I've had a lot of people do a lot of crappy things to me in my lifetime. If I carried all that hurt around in a backpack, it would be so heavy that you'd find me in the middle of the street, arms and legs failing in the air, like a turtle stuck on its back.
Forgiveness is a touchy topic, and often misunderstood. When I meet with clients who are struggling with the harm that another person has done to them, I get funny looks when I mention forgiveness... but hear me out. Forgiveness isn't actually about the person that hurt you. It's about you, and making the decision to stop dwelling and move on with your life (I know, easier said than done, right?)
So... why might you forgive? Here's 4 good reasons:
1. Forgiveness can boost your health - including lower levels of stress horomones and blood pressure.
2. Forgiveness can boost your mental health - forgiveness therapy has been linked with lowering levels of depression and anxiety, and may reduce risk of suicide.
3. Forgiveness can help your relationships - learning how to process, express, and move on from difficult emotions can help you to resolve relationship conflict (and know when a relationship is just too toxic!)
4. Forgiveness can foster qualities of kindness and connectedness - you might experience some personal growth and gain more positive qualities by engaging in the process of forgiveness.
When I talk about forgiveness, I need to be clarify what I mean - see the graphic above to learn more about what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness definitely is not! For emphasis, I want to be very clear here: forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. While forgiveness can be an important process to move on and improve your own mental health, you need to look out for your safety and overall wellness first. If someone has hurt you, is toxic, and is unlikely to have changed, PLEASE know that forgiveness does not mean letting this person back into your life. Remember that forgiveness is an internal process that you undertake for your own benefit - you do not ever need to see, talk to, or have a relationship with the person who hurt you in order to forgive and move on.
There are four steps, which come from a technique called Forgiveness Therapy - a technique therapists use to help individuals let go of the difficult emotions associated with harm, and move on to live happy, peaceful lives! It is important to remember: making the decision to forgive is your decision, and yours alone. A good therapist will never force you to forgive, but may present forgiveness therapy as one of many options to process harm and trauma.
Although I was able to sum up the process to one page, forgiveness is often a lengthy process - it might take years for the hurt to subside enough that you can even consider letting go - and that's okay. The goal of forgiveness therapy is not to sweep your hurt under the rug. The goal is to bring that hurt out into the open, honour it, process how and why the hurt occurred, and look for areas of growth and resilience that have resulted from such a horrible situation.
If you are struggling with hurt and forgiveness, you can always book an appointment to discuss how to tackle these steps and start feeling better. I'm here to help!