Saturday, December 03, 2005

Forgiveness as a way of life and a way to let go of your past pain

Forgiveness as a way
to let go of the pain from your past
By Dr. John Schinnerer
(925) 944-3440

Each one of us has an emotional gas tank inside us. Inside most of us, our emotional gas tanks are filled with anger, sadness and fear, or negative emotions. Negative emotions build up over time. They accumulate.
As an example, take anger. Anger is difficult to control yet it is predictable. It begins like a single drop of water. At first, it’s merely irritating. No big deal, just aggravating. Slowly, gradually, over time, anger accumulates. Some bonehead zips into the parking space for which you were patiently waiting. A guy in a hurry cuts you off on the freeway. Your boss is mistakenly upset with you because of a error a coworker made. The waitress takes forever to get your order and you are running late. When you finally arrive home, exhausted, your children are boisterous and energetic. Tiny drops of water slowly filling up your emotional gas tank. Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. And when you gather together enough of these little drops of annoyance, you have unknowingly filled your tank with rage and anger. You are now jump to judgment. You are fast to fury. You instantly become irritated. Over time, over years and years of this pattern, you learn to trust no one. You learn to be expect the worst from people. You build a wall to shield you from more pain. And the quality of your life gradually becomes miserable. It’s insidious. Without awareness, you become an emotional time bomb that explodes under any additional difficulties.
There is a better way to live. It requires learning the human strength of forgiveness.  Forgiveness takes some awareness and practice, but it can be learned.
All you have to do is learn how to dump out your emotional gas tank. Turn it upside down and release every last bit of negative emotions – anger, fear, disappointment and sadness. Once you’ve emptied your tank, you have the option of filling it up with what you choose – love, joy, peace and patience.
The problem is that no one ever taught you HOW to empty out your gas tank of these destructive emotions. Once you learn how to dump out all that rage and pain, then you have a choice. Then you will have a life of which you can be proud.
The problem is that life is flawed. There is nothing permanent in life. Eventually, everything we love will wither and die. One of the few certainties in life is that, at some point, everyone feels heartbroken, let down, betrayed, or disappointed. That is the price we must pay to live life.  And it’s normal to feel anger, sorrow and fear as a result of terrible events such as homicide, rape or assault. The key is to learn how to get unstuck from those feelings. The less time you spend wallowing in your destructive emotions, the better your quality of life will be.
Why would you want to forgive?
We have a lifetime of experience holding on to our hurt. However, no one has ever taught us HOW to release the pain. Research has shown that it is bad for our bodies when we dwell on negative feelings. Yet most of us don’t know any other way.
Studies show that people with higher levels of anger, fear and depression have more health problems, are more stressed, are at a higher risk of heart disease, have a higher incidence of cancer, are less hopeful and have fewer quality relationships. Negative emotions eat away at the inside of your arteries, are bad for your heart and kill your brain cells. They raise your blood pressure, make your muscles tense and cause more cortisol, the stress chemical, to be released into your body.  
Now you know why you want to get rid of those negative, destructive emotions you’ve been sitting on for decades. Let’s look at what forgiveness is and how to start to learn to forgive.
What is forgiveness?
Learning how to forgive takes some practice. It takes a little open-mindedness. However, it works and it is tremendously powerful. Forgiveness is not for wimps. Forgiveness is not an act of weakness. Forgiving does NOT mean that you approve of the act which broke your heart.
Forgiveness is a human strength. Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that you have in the present moment when you learn to stop dwelling on past hurts, betrayals and tragedies. Forgiveness is done to help YOU out, NOT the offender. Forgiveness is way to reclaim your power and control over your life.
Forgiveness does not mean that you condone of or approve of the wrongdoings that hurt you. You don’t need to be face-to-face with the offender in order to forgive. You can do it all by yourself.  
There are at least three kinds of forgiveness.
3 types of forgiveness
1. Forgiveness of others which we extend to others and receive ourselves. This allows us to release our anger, disappointment and sorrow.
2. Forgiveness of self which allows us to release our need to be perfect, our guilt and our shame
3. Forgiveness of God which allows us to let go of the idea that life should be fair and
  1. You forgiving God – Recognize and release any anger you may have at God and understand that life isn’t prefect

  2. God forgiving you – Allows you a new start by letting go of your mistakes so you can stay in the present moment rather than fretting over the past or worrying about the future.
How do you forgive?
Forgiveness begins with the realization that you are in control over how you feel. You have a choice as to whether or not you want to hold on to the anger you feel – anger at those who have wronged you, anger at God, anger at your self, anger at your parents, anger at everybody. Forgiveness is a learnable skill just like learning to swim.
The beliefs that you hold about forgiveness open or close possibilities for you. These beliefs determine your willingness to forgive. As a result, your beliefs about forgiveness dramatically influence how happy you are.
One of the ways that I learned to forgive came with the realization that I only harm myself when I hold on to my anger.  It does nothing to get back or to punish the trespasser. Many times the person who wronged you doesn’t even know you are angry. So your anger has no effect on them.
Also, forgiveness shatters the illusion that you are a victim of your past traumas or mistakes. You are not a victim of your past. You are a survivor. You are the hero of your own story. The past is the past. You cannot change it. The best you can do is to learn new ways of being in the present moment.
Forgiveness is a way out of your prison of pain. Forgiveness is a show of inner strength, NOT weakness. Forgiveness is a sign that you are able to rise above that which life has thrown your way. Forgiveness indicates to others that you have the power to overcome tragedy.

Getting to Forgiveness
     Normally, when someone has wronged us, we create mental stories about the injustice done to us. Then we rehearse it over and over again. Many of us get stuck and have a hard time turning the page in our mind.
There are usually three parts to these stories, or grievances:

     1. We take the offense too personally (when in fact it usually has little to do with us).
     2. We blame the offender for your emotions surrounding the episode.
     3. We create a grievance story and dwell on it.
By following these three steps, you can virtually guarantee a drop in life satisfaction, a decline in mood, and greater stress.

     Rather than take these three steps, here are three new steps you can learn. The goal is to replace the steps above with the new steps below. As you practice, forgiveness becomes easier and easier.

Three necessities to be able to forgive
  1. Know HOW you feel – Know specifically what emotions you are feeling. Most times in tragic situations, a grieving process takes place. Grieving usually involves anger, disappointment (a combination of anger and sadness), sorrow, and shock.

  2. Know WHAT was wrong – Know specifically which behaviors were hurtful or which words caused pain.

  3. Tell 1-3 trusted friends what happened – Share your newly recreated story with some trusted friends.

Much more to come later!

God Bless!

Dr. John


Post a Comment

<< Home