Remember that what we don't forgive we hold as something that is an ongoing threat to us in our nervous system. One of our life tasks is to face aspects of our lives that didn't work out as we wanted them to. According to Dr. Luskin, forgiveness is about making peace with the things that didn't go the way we had hoped. We want to acknowledge that we had a difficult/challenging experience, and then bring the focus to developing trust and feeling safe again. To do that, we need to bring in the good. We can begin to ask ourselves, "Have I seen enough beauty to deal with the ugliness? Have I been loved & loving enough to deal with the bad? Have I seen enough good, brought in enough gratitude to be okay and navigate this challenge?" Deepening into the good helps us to access our own positive coping abilities.
We can begin to access the good and bring in more of it by first calming our system through focusing on the breath. Allowing ourselves to come back to the present moment, the here and now, and deepening the breath into our belly. As we reconnect with the breath flowing in and out in this present moment, we can then begin to orient our attention to something good. Some suggestions Dr. Luskin has for this include: Doing a review over the past two days of all the people that have been kind to you. Perhaps there was someone who smiled at you, held the door, made you a meal, called to see how you're doing, efficiently scanned and packed your groceries at the store, said hello on the street, and so on. Start to add up all the times and situations where kindness was shown to you. Even in isolation we can typically come up with at least a few people that have been kind. And you may be surprised as you stop and review just how many there are. This is one way that shows us how the world is taking care of us. Another is to think of all the time you've received love from the people in your life, or the love you have shown others.
As we let ourselves be reminded of these powerful positive experiences, we may chose to focus on one of them, expand it and bring it into our heart center in this moment. When we access that internal voice of compassion, we are accessing the part of the brain that already knows how to forgive. There is nothing we need to do to make forgiveness happen. From this place it happens naturally. From this place, we begin to see how much our brain has been stuck in a negativity bias and as a result has distorted our perspective, and we start to acknowledge that we can alter our habitual patterns in this present moment. Remember, forgiveness is about making peace within ourselves. It's letting in an alternative perspective of reality, where we are not longer the victim but the hero of our story; where we begin to recognize that we faced something really difficult, and yet here we are still standing. We begin to see ourselves as capable of meeting and overcoming the challenges in our lives.
At first it may only be for a brief moment that we experience this shift in perspective and a feeling of freedom that goes along with it. As with all things brain-retraining related, it is through the repetition of this practice, along with no longer talking about the old grievance story and challenging any irrational beliefs that we may be holding, that allows us to change. Gratitude and compassion are the foundations for forgiveness, whether it be forgiving others or ourselves.
Dr. Luskin goes much more in-depth into these concepts in his book (Forgive for Good) and he has several exercises and practices to help you along the way. The more we can let go of the perceived threats in our nervous system, the more we can cultivate resilience and wellbeing.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at email@example.com
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com