For many of us, the emotions that hold the tightest grip on our hearts are disappointment, resentment, blame and anger. They place a stranglehold on our happiness and the only person who can release them is YOU! Although forgiving someone (or ourselves) can happen in an instant, my experience is that it is usually a much more lengthy process requiring great patience, trust, persistence and prayer.
How do you know if you still need to forgive someone?
If you still feel a ‘charge’ or get ‘triggered’ when you talk or think about a person or incident, if you feel constricted, tight, feel a flush of anger (even subtly) or a surge of energy physically—it probably means there is some unresolved emotional material for you to continue processing and letting go of. Forgiveness and compassion are associated with the heart chakra; it’s quite possible that you will feel a tightness in the upper back, between the shoulders, have a sunken chest, have difficulty taking a deep breath and feel deflated or low energy.
Steps to Help You Forgive
Understand why someone acts the way they do.
Perhaps, the most important tool and first step in forgiveness is to understand “WHY” someone acted the way they did. What are they trying to protect? What are they afraid of? Reframe by building a new cognitive framework as to WHY someone might act the way they do. We are all doing the best we can with the skills and awareness we have. Beginning to ask different questions and understand WHY breeds compassion and helps loosen the ties that bind us to blame.
Feel. Express your emotions.
This may mean digging up long held or buried emotions from the past, your childhood or right now. Until we fully release the emotions held in our bodies, they will continue to affect our current mindset—creating tension in the body-mind and even leading to illness. Do Anger Work. Find ways to primally release anger, rage and blame. Go into nature to yell or scream, cry, weep, hit something (pillow, tennis racket on couch cushions, boxing class)—let it out!
- How does this feel in my body?
- What does it feel like to be abandoned/betrayed/rageful?
- What are the sensations?
Write the person (or yourself) a letter.
You don’t have to send it, but getting our emotions out on paper gives them a place to live outside of yourself and your body.
Talk to the person (if possible).
This is only helpful if it is safe for you to speak with the person AND if you are in a calm, centered state of mind. It is not usually effective to speak with the other person when you are angry or until you have processed your emotions significantly on your own. You can also do this even if the person is not physically present or has died. Sit quietly. Close your eyes and call in the other person, their spirit and energy. Imagine them sitting across from you, how they look, how you feel. Tell them out loud what you are feeling, imagine a dialogue between you. When you are finished, thank them for listening and release them in gratitude.
Once you have adequately expressed your emotions, create new boundaries for yourself within the relationship. This may mean that you no longer see the person, end the relationship or establish new guidelines. In the future, you may be able to reestablish a friendship but your psyche and emotions need time to heal.
Fully letting go of a past transgression and completely forgiving may take many months or years. You may have a phase of feeling better and then realize that you are still grieving or angry. This is natural. The soul does not heal on linear time. Give yourself space and time, ask for help, get quiet, mindful + pray. In order to fully release, you have to change your version of the story and how you identify with it. This is the meaning of the myth of reincarnation. You are born anew.
Here’s a sample forgiveness prayer: “I ask help in releasing this…. (person, event, etc). I feel….. God/Universe/Spirit/Higher Self, please help me release and let go. Help me forgive. I cannot do this alone and need your support, guidance, strength and love. I ask you to enter my heart now and help me let go. Guide my actions and thoughts today. Thank you.”
Recently named the #2 Online Influencer for Stress Relief, Ashley Turner, MA, MFT registered intern is an innovator in self-development: combining yoga, modern psychology, and spirituality. A yoga instructor, mind-body psychotherapist, author and Ordained Priestess, she is the creator of several best-selling yoga DVDs, co-author of Aroma Yoga and co-founder of the popular digital program LIVE YOUR TRUTH. LOVE YOUR LIFE. Known for her charisma, candor, and accessibility, Ashley offers free weekly training videos and you can find her classes online at YogaVibes.