Written by: Theresa Agostinelli, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Many of us know that forgiveness is good for the body, mind, and spirit. It frees us from bitterness and anger. Unforgiveness can affect our emotional and physical health and hold us back from living the life we deserve. Often, we’re confronted with the decision to forgive someone, but forgiving ourselves is more difficult. Understanding why it is hard to forgive yourself can make it easier to practice.
Research shows that many people experience significant emotional distress and even physical ailments due to unforgiveness. Almost half of those interviewed said that being unable to forgive others or themselves caused them some form of physical or emotional health problems. Forms of sickness can include anxiety depression, addictions, insomnia. Other symptoms include stomach problems, headaches, random aches, pains and even more significantly, certain forms of cancer. For those who have been abused by others through verbal, sexual, psychological, physical, or financial abuse, forgiveness can be extremely difficult. Even if someone can forgive others who have abused them, it is more difficult to forgive themselves due to feeling as though they allowed the abuse or even caused the abuse. Let me stress here that this is not true at all. Abuse is not the fault of the victim. Many people have no choice in certain situations. These high-stress feelings can have serious effects on an individual’s physical health, mental health, and financial health. I have worked with many high-level achievers, corporate officers, athletes and business owners who have experienced significant trauma from abuse and it is not the fault of those victimized, the responsibility lies solely on the abuser. However, working through the trauma and being able to forgive the abuser and forgive oneself has long term positive effects on health and wellness. Many times, an abuser is no longer around or has died. Even then, I have seen where people are able to forgive in their mind and their heart and be able to move on past the past.
According to some studies, the ability to forgive often resulted in better health, more energy, higher level of confidence and productivity and overall positive feelings in health and wellness.
In my work as a life coach, human potential expert as well as a psychotherapist I have noticed that achieving success in any area of life requires one to practice extensive personal development and make intentional decisions to work on self-forgiveness and forgiving others. This often results in higher productivity and better performance. Mental health counseling or professional coaching often helps a person to overcome the feelings of anger and bitterness due to past hurts or betrayals that keep them from being able to achieve optimum health and wellness.
Let’s be clear though that just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we shove the past under the rug. It doesn’t mean that we forgive and forget, it simply means that we no longer allow the person or the situation to rent space in our head any longer. This offers freedom to move on and become our best self. Many times, being able to forgive someone can result in better communication and a healthier relationship. I remember a time in my own life where I had stored up so many bad memories and made so many mistakes and experienced significant hurts, betrayals, and self-inflicted failures that I noticed my mindset was always negative. It was like my brain was stuck on the “rewind” button every day. I began to self-sabotage. This began to increase limiting beliefs and caused me to make statements like “I can’t forgive myself,” or “I can’t get past my past” and even statements such as “ I will have to live with my guilt and regret for the rest of my life”. Perhaps you have felt this way too at times.
The good news is that you don’t have to live like this! There is hope and healing available.
This article will discuss how to practice self-forgiveness.
But first, we must discuss the reasons that self-forgiveness is hard for so many.
Rumination is a common form of thinking. It is when someone constantly plays the situation over and over in their mind and has repetitive thoughts about the person that hurt them or about their own past mistakes and failures. These repetitive thoughts can often become intrusive and can stop someone from being able to think rationally.
People tend to think that forgiving others lets that person off the hook. This often makes people avoid forgiving others and can often create more negative emotional responses and a sustained negative outlook on others. It can often lead to a lack of trust in new people and new situations. It can even prevent you from advancing in your career, relationships, finances and more. Remember, not everyone is out to hurt you.
Many people believe that they cannot be forgiven for past mistakes. Many people think that forgiving themselves is wrong and that they should suffer from their past mistakes as a sort of “payback” to themselves for wrong decisions or bad behaviors in the past. This can often lead to problems with health, relationships, finances, career, and give you overall feelings of negative wellbeing. It can also result in a negative outlook on the future. It can often stop you from receiving blessings for your new life ahead.
People often refuse help when it comes to forgiving themselves. A coach, therapist or a religious leader can often help with the difficult process of self-forgiveness. Professional counseling challenges negative beliefs about self-forgiveness and may help with the process of self-forgiveness and can reduce feelings of guilt, regret, bitterness, and anger.
You have the power to forgive and create a more satisfying life.
There can be many feelings associated with creating your own future, such as fear, regret, guilt, and more. This makes forgiveness very difficult. Whether unforgiveness is passed on from generation to generation or from previous bad experiences, it is imperative to be aware of your mindset. You have the power to stop the constant reminders of the past and look toward the future and learn to forgive others and yourself. Changing your mindset can help you to create new ways of thinking that support the life you dream about. Only when we free ourselves of past mistakes and make peace with where we are right now, will we truly embrace our future and live the most abundant and amazing life we could ever dream about.
Here are 4 techniques that can help you to practice self-forgiveness
We tend to base our future on our past. Our minds are wired to remember negative situations and our brain stores those memories to help us be ready for the next perceived negative situation. Letting go of the past can be difficult and can hold us back. It can feel like a car with all four tires stuck in the mud. When we try to forgive ourselves, it often feels like we are trying to release ourselves from things we have been stuck in for years. But there is freedom in releasing the person we used to be to embrace the person who we are becoming. We’re releasing who we were at that time. If we have built our present life based on who we were in the past, it becomes hard to forgive what we have done and who we were at that time because our past has become central to our identity. To release the negative parts of your past, remember that we’re all doing the best we can each day. If we had known that those poor decisions and bad behaviors would cause pain to others or ourselves, we wouldn’t have done them. And even if we knew that we were making poor choices, we certainly had no idea how much we would regret it in the future. Learn the lessons from understanding your past but make room for the future.
Our brain stores up all the negativity from our childhood and carries it over into adulthood. It downloads the past like a computer, and it will register what we’ve done “wrong”. If we try to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and failures without releasing the underlying feelings, then we will have trouble fully forgiving ourselves. No matter how hard we try to forgive ourselves and even others, many of us are hardwired to continue to beat ourselves up because our brain that stored all those negative situations will be forced to stay in the past and we tend to keep feeling those same feelings over and over. Learn to identify the guilt, the pain, the regret, the fear, the anger and release it. This will make self-forgiveness easier and more manageable.
Our mind is wired to hold on to the negativity in life because we are wired to live in fight or flight mode. In other words, we are always living in survival mode. To forgive ourselves, we first must admit that we made the mistake. We must realize that everyone makes mistakes, and we must own the fact that we have hurt people, we have hurt ourselves and we even changed the course of our future. We must take ownership and acknowledge the mistakes. Remember, failures, mistakes, and poor choices are a large part of life. Learn to appreciate the failures and the mistakes. It is how we learn and grow. It is how we make way for a better life. It’s how we move forward.
It’s easier to forgive a person whom we really love. If our trusting, loving friend, or significant other does something that hurts us, we are more likely to forgive. We can and should remember the good times and make sure that those good memories are stronger than the hurt. When we’re dealing with a person who has hurt us, sometimes it’s easier to choose to forgive rather than avoid the person and lose that relationship. We can often release the hurt, and simply move on. With ourselves, and our past mistakes, that’s not so easy. We cannot quit a relationship with ourselves. We can’t ignore, avoid or walk away from ourselves. Be intentional about finding self-love and self-acceptance. Self-appreciation is critical.
Making mistakes and being hurt is part of life, love, business. It’s going to happen.
It is often in our best interest to initiate forgiveness. If we wait too long, it becomes less manageable. When we initiate forgiveness, we can begin to heal and that means we are getting out of our comfort zone . When we practice self-forgiveness, we can allow ourselves to become better, stronger, faster, and finally live the life we deserve to live.
I hope the tips I shared will help you lean into your future. rather than stay stuck in your past. Because the truth is, the most dangerous place you can live is in the past. Make up your mind that pasts hurts and regrets will not overpower you. Make an intentional decision to reach out for help if you struggle with your past. Your best is yet to come. You are far more powerful than you know.
Theresa Agostinelli, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Professor Theresa Agostinelli is a licensed psychotherapist as well as a certified personal and professional coach. A widow and single mom at age 26, she found herself with few resources, no job and not many skills. She dramatically changed her life and rose from widow to successful business owner, entrepreneur and author. She has dedicated her life to helping others by teaching them how to maximize their mental and emotional well-being. Theresa is the author of the prolific book, The GRID System which speaks to unlocking your potential and living your best life. Her mission is helping people create more of what is good in life.