It happens sometimes in life that we lose someone we loved deeply. Sometimes, the one we care about the most is the one who betrays us, cheats on us and hurts us. Sometimes, we are witnesses to heart wrenching incidents that are too tough to forget. And sometimes, we hold ourselves responsible and guilty of ‘crimes’ we didn’t really commit.
While this pain is normal, sometimes that pain lingers for too long. We revisit our dark pasts and relive the pain over and over, and have a hard time letting go.
This causes problems. It not only makes us unhappy, but can ruin the present relationships, distract us from more important work at hand, and make us reluctant to open up to new experiences and people. We get trapped in a cycle of anger and hurt, and miss out on the beauty of life.
We need to stop this self-destructive behaviour. We need to let go of our past. And in order to let go, we need to learn how to forgive.
By forgiving, we let go of our grievances and judgments and allow ourselves to heal. By forgiving, we are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. This can be a gradual process— and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person being forgiven. Forgiveness isn’t something that is done for the person who wronged us; it’s something we do for us.
Forgiveness cleans the slate and enables us to step forward.
Here are 5 steps which will help you to forgive, and let go.
1. Realise your self destructive behaviour.
Recognise and accept that reliving your pain is wrong and self-destructive. Ask yourself- is this habit making you feel more miserable? Does it have to do anything with the problems you’ve been facing in your relationships and work? Is it stopping you from pursuing your dreams, or becoming a better person? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, realise you need to change.
2. Watch where your thoughts go.
The next step is to notice your thoughts without getting caught up in them. When negative thoughts arise based on past experiences, realize that these are simply issues which your mind– not you- is working through. Scrutinise your thoughts and emotions consciously, almost as if you were a bystander looking in. Separate yourself from your mind’s thinking. Once you are able to look at your thoughts instead of flowing with them, they will begin to have less effect on you.
3. Distract yourself and train your mind.
Now that you’ve separated yourself from your thoughts, the next step is to stop your mind from thinking about such issues. The next time you feel a wave of negative nostalgia, tell yourself firmly, “I will not think about this topic. I want to be happy”, and think about the work that needs to be finished with by the end of the day. It won’t be easy, as your mind will protest initially since it is not being allowed to pursue its favourite hobby. But keep reminding yourself- you don’t need that hobby. You want to be happy.
4. Happiness is the best revenge.
You can turn the tables around by infusing positivity in your revenge. Forget about the people who’ve brought you nothing but grief. Remember you. Working on a better you is more fulfilling than hanging on to contempt of others. Let it all go and hold on to your growth and kindness instead. If you train yourself to consistently be more loving in thoughts and actions, your positive energy will attract more positive results into your current reality.
5. Start expressing Gratitude.
You can build a stronger resilience by focusing on gratitude to bring happiness. When you are tempted to focus on all the ways the world has done you wrong, instead count your blessings by making a list of the five aspects of your life that you appreciate. Continue this exercise for at least a month, and you will begin to see a positive change in your personality as you begin to seek out the brighter side of life.
Forgiveness finally puts the lid on the pot containing the painful memories of the past. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries or get your needs met, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future. Forgiveness is a wonderful way to honor yourself. It affirms to the universe that you deserve to be happy.