and controlled by it. Forgiveness, a way to affirm to yourself that you deserve to be happy…and you do.
About the author
Laura Mellins is an experienced counsellor working with anxiety, depression, stress, bereavement and loss, abuse, self-esteem and confidence issues. Using an integrative approach Laura also helps clients work towards achieving stated goals.
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