You've seen the power of forgiving someone else, but many people struggle with guilt, blame and the inability to forgive themselves. Whether it's feeling responsible for a death or something much simpler, if you can't forgive yourself, you can't move on. How to start the healing process.
If you are struggling to forgive yourself for hurting others, being manipulative or treating yourself negatively, spiritual counselor Gary Zukav explains why forgiveness is something you decide to do for yourself...and what happens if don't.
When You Don't Forgive... ...It's like wearing dark sunglasses that distort everything you see. You also want everyone else to see through these glasses. Forgiveness is taking those glasses off. Not forgiving is like carrying heavy suitcases full of books through an airport. Forgiving is putting the suitcases down and walking away without them. It is lightening up. It is being able to enjoy your life, laugh again, and see the beauty in others. When you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot forgive others. When you cannot forgive others, you cannot forgive yourself. The dynamic of forgiveness is the same in both cases.
When You Forgive... ...You lighten your load. Not forgiving is like wearing dark sunglasses that gruesomely distort all that you see, and you want others to see through the same glasses. When you forgive, it is like leaving behind a heavy weight. Imagine that you are trying to walk through an airport while carrying a heavy suitcase in each hand with another strapped over your shoulder and another on your back like a backpack. It is difficult and painful work to go anywhere. Forgiving is putting down all of your baggage and leaving it behind. You travel lightly. It has nothing to do with worthiness—yours or others'. You and they are both worthy. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you wish to continue to carry your baggage.
Throughout history, there have been rituals that assisted in the process of forgiveness. Rabbi Irwin Kula's 4 time-tested rituals will help you find the courage to forgive yourself.
Meditation and Reflection This is your first choice in the healing process. You cannot change the past, but you can own the present moment.
Rabbi Irwin Kula says there are many ways to meditate, but all of them have to do with not resisting your feelings. Through meditation, you can observe these feeling; you discover the self. This is your first choice in the healing process—you make the choice to meditate. You cannot change the past, but you can own the present moment.
When you begin to meditate, make a commitment to continue for three months. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes each day, and choose a comfortable place for your meditation. Take seven to ten deep breaths, and allow the feeling of guilt (or whatever you're feeling) to come to mind. Breathe into it, and feel where you feel it in your body — your neck, your shoulders, your heart. The key result is that you will begin to realize that you are not the feeling, you're having the feeling.
Mantra This exercise will help you change your thought patterns.
Historically, many religions have had some sort of mantra, or chant, that was said daily. Because this practice is not as common today, you can create your own or repeat this outloud to yourself every day: "I forgive myself." This is going to feel awkward at first, but keep doing it. This exercise is about changing your thought patterns.
Journaling Recording your thoughts in a journal is a valuable way of releasing your feelings.
Rabbi Kula explains that journaling helps you chart different feelings. Each time you feel guilt during the day, write it down in your journal. You will be able to track when you feel this, and why, which will help you begin to understand your guilt. The same goes for the good feelings you experience. Write down the moments when you feel joy and richness in your life, and you will begin to recognize the things that release that joy.
Atonement Learn how to consciously make a sacrifice in light of your desire for forgiveness.
You can do therapeutic work, or have a large network of people for support, but still not feel forgiven. That sort of forgiveness comes from a place of surrender. In all wisdom traditions, it was customary to give some kind of offering, or sacrifice, for atonement. You can create your own sacrifice by asking yourself, "What will be my offering?" It could be philanthropy, political activism—something that requires a sacrifice of your time, money or effort. The key is to consciously make that sacrifice in light of your desire for forgiveness.
Don't be miserable for the rest of your life. Dr. Phil reveals his 5-step plan to create a new relationship with yourself.
Dr. Phil says that you have the power to be miserable the rest of your life. Or, you can say, "I'm going to give myself the permission to heal." You have to decide whether you're going to define a new relationship with yourself and remove the roadblocks that are blocking your path to living your best life.
Step One: Reopen your heart and mind again. When you are faced with terrible pain, your heart and mind slam shut. Opening yourself up again is a choice in terms of how you contextualize what happened to you. It allows you to say, "I am willing to consider that there is another way to adjust."
Step Two: Choose to love yourself again. Guilt is a wastebasket term that we use to cover everything negative and bad. One defining factor of guilt is that we commit the ultimate betrayal: abandoning ourselves. If you can't love yourself, you won't be able to heal yourself.
Step Three: Confront and demystify your guilt. Most people have the misconception that our depth of grief reflects the level of love for the person we've lost. It's not a betrayal of your loved one to go past the pain and deal with it in a different way. Demystifying the guilt means understanding the fear.
Step Four: Give yourself permission to heal. Part of forgiving yourself is understanding that you don't have to be punished. Give yourself permission to let go of the pain. If you have a wounded heart, you can't give good and pure love to anyone else.
Step Five: Actively create new relationships. If you've been unable to forgive yourself, it's possible that you've been holding yourself up to unrealistic expectations. You need to decide whether you want to continue living in pain. Once you've made that decision, you need to create a new relationship with yourself.