Letting Go: Part I – Forgiveness

A few weeks ago I sat down to write about forgiveness and ended up writing about being in the body in a way that allows for flow to happen – in an attitude of receiving. This is not so odd as it might seem. Forgiveness, in my view, is allowing yourself to be in the flow of Love. Judgement, anger, self-righteousness, malice, resentment, hatred are all resistance to that flow. Forgiveness is the letting go of resistance and allowing the flow to continue.

One of the biggest tricks of human emotion is the charge we get out of negative emotions (and positive ones too, but that’s for later). I’ve been known to have a temper, and I don’t know about you, but when I get really angry I can practically feel the steam rushing out of my eyes. A while ago I also noticed that I could feel my body constrict, especially in the area of my heart. I also noticed that after an outburst, the skin on my neck would crawl and I’d feel really, really low in energy – this after the big charge of energy that occurred while I was venting my self-righteous indignation at whomever had the misfortune of incurring my wrath. This big charge of energy is exhilarating, but it requires energy to maintain. It creates an internal black hole that sucks away energy from other “primary system.” Let’s not forget that since the event has already occurred, to maintain a connection to it one must essentially keep the past alive – no small task. Is it any wonder that my skin would crawl and that I’d feel spent? Who’s got that kind of energy? What would be the payoff?

Often we hold on to our anger because we’re determined to hurt the other person – to make them suffer like we’re suffering. So here I’d be, with my blood pressure raised, stress level high, immune system compromised, tired and with a headache from throwing a tantrum… Who was I trying to hurt again? Newsflash! The main person being hurt is you. And the net effect? More anger in the world.

The realization that my anger was more about me than it was about the other person came from A Course In Miracles (ACIM). One of the understandings I’ve gained from ACIM is that the world you see is the manifestation of your inner world. If something/someone is really getting to you then they represent that within you which needs to be released – i.e. forgiven. How do you do that? By letting it go so that you can free yourself from it. By releasing it in the outer world as if it never happened.

Many of us have learned to forgive by “being the better person” and acting as if everything is okay. But inside we still hold on to what was done to us, we keep it alive in a memory that is still emotionally charged. We make ourselves feel superior to the person we’ve “forgiven.” If one is to accept the premise of ACIM though, that person is actually the messenger of our own freedom, showing us vulnerable parts of ourselves which we would otherwise not be able to see, emotional blind spots, if you will. True forgiveness – letting it go as if it never happened – really allows us to forgive and free ourselves.

Driving is great forgiveness practice for me. I’ve incorporated a physical release into this practice. I feel myself harden inside as I become judgmental or angry (or hurt by someone else’s anger) and I gently instruct myself to “soften.” There is an internal feeling of quiet and a sense of coming back into my body, rather than a buildup of emotion and an outward projection of angry energy. Of course this might need to be done a few times depending on what happened – I never said it was easy to do, only necessary. Also, nowadays, when somebody really irritates me, it only takes a second to remember doing something equally inane myself. It’s easy to let go when you remember you’ve done the same thing. Thankfully, after practicing for a while, I’ve also learned to forgive myself. This is a hard lesson.

A few months ago I did something that was very hard for me to forgive: I forgot an appointment with a new client. It was a cold day and my phone was off, so they waited outside the studio for me and I came to my senses an hour later. Of course they had left in disgust. I was horrified, devastated, ashamed, and angry at myself all at the same time. I can be absent-minded at times, but this was a new level of inefficiency for me, perhaps fueled by some emotional issues I was dealing with at the time. I was scared that something was really wrong with me, but instead of being compassionate with myself, I began to berate myself in the car in front of my husband and kids. Nothing my husband said to console me was effective, but when we got home my son gently said to me: “Mommy, it’s okay, you’re not bad. You didn’t mean to do it.” That was the turning point on my journey of self-compassion. In that moment, something inside me softened toward my Self – seen through my child’s eyes. I let go. I let go of the anger and the fear and held myself in compassion. “You’re not bad.” And I got a smartphone with an alarm!

My story also brings up a key element that I think is a must when dealing with the anger that often prevents us from forgiving. I’ve learned that underneath anger, resentment, judgment, even annoyance, is fear. It is as if somehow we know that it is really about us and not about them, but it is easier to get indignant than it is to look below the surface at the real problem: our fear of facing ourselves. What if we looked deeper and found that we really felt not good enough? What if we uncovered some selfishness, neediness, fear of failure, fear of being found out for being a fraud – not a great parent or not as cultured or as brilliant as we appear? What if we uncovered a basic fear of not being able to do this life thing the right way? What if we realized we were just like the person we despise? Then what? If we couldn’t meet this realization with compassion, that would be a rough road. But if we could let go of our stories about ourselves, and other people, and acknowledge that we’re all basically doing the best we can with what we’ve got, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

In the end, no-one can hurt you unless you allow them to. So instead of saying that “So and so pissed me off,” we might do as so many teachers I’ve been reading recently recommend, and instead recognize: “I chose to be pissed off by So-and-so.” Then what’s to forgive? It becomes all about compassionately investigating why you allowed that to happen and uncovering your blind spot so it can’t happen again – or just letting it go.

5 thoughts on “Letting Go: Part I – Forgiveness”

  1. Francine,

    Everything we think we know from birth forward is based on a process and therefore the past. Everything we do is processed by our brain and therefore based on the past. Science tells us of a space time continuum and this understanding is based on the past (i.e., information travels to be observed).Alan Watts describes the past as a wake of a boat. It’s a pattern based on where you were and does not, in any way, propel where you’re going. This is a human paradox. We can only live in the present by holding on to the past. You would not abandon your children because your emotional attachment (love) to them was in your past.

    Gary Zukov, I think in “Seat of the Soul”, instructs us to let our emotions in, without editing, before we analyze them. To him, this is a path to understanding ourselves.

    The greater the circumstance (positive or negative) causing the emotion, the harder it is to control our behavior. It is easier to forgive someone who insulted you then someone who tortured, raped, and kill your child. In terms of the past in the present, most people (particularly parents) are in favor of notifying communities when convicted child molesters move into their neighborhoods.

    Philosophically speaking, emotions are a necessary conjunct to being human. The past is also.

    Your comments please.

    Jon

    1. Jon, It is ironic with all this talk of being “in the Now” that it appears everything we perceive has already happened by the time we have processed it. Check out the movie The Living Matrix for some interesting research that disputes that fact. I actually disagree that “we can only live in the present by holding on to the past.” I think we can be informed by the past without being imprisoned by it (which is how I interpret “holding on”). ACIM states that “All healing is release from the past.”

      Yes, the greater the circumstance the harder to let go. Some great examples of the freedom that can come from this, though, are Imaculee Ilibageeza and Eva Mozes Kor. These people chose to be free rather than continue to be shackled by their abusers, which is the consequence of holding on to resentment, rage and indignation. And I agree emotions can be welcomed and experienced. But that does not mean they should be clung to, or even that they need to be analyzed. Analysis of our emotions can actually be a slippery slope that ends up right where we started. In The Sedona Method, Hale Dwoskin says that the only reason to understand your emotions is if you intend to have them again. That might seem a little simplistic, but really it leads to the question of how much of the time spent “understanding ourselves” is really paying obeisance to the ego, or being stuck in the fear of who we would be if we moved beyond our stories. Psychotherapy has demonstrated time and again that mere insight does not produce change.

      So, yes, emotions are an integral part of being human, but we are not our emotions. We can be as trapped by our emotions as we are by the past.

  2. Francine,
    The concept of time (time/space continuum) is ample material for science fiction, philosophy and religion but we can only describe it, not define it.

    I have not seen the movie but I did look it up on the web. With my family background, I have always believed in alternative, non-scientific, healing abilities and ways of knowing. For me, this is “old school”.

    “Informed by the past” is semantics. I said nothing about being imprisoned. “All healing is release from the past.” implies a connection to the past. Healing has an object that exists in time and time does not stand still. Again I have no disagreement with the general direction of your comments.

    In terms of letting go, Dr. King asked the question “do you have the strength to love”. There have been many spiritual leaders and individuals throughout history (the past) who have recommended transcendence (letting go).

    I was not saying, nor was Zukov, that “emotions can be welcomed and experienced”. My comment was on their existential naure. It is this experience that Zukov was stating should be lived first – like live the moment so that you don’t shut off what is a natural part of you (for better or worse). If you choose to analyze it, that should follow the experience of the emotion (Zukov).

    Personally, in terms of emotions, I believe you are what you are and you should accept (whether you share with anybody else) who you are (for better or worse). You should know from our relationshsip that I may be long winded at times but I believe in accepting my self although most people see me as somewhat eccentric.

    There an old saying “work is love made visible”. Work is the brain/physical. Love is the emotion/spiritual. We must all work in our own gardens.

    1. Jon, Sounds like you and I are overdue for a long conversation about “stuff” 🙂 Let’s do that when the kids and I get back from NY! Big hugs. -F

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