authenticity

Why Unforgiving Someone Can Be More Important Than Forgiving Them

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
— Maya Angelou

 

English Poet Alexander Pope wrote in his Essay on Criticism,  “to err is human, to forgive is divine”.  

Photo by Natalija Grigel/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Natalija Grigel/iStock / Getty Images

Few things feel more heavenly then when someone really “gets” how they’ve hurt you. It’s easy to forgive them when they honestly apologize, make amends, and genuinely do things differently because they’ve learned the error of their way(s). Sometimes however, this doesn’t happen. Sometimes, behavioral patterns repeat, promises get made that aren’t kept, and sometimes, the one that did the hurting actually denies doing what they did.  

It’s devastating when someone you love deeply, lets you down, betrays you, leaves you, or hurts you in unspeakable ways. What complicates the pain more is this idea that you have to “forgive” that person, let go of your anger, grudges, and resentment, so that you can take the high road and move on in your life.   

 What if there’s wisdom to your pain and that working so hard to forgive someone might actually keep you from hearing what that wisdom is?  

What if your anger, hurt, and resentment, helps you to get the space you need from that person, so that you can begin to heal yourself? And, while in your process of healing, what if you then start to understand somethings, possibly even many things about you, that you never knew? Perhaps you gain insight into why you chose that person, and or made some of the choices you made in that relationship, including the oh so common choice to ignore the little red flags you saw early on because, well, you liked how you felt when you were with them, and no-one’s perfect, right? What if your pain inadvertently offered you an opportunity to learn something so important about yourself that it would empower you to move forward and engage in relationships in a different way, one that doesn’t make excuses for another’s behavior and stays true to you?  

Much has been written about forgiveness and the importance of learning to accept things as they are and let go. Much has been said about not allowing people who have hurt you to take up too much space in your head because that gives them power over you.

All of that is true.

 But I don’t think that means forgiving them, especially if they haven’t proven themselves worthy of your forgiveness. 

I often find in my clinical work, that the reason people struggle with trying to forgive the one who hurt them, is because it feels inauthentic. What feels authentic is the painful double bind they find themselves in. On the one hand, they want to forgive the one who hurt them because they still have some hope that things might somehow workout. Jumping quickly to forgiveness in this way acts as a defense mechanism, protecting people from taking in the awfulness of what the other did and the pain of the loss. On the other hand, the awfulness may be unacceptable and admitting that to oneself means there will be no reconciliation. It’s an impossible dilemma, where people feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t. This bind however, actually has an underlying positive intention, because it acts as a way to slowly remove the band aid and mitigate the overwhelming pain people finds themselves in. 

 

Sometimes, I encourage people to take a few steps back and metaphorically “un-forgive ” the one who hurt them. This allows them to really process through the pain that scarred their soul.  When they take this step back, they then come to understand that’s it’s normal to find themselves cycling through the memories of what happened and the wishing and wanting of what could have been. When people really take the time to proactively heal their wounds, grieve their losses, and learn their life lessons; their lives begin to transform. The void and loss of the other creates the vacuum that draws in new people and situations that are better suited for them and their new phase of life. They begin to become the person they were meant to be. Then, the person who once hurt them so terribly, doesn’t matter so much anymore. The winter of their obsessing, resentment, anger, and discontent, begins to melt away into a new season in their life; one with renewed hope and promise. 

This happens, not because they forgave the one who hurt them, though through this process they may genuinely decide to do that.

It happens, because they stayed true to their process and in turn forgave themselves.

The Homecoming: Why it's Never too Late to Live Authentically

“So you can doubt. And you can hate. But I know no matter what it takes:I’m coming home.” - Skyler Grey


 

“What about anacondas?” I asked. “Isn’t the Amazon Scary?”

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He paused for a moment and smiled at me before he answered. ‘It’s the safest place I’ve ever been,” he said while pulling out his phone to show me a picture he took of a Jaguar swimming away from his boat.”

After a  2 & ½ hour shuttle ride to the Liberia airport in Costa Rica, listening and learning from this man about his thoughts on Shamanism, the Mayan ruins in Guatemala, the Pachamama Alliance, the Amazon, and of his former work life involving unsavory business deals that effected the global economy, this man assured me that visiting the Amazon was a must.

 “Don’t worry” he said, as we exited the car and grabbed our luggage, “ the Amazon IS safe.”  He looked at me one last time before we parted for good and said “but love... now that’s scary”.

“Did he just do a little door knob therapy with me? ” I wondered as I walked into the airport and searched for the Jetblue Terminal. Tracing the threads of our conversation over and over in my mind, I finally remembered that I did tell him that I was a therapist. Perhaps that’s why he said what he said when he said it, just as many of my clients do at the end of session? They reveal  their deeper truths as they are literally walking out my office door- which allows them to say what they need to say, while avoiding any real exploration of it.  This man shared with me a deep vulnerability and then left.    

As I stood in line waiting to pick up my boarding pass for my flight home to Boston, unable to shake my curiosity, I decided to buy and read his book.  After perusing the chapter about his childhood,  I understood what he meant.

Like many clients I see, he grew up having to do what others wanted him to do- which became a part of his adult relational reality.  His own wants, needs, ideas and desires, if they deviated from what his family approved of,- were not permitted.  He developed what therapists call “a false self” -one that organizes around pleasing others and their realites- denying the authentic yearnings within. Yet, he always acted out his deeper wishes- just in destructive ways; dropping out of the school his family wanted him to go to, having affairs, ending his marriage, etc.  It made perfect sense to me why love felt so scary to him.

When people fall in love, they are often falling in love with parts of themself that they see in the other person.  Sometimes, they can only experience those parts of themself through that other person - at least initially. In a way, lovers become each other’s muses, inspiring their true nature and deep creative passions. If these parts are lost parts - exiled because they were never permitted and deemed unacceptable by those close to them, then the euphoria of being “in love with another” can quickly turn to panic - as the primitive implicit memories associated with the negative consequences of being authentic begin to surface.  For many, like this man, Love WAS scary.  And for those whom it still is, until healed, it will remain so.  When this is the case, people then chose relationships that reenact the model of love they are most familiar with- and sometimes find partners with whom they feel safe with but empty.   The lyric from O.A.R..’s song shattered “all I can feel is the realness I’m faking” speaks to that reality.

Yet the lie (false self) can not become the truth no matter how hard one tries to make it so and the call to authenticity will always be there as long as we are alive and have air to breathe. Some have the courage to take a deep breath and answer it and some do not - but the “phone” will never stop ringing -even when silenced.  

It will not quit.

Rather it will wait patiently for you to surrender to the sound of the song your soul sings.

The man I shared the shuttle ride with did answer his call-at least professionally - as he changed careers and is now dedicated to helping people all over the world live in economic fairness and in alignment with the earth’s natural resources. The draw to the amazon was his therapy and his experiences with nature and people who live connected to nature and her rhythms, helped him connect to his own.

He writes about how Shamans literally saved his life. “Shamans”,  which means medicine men or women are healers of the mind, body and spirit.  

Therapists are too.

But if you are not quite ready to answer the phone call home to yourself, here’s a pre therapy tip that will prepare you to feel safe for the “some day” trip to your inner amazon.  Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and close your eyes. Bring one hand to your heart and another to your stomach. Scan your body for tension and see if all the aches, pains, tensions and knots would be willing to soften just a tiny bit- more if they’d like. Relax your jaw and allow yourself to breath in through your mouth without even trying to.  Just wait and yield to the breath when the body needs air and inhale. Then allow the exhale.

Repeat.

Repeat again.

And again and again.

That’s it.

It’s a simple surrender to the rhythm of your breath - and the rhythm of your soul, where all the answers to your questions live- patiently waiting to share their wisdom with you.

As the breath slows down, so will the mind. When that happens, you will soon begin to hear the sounds of the rich biodiversity of all the inner voices  and parts inside of you - which at first will feel scary. If that’s the case, just return to the breath and see if you can  trust that all the frightened, shamed, scared, angry, lonely, sad, should, no don’t, but I have to and any and all  parts  of you that constantly contradict each other -have valuable data for you to listen to. They all matter and they can all live in harmony inside of you when and only when you listen to them all and deny nothing of what they have to say. They will then guide you on your journey home to authenticity and your true self.  

That’s when love shifts from scary to rich, alive and exciting.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Finding Hope After Heartbreak Hacks

Not only can you survive heartbreak, you can learn to thrive in your life because of it!

Are You Feeling Stuck? Tips on how to clear up your inner traffic jam.



"With one breath, with one flow

you will know

Synchronicity" 

-"Synchronicity"- The Police

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Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961) shared a story about a patient who once had a dream about an expensive piece of jewelry which she referred to as a golden scarab. Clinically, he was trying to help her get more connected to her heart, which her rational, logical, defensive mind protected her from, with good reason I am sure of. He struggled with her for quite some time and asked for a little help from the universe which he got on the day she talked about her dream.  As he listened to what she was describing, he heard a light tapping on his window.  He turned around and saw that it was a golden scarab beetle - which were widely revered in ancient Egypt. He pointed this out to his patient who quickly made the connection between her inner world being mirrored by the outerworld.  This synchronistic moment reportedly worked and the therapy began to help her.

 

“John” was a client I had been working on and off with for several years.  Normally on time for session, he arrived twenty minutes late, seemingly aggravated.  ‘Sorry” he said as he plopped himself on my couch, “I’ve been stuck in traffic for over an hour”. “John” had been feeling frustrated with many things in his life, one of which was an out of state job that he desperately wanted and had been in the works for over a year now. It seemed that each time the company got close to making him an offer, they would tell him that they didn’t have to go ahead yet, but encouraged him to hang in there with them.  Trying to ignore his immediate experience of frustration, he dove into reporting on all the recent developments or lack thereof in his life.

 

“Being stuck in traffic really sucks” I said, to which he paused, nodded his head and looked at me.  “Can you feel the frustration in your body? “ I asked.  

 

“Yes, but I really just want to forget about it”, he responded.

 

“Of course you do” I said, “but why not take a moment to just acknowledge it and see what happens?”.  

 

He agreed.  He closed his eyes and focussed on the tension in his neck and shoulders. As he followed his breath, his frustration turned to anger and then softened to a profound sadness.  He acknowledged how helpless he felt regarding his current life circumstances and wished things could change.  We spent the rest of the session holding that as he grieved his sense of helplessness.  By the end of the appointment, there was an alchemical shift in the room. Though the therapy in and of itself couldn’t do much to change the external issues in his outer life, his inner life dramatically shifted when he discovered self compassion.  

 We joked as he left that evening hoping the traffic jam would be cleared up by now so that he could have an easy ride home.  “It will be what it will be” he said, smiling as he walked out the door.

Two weeks later, John arrived early for his appointment.  I opened my office door to see him seated in the waiting room grinning from ear to ear.  “Guess what happened?” he asked as he entered my office?

  “You tell me” I responded as I waited to hear his news.

“They made me an offer last week.  I will be moving out of town and starting my new job in two months”.

He had his golden scarab moment and his inner traffic jam cleared.


Whether or not one buys into Jung’s theory of synchronicity doesn’t matter.  Taking the time to sit compassionately with all of one’s parts and unburdening the pain inside does.  

Why?

Because it help us to better manage the inevitable traffic jams we all experience and then find new routes to travel on in our lives.


 







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FInding Hope after heartbreak hacks

Not only can you survive heartbreak, you can learn to thrive in your life because of it!