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Forgiveness

Old 09-30-2011, 08:13 PM
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Forgiveness

Now that's a word that not many of us can imagine connecting with right now i'm sure.
Many posts exclaiming hurt and frustrations and confusions really made me want to post this topic tonight. Not only for others, but for myself too.

I am so fortunate to attend a University that has some of the most world renowned Psychology professors around. One professor there created a therapy for people centered around forgiveness. His mother had been brutally murdered some time ago.

The other day we watched a documentary on Forgiveness in which he was in. It touched on incredibly emotional topics like 9/11, the Holocaust, murders...etc. It was truly intense, and there were many of us without a dry eye. How can anyone even think of forgiving certain actions? Are there things that are absolutely unforgivable?
It was a combination of stories about people who forgave extraordinary acts of evil and those who struggle with it.
When we talk about something that brings us pain, our blood pressure goes up. The problem often is that it stays up. Ultimately, the act of not forgiving has negative physiological effects on us. Forgiveness = calm.

But how do we forgive?

I used to feel like forgiveness meant that I released the person who hurt me from any responsibility and all the pain and hurt I felt would have been for nothing. That if I truly forgave someone then there was no reason I shouldn't let that person in my life.
I have really come to understand that forgiveness is about something else entirely. It is about freeing myself. It is not something I need the other person to be a part of, it does not mean that I condone any acts of cruelty, it does not mean that I ever speak to this person again, it means that I let go of the anger that keeps me bound to this person.

But how do we forgive?
We feel empathy for the other. We place ourselves in their mind.

I had to do this assignment last evening for class. I was to choose a person who hurt me, it was my A and his most recent actions as this is what has kept me essentially tied to him when I have wanted to move on so much. I placed 2 chairs facing each other.

I had to recall the event in my mind in as much detail as I could. And feel everything I felt, the anger, the pain, the disrespect, the abandonment, the hurt, the sadness..... and I accepted that each of those feelings went with that moment for me. It was not easy, and I cried.
I sat facing the empty chair and I told him what I wanted to say to him.

Then I switched chairs, and I was now him.

I had to put myself in his position and look at the situation as he would and understand his motivations and why he is so self centered. As I was him, I told me "Hurting you was never something I set out to do. I feel alone so much of the time too, it felt good that you loved me, I needed to feel that from someone because I don't like myself so often, and you gave that to me,so I told you things to keep you tied to me. But I can't give you want or need in life. Being cruel was the only way to make you let me go. Walking away was all I knew how to do."

And I cried. And I said I forgive you. And the thing was that I meant it, in that moment.

When I had to write my report of this exercise, I explained that this helped me to begin the PROCESS of forgiveness. It is not forgiving everything, it is forgiving piece by piece.
It is not as easy to forgive actions that were done intentionally to cause hurt, and when someone doesn't express remorse, this takes additional work and it is done daily.

The second part of this exercise that I realized that was so important was that I had to forgive MYSELF for what I contributed to the relationship to make it turn out the way it did. It was not his fault that I chose to stay around, and it was not his fault that I had expectations of him to fix me and love me.... I have to forgive myself and STOP being ANGRY AT ME.

When I feel angry and vengeful against him, I feel tied to him. I feel pain, I feel like I want to see what he's doing and see if he's doing well or upset, he's always on my mind.
I can sit here and tell you with certainty that when I feel forgiveness for him, it is a release, it is letting him go and not feeling a need to wrap myself in his world, because there is nothing more to hold on to. No anger.

This is why it is so important for me to work on forgiveness, and why it's so important for people to embrace the idea. Forgiving will help you move on when you feel like you can't. The key is empathy, and looking at yourself and the world through the other persons eyes.

It is also very important to note that if you know that you are not ready to explore forgiving, and are not comfortable with the idea, then it is not something that you should feel like you have to do because it's "the right thing to do". If you forgive because people tell you to, it won't be genuine, and it won't be coming from you which is also not healthy. Forgiveness comes when and if you are ready to offer it as a gift to yourself.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:42 PM
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What an amazing post kittyboo, thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:04 PM
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Wow.

Thank you.

I will come back to this post over and over.

You have a gift for writing and making feelings come across.

Kitty
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Old 10-01-2011, 04:25 AM
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I have been working on forgiveness, but I have taken a slightly different approach. I have not found empathy to be the key to my process, but as with so many things, there are likely different paths to the same place. It has been a part of the process, just not the key. I found that empathy tended to result from forgiveness, not the other way around.

The most difficult things for me to forgive have been wrongs against my children. The most difficult person to forgive has been myself.
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Old 10-01-2011, 09:50 AM
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KittyBoo, you said all this so well! And I loved my psych courses in college...got to work through a lot of my own crap in those assignments. Good for you for using it productively!

What you said while in your A's chair is something I have felt myself. I told my stbx just a week ago that he made loving him so difficult and I will never understand why, but truth be told I do understand it as best I can, and you phrased it very well. How can one love others if they don't know how or simply can't love themselves first and foremost?

Thanks for sharing - this touched me.
~T
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:23 PM
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Marie and KittyCopes - Thank you!! I'm really glad you felt something from my post. I love to write, it's how I feel I express myself the best. My posts and comments tend to be rather long and drawn out sometimes, lol, it's my nature.

Trapeze, absolutely! There is rarely one path one can take to get to a destination. I would love to hear some techniques that you discovered work for you if you feel like sharing.
I have researched forgiveness for a few years now, and for me, this therapy of connecting emotion to the one who hurt me has definitely been the key feature in helping me to let go of some anger.
They actually say that until we can really forgive others, we have to learn to forgive ourselves. It is often the hardest part.

Tuffgirl, Thank you so much! Psych is my major, and they offer a combo M.S./Doctorate program which I am considering applying to when I finish this portion.

I actually had a discussion with my professor the other day and may even be able to develop under guidance a research program re: adult abandonment. I love that these courses help me to heal myself, and it is so important that I use each one of them to look inward to develop a greater understanding of my own motivations, but most importantly how to control and direct them. I can't expect to be a completely effected therapist if I can't do the hard work myself.

I truly do feel that some of what I said from my A is how he feels. But I know I will never know for sure what goes on in his mind. I know that he has many issues in his life too (obviously) and I know he feels pain and loss, and I use that to offer empathy.

I realized that it is the appropriate amount of empathy that matters too.... I had TOO MUCH empathy for quite some time, this made it possible for him to treat me how he wanted to, and I would still be there. I took his pain into account always, and almost used empathy as an excuse to stay wrapped up in an unhealthy situation.
It is also applying empathy the right way. For me using it as a measure to heal myself is far better than using it as a measure not want to hurt him.
I'm very happy you got something out of this. That is my favorite part about posting my thoughts
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