We’ve all heard that to forgive is divine, but what about those situations that feel nearly impossible to forgive? What about those people who have treated you in such a way that it feels unforgivable?
Many of my clients talk to me about forgiveness and the first thing I say is “don’t worry about forgiving right now, allow yourself the feelings that you have. Let yourself feel your rage, your anger, your sense of injustice and all those feelings that are flooding to the surface as a result of someone else’s actions or behavior.”
Getting to a state of forgiveness too early can be detrimental to your emotional health, because you are using forgiveness as a tool to suppress the underlying emotions that need to be felt and expressed in a healthy way. If you don’t deal with your emotional pain, it will go underground and will cause a lot of problems from the subconscious state.
The most important step in forgiveness is to forgive yourself. People can treat you badly, but the real pain comes in believing that perhaps you don’t deserve to be treated well, or that you are somehow flawed or unworthy. You need to forgive yourself for any beliefs you hold about yourself that are less then loving. You need to forgive yourself for any judgments or hostility that you are directing inward.
We get depressed when we “repress” our feelings. Some people will tell you that depression is anger turned inward. I find that when we turn any of our emotions in on ourselves we can enter a state of depression. This is because we are not being honest with ourselves and we certainly aren’t being loving to ourselves. When we can say “I am angry! I am sad! I feel betrayed! I feel hurt,” we are learning to be honest with our feelings and can find healthy ways to release them. If we deny how we feel and we push our feelings down, they are still there, bubbling under the surface of our awareness.
Having love, compassion and care for yourself is the most important part of forgiveness, because you need to create a safe place (emotional safety) to feel and work through your painful emotions. You have to learn how to extend love and compassion to the one who is hurting. You need to tell this part of yourself that what he/she is feeling is okay. You have to tell this precious “inner child” that it is not its fault that it was treated in this way. You need to remind yourself that people, in their own unconsciousness, will project their unconscious wounds onto the most convenient target.
People who are deeply wounded or hurt inside, will hurt others, because this is how they unconsciously discharge the pain within themselves. Disowned pain is projected outside of oneself onto the ones who trigger the pain. Often, we are “triggers” for another person’s repressed pain simply through the act of being ourselves. It doesn’t mean that who we are is wrong or bad. You could be beautiful, or successful, or very loving and trigger someone’s fear that they somehow aren’t good enough, or beautiful enough, or successful enough. They will take these fears and insecurities within themselves and project them onto you; blaming you for how they feel. In truth, you have nothing to do with how they feel inside. You are simply the mirror that reflects back to them their repressed feelings about themselves.
As we go deeper into forgiveness we develop an understanding of the psychology of the human mind. We learn that people don’t treat us badly because of who we are. People treat us badly because of who they are. We need to learn not to take other people personally. This is a hard lesson. But in learning it we set ourselves free.
When we understand that people treat us badly because of their own repressed pain, we can develop compassion for them. We can see that our trespassers are suffering in their own way. When you consider how much pain you are feeling as a result of the trespass, you can gain understanding into the level of pain that person/persons must be feeling inside. They may not be aware of their own pain, which is why they are always attacking and blaming others. Nevertheless, they are sitting on a world of repressed pain.
I was told, when I decided to step out into the world with my voice and talk about my own experiences and my own pain, that I would be a target for others. The more visible we are; the more we step into our true authentic selves; the more we shine our light in the world, the bigger target we become for those who are still denying their inner reality.
I have been accused of being in denial by one who was in denial. I was accused of being heartless, by one who was heartless. I was accused of being ignorant, by one who was ignorant. I have been accused of being selfish, by one who was selfish. I have been accused of being narcissistic by one who was narcissistic. This is how projection works. I could not be out in the world in the way I am if I didn’t understand projection.
When I first started writing and sharing, I experienced a lot of email attacks by readers who picked out one word or sentence from what I was writing and created their own story about what I was saying that had nothing to do with what I was actually saying. Something I said triggered them, causing them to feel their own repressed pain and anger, and they projected their repressed feelings onto me, attacking me. They blamed me for how they were feeling. At first this was difficult for me. I had to learn the hard way. But as I stopped taking these people personally, stopped trying to defend myself and even stopped reading the emails all together, something interesting happened. The emails stopped coming. I stopped noticing them. They no longer had power over me. If I did get an attacking email every now and then I would say “wow, poor soul, he is really triggered by that article.” I would delete the email and move on.
When you truly begin shining your light in the world, your light will illuminate the darkness in others. Don’t allow this to dim you down. Keep shining! Forgive yourself for blaming yourself when others wrong you. Forgive yourself for believing that how others treat you has anything to do with who you are. Forgive yourself for all the times you failed to have compassion for the innocence inside of you. Love yourself in your pain, your fear, and your own insecurity. Find the courage to feel your feelings on a deep level so they may be released from your emotional pain body. In taking these steps, you will find that forgiveness of others is a process that becomes automatic. The more you work through your own feelings, the less others have an effect on you.
Forgiveness begins at home, inside of you! Forgive yourself and all others are forgiven. This frees you up to live from a state of love and compassion, which is truly the only place to live.