What do you think about when you’re in the shower? Recently, I recognized that all too often, my thoughts were about negative past experiences or times when I felt I’d been wronged.
This recognition, combined with my brother going through some serious health issues, has made me dig deeper into the impact of holding onto these negative feelings and experiences.
So far, my research has led me to the conclusion that it’s profound. While I don’t realize it, the fact these thoughts come up time and again is evidence that I’ve not worked through the pain/anger/etc.
There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that not working through these problems has been keeping me from reaching my highest potential. And that’s not okay.
So, what’s to be done about it? For me, I’ve begun writing down all of the negative thoughts that come up. I’ve taken the time to go through my past (childhood till now) and think about all the experiences and interactions that have resulted in pain/anger/etc (not only things that have been done to me, but also things I’ve done to other people). From there, I’ve forgiven others, asked others for forgiveness, and have been working to forgive myself.
I found an easy to follow, four step framework in Psychology Today;
A prominent model, put forth by psychologist Robert Enright, delineates four steps of forgiveness. The first is to uncover your anger by exploring how you’ve avoided or addressed the emotion. The second is to make the decision to forgive. Begin by acknowledging that ignoring or coping with the offense hasn’t worked, therefore forgiveness might provide a path forward.
Third, cultivate forgiveness by developing compassion for the offender. Reflect on whether the act was due to malicious intent or challenging circumstances in the offender’s life. Lastly, release the harmful emotions and reflect on how you may have grown from the experience and the act of forgiveness itself.
Holding onto resentment has famously been said to be like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Not forgiving others has a net negative impact on you and I. Not forgiving ourselves will limit our ability to live our best lives.
I wanted to share with you what I’m working on in hopes that you’ll be inspired to do the same. We can all get better and begin to move in the direction of the lives we truly want. (I also recorded a podcast episode on this topic)