The impact of conflict can run deep and can change the state of our mental and physical health. Anger resides in the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure as well as compromising the immune system’s ability to function effectively. Holding onto negative thoughts and feelings limit our ability to enjoy our day to day life. Thoughts of the original conflict ruminate and escalate and relationships are impacted causing more dis-satisfaction and inner pain.
Thankfully our ability to forgive works wonders for our well-being, reducing stress and anger, boosting the ability to feel more optimistic and satisfied with your life as a whole. Unfortunately, the tendency to dwell or let go of unpleasant conversation or personal criticism is difficult and the pain of the conflict dominates. Whether the hurt happened a moment or a decade ago, intentional or not, its normal to feel heavy-hearted and angry, yet the next step is crucial. If letting go feels a weakness, the mind thrashes between forgiving, forgetting, avoiding it completely or going over every detail, over and over again. If the culprit was you, shame and blame add another dimension creating more confusion and complexity.
Forgiveness takes great strength. Its about having the courage to accept and then let go of what happened. Its about respecting yourself, nurturing your needs and choosing to be kind to yourself in the present. By gently moving away from the negative feelings of retaliation, revenge and justice-seeking you are actively making space from which you can grow. Letting go of the past can finally release you from the chains of the past.
If you’re wondering how to do it, well, its like a lot of things in life, its not easy, until you know how!
Here are a few tips;
1. When you feel so wronged, try to empathise with the other person. What might be going on in their life, why might they feel so opposite to you, really try and see it from their perspective. Nobody is perfect.
2. Practice self-compassion. What has happened cannot be changed. An apology may feel like it will help, but it won’t change the events. What do you want to be doing later on, ruminating over it or enjoying something else.
3. Think about yourself and why perhaps you feel so wronged/angry/frustrated? The only way you will overcome how you feel is by changing your attitude, your thoughts and your behaviour, no-one else’s. Being preoccupied with the other person is not going to change anything, only fuel your negativity.
4 Talk to someone, get their perspective …. ideally not someone who has the same experience as you, or someone who holds on to anger as you do. Seeing a counsellor/therapist is more appropriate. Sometimes its difficult to ‘let go’ if you’ve never done it. Also, the deep pain of the past can feel too strong and overwhelming to deal with alone. Whether its counselling, CBT or EMDR, all therapies can help you to learn forgiveness.