The process of forgiveness is not easy, that’s for sure. But in the end, is one of the most liberating experiences in life!
The FIRST step of this process is to EMOTIONALLY resolve your trauma & pain. This first step is so imperative that I don’t believe you can get to forgiveness without it.
So how does one emotionally resolve from past trauma and painful events? I mean, we can’t undo what’s already done, so what is the point, right? You’re right – we can’t undo history….but we can undo the emotional impact of that history. Of course, I highly recommend working with a therapist who is skilled in trauma therapy (not a traditional “talk & nod” therapist). My preference is EMDR — Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing — because I’ve seen it WORK! For the past 14+ years I’ve witnessed folks who have experienced profound healing from childhood abuse, sexual assault, emotional neglect, domestic violence, military combat, first responder incidents, etc. It’s been amazing actually. There are other therapies that can help with resolving trauma: Regression Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Ego State Therapy, Energy Work (reiki, meditation, acupuncture), etc. You pick what works for you, but do pick one and stick with it until the experience feels emotionally distant and neutral….or pretty darn close.
After neutralizing the intense emotions around the memory/incident, it’s time to write. Write a mock letter to the one who hurt, betrayed, abused or neglected you (this process also works if the one you need to forgive is yourself – for past mistakes & betrayals). Don’t worry, you don’t have to SEND the letter, but you need to write. The first draft of this letter should be full of your raw, honest emotions (cuss words and all) about how this person hurt you and how that pain has impacted your life. Once you sense that you’re done writing put the letter away for at least 24 hours, but preferably a few days or even a week. Come back to the letter and read through it….see if it can be edited to a more neutral tone or see if you have more emotions to express. Rinse and repeat until the letter reads and feels like a business letter, emotionally neutral & cuss words deleted. The final paragraph of the final draft should be the one where you’re forgiving the other, where you’re letting go of the resentment and pain. And it should read something like this (parts of this is from Marianne Williamson’s book Tears to Triumph):
I am willing to see you differently, despite what you have done to me. I am releasing you from the sword of my condemnation & resentment that I too might be released. This does not mean I want to be in relationship with you. Nor do I condone anything you’ve done. But I am willing to see your pain and fill my mind with the spirit of forgiveness so that we might both be set free.
Take all drafts of this letter and get to a place that is safe for fire, like an outdoor fire pit, an indoor fireplace or the kitchen sink. Light it up! And as the letter is burning in front of you, say this blessing to your Wiser Self, your Inner Divine, your God, or the Universe (found in Kristin Roberson’s book A Forgiveness Journal):
May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I awaken to my inner Divine essence. May I be healed.
May you be at peace. May your heart remain open. May you awaken to your inner Divine essence. May you be healed.
May we be at peace. May our hearts remain open. May we awaken to our inner Divine essence. May we be healed.
Remember, this process is a gift you are giving to yourself. . . the gift of peace. Priceless.
Trauma Therapy Resources:
Regression Therapy: www.spiritual-regression-therapy-association.com
Internal Family Systems: www.selfleadership.org
Ego State Therapy: www.goodtherapy.org