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5 Major Pillars of Forgiveness According to this Psychologist

How practicing forgiveness can help you successfully navigate change and loss in life and work

Image courtesy of Drgladysato.com

 “The only constant in life is change”

We know that this is inherently true; yet every time we are faced with change, how often do we feel the urge to resist, avoid or simply ignore it?

Change can be terrifying, especially if it comes unexpectedly- at the expense of our comfort and equilibrium.

You know the kind of change I mean- that, that threatens to alter life as we know it (be it the end of a relationship, friendship or being made redundant at work).

Quite often, these changes are not just painful because of the way that they throw us. They are painful because they can come with a sense of feeling wronged. In such instances, not only do we have to find a way to navigate the change itself but to deal with our own feelings of:

  • Hurt
  • Injustice
  • Grief and so on

in order to be able to move forward as positively as possible.

But how do we achieve this fete, you may ask?

Well, in a recent interview that I had the pleasure of doing with Dr. Gladys Ato (author of “The Good Goodbye: How to Navigate Change and Loss in Life and Work”)- she shared that we do this through the process of forgiveness. This is because:

“…when you stay invested in replaying the scenarios that hurt you and rehashing what happened in your own mind, you are energetically tied to that individual. So, whenever you start to perseverate on what happened, you are strengthening that energetic tie…. The sooner that you can clear yourself from that, the better off you’ll be in terms of turning that energy back towards yourself to heal and then getting to that point where you can create a story about it that actually empowers you to the next chapter”.

Sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? But how can we actually practically carry this out? According to Dr. Ato, a big part of that is:

#1 Knowing what forgiveness is and is not

“Sometimes I think we believe that if we forgive someone, we’re saying ‘You can hurt me again. I’m opening myself back up to you, it’s okay what you did; I’m wiping my hands so that you’re free from it’ and that’s not forgiveness at all”.

Forgiveness means that you are no longer choosing to carry the burden of that resentment; that you’re no longer going to try to change what already happened. So, you’re freeing yourself up to:

  • Move forward from what happened, having already learned from it
  • Set good boundaries to continue to take care of yourself, while also releasing you and that person from being energetically tied in a way that is hurting you.


#2 Acknowledging that they hurt you

Acknowledging that someone hurt you is acceptance. It doesn’t mean that:

  • You’re condoning it
  • Agree with it
  • Or don’t have feelings about it

“It means it happened, you were hurt; someone wronged you. When you can accept that, you release your mind from trying to replay those scenarios of ‘They should have done this! They shouldn’t have done that!’ Now [through acceptance] you’ve freed yourself up from that and you can start to move through some of the other layers”.


#3 Allowing yourself to feel the hurt

“And, with a lot of forgiveness research that’s out there that I did for my book and in some of the key components that I focused on, it really is about being present with what has hurt you and allowing yourself to feel that sense of sorrow, anger or whatever it is with as little judgement as possible towards yourself- and then allowing yourself to try to extend that compassion towards the other individual”.

This then leads to-


#4 Understanding where the hurt is coming from

“It’s interesting for me that, in my observations…when we are [so] hurt where we feel like we can’t let go- there is a part of us that definitely has not healed. And it usually is not around the current situation; so it’s flared up something in us that’s like an old wound. And that old wound has been covered up with gross band aid, after band aid, after band aid- and, we might not be conscious of it in our minds- that the reason we are struggling so much to let go and forgive is this old wound that happened when you were in 7th grade, for example. But it comes back up and this is why self-awareness is so important. If you’re not aware of yourself and where you’re feeling these emotions from and what they might be connected to in your life, you’re going to miss these opportunities in the present moment to be able to move through hardship with a little bit more ease”.

As such, Ato encourages us to be curious and ask questions about thoughts like “I’m hurting” or “I can’t possibly think about forgiving them” such as-

  • Okay, why is that?
  • I accept that I’m not ready to forgive; now how do I start to understand that?
  • What is it about for me?
  • Does this remind me of a past time where I felt wronged?
  • Is this there a memory that I have where I felt like I wasn’t seen or heard in the beginning?

Such exploration can allow you to get insight that can help you to address, not only the current situation, but also the past that you might not have dealt with properly.


#5 Carrying out some forgiveness rituals

“And, [finally], there are some practical ways [to forgive] that I have found both in my career as a psychologist and a therapist, and also through different people that I interviewed for the book. A big way to do that is really through going through forgiveness rituals”.

This can include:

  • Writing a letter to the other person on how they’ve wronged you
  • Then, using personal awareness to decide what you need in terms of boundaries (to feel safe moving forward).

___________

Which of the 5 pillars of forgiveness most resonated with you? How will you incorporate this into your healing process from now on?

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