The memory came back to me like a summer squall, blowing into my psyche bringing up stormy feelings and leaving debris in its wake.
It was about the time a co-worker called me out for a job she thought I’d done poorly. The complaints were personal, loud and public – in front of my co-workers at an all-office meeting– and I was stunned. Didn’t see it coming, though I’d eaten bagels with this woman just an hour before.
Course all this happened more than 15 years ago and I still think about it, on occasion, and the memory leaves me angry and confused all over again.
This latest round of memory challenged me to get a little reflective, to reexamine the situation, and to let it go once and for all.
Bottom line: I needed to forgive my co-worker and myself. And, that forgiveness would also help me forget, according to new research.
Forgiveness Allows Movement
Forgiveness starts with our willingness to do it, says psychiatrist Walter Jacobson, author of Forgive to Win! (CreateSpace, 2010). This is where we stumble. We think that by forgiving another that we are letting them off the hook for their bad behavior. We believe that by forgiving, we are endorsing what they did that caused us pain. We are all about sticking it to those who have hurt us and we think by staying angry, hostile, withdrawn we are punishing.
All this does is help us hang on to the hurt. The hurt caused by the parent who left us, the husband who betrayed us, the boss who blamed us, the friend who cut us off.
When we can forgive all that, when we can let go and stop replaying the bad behavior in our minds, then we get to move on and our memory of the pain tends to fade too.
When the transgression has been forgiven, we are also more likely to forget the details that can bring up the old pain, according to researchers at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. That helps us move on, healthier.
Forgive for Better Heal
Forgiveness has long been linked to mental and physical health benefits and greater well-being. And, if you can forgive you’ll gain greater peace of mind and the memory of the hurt itself will fade. This means we can move on instead of staying stuck in the pain.
Of course all of this takes practice. First, we’ve got to decide to let go. But, don’t worry, you don’t even have to talk to the person who did the hurting to do it. This is all about you. You can do this for yourself, by yourself.
It becomes easier to do when we remember that by forgiving another we are actually choosing goodness and peace and more joy for ourselves. Instead of letting the memory of them or their bad behavior linger in your life, you are choosing to move on and in to a great life. That hurt becomes but a blip on your emotional radar screen. OK perhaps it is more than a blip, (it doesn’t have to be) but it’s one thing to carry the pain, another to carry the hostility and anger. Forgiveness frees you from that kind of drain.
In my case, though, the inner-office-chewing-out was just a blip. Really. I wasn’t cheated on. I have no physical scars. Sure, at the time it felt painful and shocking, but it’s long been over. My self-worth was in no way tied to the angry co-worker and I’ve rarely seen her since. So, imagine my surprise that the memory of that moment pops up every once-in-awhile. It’s time to try a more formal brand of forgiveness.
It starts with understanding which feelings are tied up in the moment of ick – for me there is embarrassment, surprise, anger, self-doubt, hurt – then it’s time for release.
In Wednesday’s post I’ll share the steps I’m using – disengaging, letting go, replacing — and let you know how they work.
Until then, what situation or person are you ready to forgive and let go of so you can move on?
Image by Erin Cairney White. Cairney White uses mixed media – acrylic paints, gelatos and a variety of papers, inks and stamps to create her work from her Snohomish, Washington studio. She is a wife and mother of four who also teaches art classes and works with educators in the Snohomish School District to support special needs students. When she is not creating, or working with kids, Cairney White and her husband raise pygmy goats. Her original artwork is available through the little details company.