Quite often I have a conversation with my clients around ‘forgiving’ people or as I prefer to put it ‘letting things go’. It may be that in the past someone has wronged you. It could be a critical parent, a nasty boss, or maybe even someone who has physically harmed you or a loved one in some way. When we hold on to these old feelings of upset, hurt, anger or any other negative emotion, it’s like feeding ourselves poison and waiting for the other person to die. In actual fact, maybe that person IS dead, and we’re STILL troubled by these horrible feelings. When we hold on to these emotions, they can make us feel hopeless, worthless, anxious, maybe even broken. Sometimes we might push people away to prevent being rejected again, or we might develop unhealthy habits or addictions as strategies to make us feel better. Sometimes we don’t want to let these feelings go, and that’s understandable. It might seem that if we let these feelings go, it makes what that person did OK, and that doesn’t sit right with us. My question to you is: Is holding on to that feeling really serving you? I want to explain to you what happens when you hold on to these feelings, these emotions, when you don’t let go, or forgive that person. Now I don’t mean that you should go up and tell that person they’re forgiven. It’s simply that in your own mind you put it down, and you leave them holding responsibility for their own actions. Let me show you what tends to be the case when we hold on to those negative feelings. If you were to imagine your life as a line (see below). The past is to the left, the future to the right, you feel ‘stuck’ in the now, and the trauma is to the left of you in the past.
In our mind, we either want to go back to before the event so that we can change what happened, so we can say or do something different, that might stop that thing from happening. Of course, you can’t go back, you can never go back and change that event. Or the other thing that happens is that we want to go back because we want that person to understand what they put us through.
The problem with that is, that person may never understand what they put you through. Even if they did, how would you know, when would you be satisfied that they understood what they’d put you through? What if they don’t care what they put you through? Or maybe they know what they put you through, but they just don’t want you to bring it up again – they want to leave it in the past because they don’t want to feel bad about it anymore. Is it possible that they’ve learned from their mistake? You see what happened was never about you. They either did what they thought was right at the time, in which case I’d invite you to think about all the possible reasons they might have behaved the way they did. You have only been seeing this from one perspective, and that isn’t necessarily reality. Or alternatively you can choose not to carry their wrongdoing. You can choose to leave them with their guilt, leave them with their shame. Let them own it! Why do you need to carry it with you for the rest of your life? Why do you need to keep holding on to that emotion which is making you unhappy? Let’s be clear, they’re not still making you unhappy… YOU are making you unhappy by holding on to it. I hope this will help you to let go of things which have happened in the past, so that you can move on, free and happy. I know that sometimes it’s not that easy to let go, it can be difficult. If that’s the case, then I have lots of techniques to help people get over past traumas. What I do is take the emotion out of the memory, so that you can retain the learning without feeling the bad feeling. If you would like help with that please get in touch.