The transgressions committed against us can create deep hurt which can linger with us for a lifetime. It may be the mother who gave you up for adoption or the abuse you experienced during childhood. The pain of such situations can marinate for as long as we hold onto those emotions. As a result, we may hold a grudge and become a grudge-addict–unwilling to let go. Clinging to the emotions of hurt, pain, betrayal and disappointment is unhealthy for the mind and body according to new research by Dr. Ryan Howes.
Living in a less than perfect world means that being hurt is inevitable. Humans are flawed and they make mistakes, behave selfishly and sometimes intentionally hurt one another. This part of our human existence cannot be escaped. Forgiving another is an act of vulnerability that could lead to more hurt. Discovering ways to let go of the injury is essential to our mental and physical well-being.
Engaging in forgiveness has been shown by the research to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. Other studies have demonstrated improved sleep, immunity and overall mood. Letting go of grudges reduces anger, anxiety and depression. Individuals that are able to forgive have better relationships, experience joyful living and are more optimistic.
Sadly holding onto grudges robs one from living in the present and enjoying our lives in the moment. It also increases the likelihood that anger, fear and resentment increases. We are also more likely to displace our frustration, hurt or pain onto an innocent other. In addition, the person holding the grudge feels more helpless-engaging in a victim mentality and often finds life meaningless.
Refraining from forgiving does not allow the person to heal and move on. People’s trust is reduced, defensiveness increases and we become more argumentative because we hold close to our hearts the visceral pain that keeps people at a distance.
The process of forgiveness can be challenging. It may take months or a years. Start by understanding what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is making a conscious decision to let go of resentment and/or thoughts of revenge. It is NOT reconciling or forgetting. It is important to remember the hurt to minimize chances of being hurt in the future.
There is no recipe for forgiveness. Dr. Howes suggests focusing on 4 Elements.
1. Express the emotion. Let yourself feel. You can journal about your emotions.
2. Understand why. Explanations may be helpful; even if we don’t agree or like the response.
3. Rebuild safety. That may mean ensuring that the act won’t reoccur. That may come in the form of an apology, reassurance, distance or stronger boundaries.
4. Let go. Making a conscious decision to not hold a grudge. Stop bringing up past transgressions. By doing so you give up your role of victim and become equals again. Let go of rumination and move on.
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Carmel Valley 92130 area.