Speaking to some about forgiveness is akin to speaking about politics or religion. Being able to forgive someone is a deeply personal journey that defies any generic definition. In my perspective, forgiveness is being able to let go of the past and any emotions attached to that; to accept what was and what is, and to understand and know that all is exactly as it is meant to be, for all parties involved. Forgiveness sends a message to the Universe that the energy surrounding the incident or event, the people involved and the Self is all unified and all the same. It is accepting that the manifestation of all that has transpired is of the same source energy; borne from the same place as we are.
Forgiving is accepting: accepting that what has been done is part of the journey for all. For the perpetrator of the unforgivable act, it is their journey and lesson just as much as it has been yours. That is sometimes hard to swallow and accept as we instinctively go on the defense when we're attacked or hurt by others. Being mindful of your emotions is healthy, but don't let those emotions hold you hostage, or you move out of what is healthy and into victimization, which is not. This place, that of being a 'victim', can drain you of your right to happiness and continued movement forward in life. Feeling sad, mad, angry or glad are all superficial emotions that are merely symptomatic of deeper events and preconceived worldviews. Why does this event or person make us feel this way? What is it about this that seems so unfair, unjust, despicable, unworthy, unforgivable, and why do I feel that way about it? It takes inner strength to examine this fully and to come away with a deeper understanding of our Selves and who we are; what our parents, environment, worldviews have helped us to become. More importantly, how do we move into a place of forgiveness? It all starts with some inner reflection and some homework (and you thought you were done all that back in high-school and college!).
Where one must begin is with examination of Core Beliefs and Automatic Thoughts. What is the difference between a Core Belief and an Automatic Thought? Let's look at that a little closer, because its important to realize what these are, and how they do differ from one another if we are to evoke change in order to foster Forgiveness.
Beliefs stem from our thoughts, and all "thoughts" start out in their infancy as Automatic Thoughts. These are the knee-jerk reaction type thoughts that occur immediately and rush through our mind in response to an event or circumstance. These initial reactions of thought have a profound effect on our emotions and behaviours. When we form a thought surrounding an event or circumstance, we then wait in a sort of psychological 'limbo' until our thought is validated further by experience. These thoughts are extremely superficial and are not developed with any forethought, but rather, are more instinctual or reactive in nature. Once this validation occurs, this forms the basis for expectations and assumptions about ourselves, our relationships and of situations around us. We then allow these thoughts to become rules and guidelines that we instinctively follow. When this occurs, these become what is known as Intermediate beliefs.
Although these thoughts are still "beneath the surface", they are key players in maintaining a level of anxiety and depression in people that struggle with this in their lives; and yes, anxiety and depression are directly linked to feelings of resentment, being victimized by some traumatic event, and being unable to forgive someone.. Once one understands that these beliefs do exist and grasps an understanding of how they come to be, there is hope for change. So how does one identify which beliefs are "Intermediate" beliefs? Well, they are the ones that form our own expectations and assumptions that we possess about ourselves, our relationships and the world around us; in other words, they form the rules and guidelines that we follow through life. These can be greatly affected by cultural norms, Ethnicity, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other socio-economic factors. Knowing this, we can then understand why we each possess "attentional priorities" that influence what we tend to notice or not give notice to in life, and therefore how we think or react to given situations. Some examples of what this level of beliefs looks like would be "Never trust anyone", or "If I don't try anything new, I will keep from getting hurt or injured", or "all teenagers walking around in groups are up to no good". These are formative beliefs that we adopt based on many external and internal processes, situations and influences.
Core Beliefs, on the other hand, are the ones that need to be addressed in order to evoke any long-standing emotional changes. When reflecting and beginning the process of forgiveness, the core beliefs must be exposed through some deep introspection. In the Cognitive model of care, these core beliefs are at the very 'core' or deepest level of our human makeup. These represent our deepest values and perceptions of self, others and the world around us. Statements that come from our inner core and are formed through core beliefs, may look something like "I am unlovable", " I am ugly", " I am stupid/inadequate/worthless/unsafe", etc. It is through a pattern of repetitive events that lead to cycles of thoughts, behaviours, reactions etc., that reinforce these rules by which we live our lives.
In order to forgive then, we have to understand where the belief that something or someone is unforgivable comes from on the deepest level. Were you punished harshly as a child for every wrong thing you did, and told that your behaviour was shameful, etc and perhaps constantly persecuted for this behaviour long after it had occurred? Perhaps you were raised in a household that was extremely pious and expressed disapproval for certain behaviours as being something that God could never forgive you for. You can immediately see how these early influences began to form the foundation for your own self identity. You then carry this belief through life and when you encounter a behaviour or reaction or person or event that doesn't match your own beliefs for what is forgivable/unforgivable behaviour, you then create a box in which you expect everyone to fit. Once this root belief is recognized, steps can then be taken to begin the process of stripping away the belief through the adoption of new thought patterns to replace the old. This takes time, effort and commitment, but once it is achieved, you will feel peace and freedom from the grips of the negative energy that comes through attachment to some dysfunctional core beliefs.
Registered Psychiatric Nurse, Supportive Energy Therapy Practitioner, Yoga Instructor, Chartered Herbalist, AcuDetox Specialist, Personal Trainer, Entrepreneur, mom of three..
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