If you've ever been deeply hurt by someone, you're most likely walking around with that pain in your body—even if it happened years ago. Time does not heal our wounds on its own, and until we've dealt with them, we store that pain in our bodies. We push it deep down and cover it up with the feel-good distraction of our choosing.
When the heart is broken, our survival instincts tell us to do whatever we can to stop from feeling the pain. When I began to come out of the deep depression from my last breakup, I could feel my entire being wanting to run from the pain. Because I am committed to the process of healing, I knew that running was not an option.
In response to pain, some of us avoid, some of us numb ourselves, some turn on ourselves, and others lash out in anger. Many of us are suffering because we're unwilling to release the pain and forgive. As painful as they are, these experiences can teach us so many things about ourselves—and so can the process of forgiveness.
Here are a few things to remember in your journey toward letting go.
1. You forgive for yourself, not someone else.
Refusing to forgive someone hurts you, not the other person. An inability to forgive often stems from a (potentially subconscious) desire to hurt the other person the way they've hurt us. It can also be because we're afraid to let go. The first step to forgiving is caring enough about yourself to do it for you.
2. Everyone is doing the best they can.
No matter the situation, the person who hurt you is most likely doing the best they can. Most people don't intentionally hurt others. Those who do, do so because they are in deep pain themselves. Continuing to come back to this truth is the foundation for forgiveness. It helps us see the humanity of those who have harmed us instead of demonizing them. When I am hurt by someone, I don't allow myself to speak or think negatively about them. Instead, I try to understand why they made the choices they did. I trust that they are doing what is best for them or what they feel they need to do.
3. You're the only thing you can control.
When someone has caused us pain, we often feel disempowered. When we surrender to this fact, it brings the focus back to ourselves. There is always something we have control over. Learn what you can about yourself and grow. Choose who you want to be instead of focusing on the things about the situation or the other person that you can't change.
4. It starts with learning to want good things for the other person.
I like to send the person who has hurt me love and light. You can imagine the person standing in front of you, your heart sending them love, and them sending you even more love back. It's a great exercise to help you remember that love is abundant. If you give love it comes back to you tenfold. Your love is unlimited.
5. Speaking your forgiveness is important.
When I need to forgive someone, I simply say those words out loud as often as possible. I imagine them being completely happy and at peace with themselves, which is what I ultimately want for every human being. At first you'll feel a lot of resistance if you're holding on to the pain tightly. Over time you'll begin to feel yourself allowing forgiveness to occur. The words flow more easily. You'll feel lighter as you say it. You can also imagine your heart opening as you say the words, and you can send the person love while you're reciting the mantra.
6. Resistance to forgiveness comes from a refusal to release pain.
I will often say out loud, "I release you, [name]." When I begin to place my awareness on them or the painful situation, I ask myself whether or not this is necessary. There is a healthy part of healing and processing pain, but this can become obsessive. When that tape starts playing in your head on repeat, bring the focus back to yourself, allow yourself to let go of the past, and focus on the amazing future you deserve.
7. It's a process.
Sometimes the pain feels so bottomless that we can't imagine how we could ever forgive. It's important to remember that forgiveness is a process. Healing is a process. We make progress. We think we've forgiven, and suddenly we're in a place of pain again. It's OK. Begin the process of forgiveness all over again. Let it be.
Although sometimes we’d rather live pain-free lives, these experiences are beautiful, necessary opportunities for our own growth. When we decide to process our pain, to reflect on ourselves, and to release those who have hurt us, we make tremendous leaps in our own transformation.