A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled "The Art of Forgiveness". I wrote it in a rather snarky tone, as it was sparked by a silly coffee shop moment during a super stressful time. At the time I wrote it, it was merely a distraction, a way to busy my mind. Little did I know that this theme of "forgiveness" was about to take over my life. It feels appropriate to give this topic another go, and from a different space. In sticking with the format the complete title of this blog is “The Art of Forgiveness, When you Really, Truly Don’t Want To” and was inspired by my heart being completely shredded into pieces by people I trusted.
If you are reading to hear all the dirty, and gory details of this story, go ahead and stop reading now. Maybe that story will still be important enough to go in my memoir, but I have a whole lot of life yet to live before that’s written…Instead, I want to explore the complexity of forgiveness.
I spent 20+ years of life hiding, and feeling that something was wrong with, my BIG emotions. Through my studies of tantric yoga, I’ve boldly stepped into the dark waters of my emotions, learned to process what I’m feeling, and now consider my ability to FEEL a super power. I’ve learned to intimately sit with, and tenderly hold each raw, and real emotion. And yet, through all my studies and travels, there has been one elusive emotion….anger. Sadness and I have become old friends, and I’ve dipped my soul deep into depression. I’ve learned to sail the rocky seas of anxiety, and use my fears as a beacon of light to the path of my soul’s deepest treasures. And yet, up until about a year ago, I could count the number of times I had been truly angry, on one hand (and that was severely reaching). Typically, there’s a hierarchy, or a flow chart to our experience of feeling. At the very base of human emotion is anger. Anger protects sadness. Sadness is the bodyguard of fear. Fear is covering up our shame. Suddenly, and almost overnight, I had access to this corrosive and abusive sensation.
In every situation/conflict, there are always 3 sides….mine, theirs, and the truth. This factoid doesn’t diminish my experience. Instead, it liberates me from it. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to put all the blame on them. And certainly, there are plenty of times where there is a clear hurter + hurtee. Apologies may even come where these admissions are clearly stated. In my case, I did receive an apology and it had zero effect on the burning in my belly. This burning in my belly showed up in other ways: red, itchy, and inflamed skin and a sharp feeling in my belly about 30 minutes after eating. Using all my nerdy science and ayurveda knowledge, I tried all the things that usually get me back in alignment with I got real with myself and asked “What would it take for XYZ to do for me to feel vindicated in what happened?” When no answer appeared, I truly felt the poison of my holding on.
Betrayal, hurt, revenge, pettiness, wtfffffs, happiness at their failures/missteps, competitive, scarcity….just a few of the ways that my anger has shown up recently. The “trick” is noticing when all that is swirling, stopping it dead in its tracks, and wrapping that hurt part of yourself that created those thoughts in the warmest hug of compassion. Bonus points: send that out to someone you love! Double bonus points: send that out to the person you’re in conflict with. Eventually, you get better at recognizing your spiral, and can shift, faster. This intellectual way can take longer, and requires vigilance.
There’s another way that hijacks the thinking brain, and goes straight for the emotional, more impressionable, mind. This way requires a person, with an ability to listen and discern through your b.s. This can also be done solo, but requires a super strong personal b.s. meter, which may take time to develop.
Here’s the method:
Tell the story. In all its glory, and gory details. Feel the story in every fiber of being. Get it all out, no matter how silly.
Say (or write) what makes you angry about that specific story.
Say (or write) what makes you sad about that specific story.
Say (or write) what makes you fearful about that specific story.
Say (or write) what makes you guilty (or ashamed) about that specific story.
Your buddy keeps you on track, and in the rawness of the emotion. Your buddy listens to your statements, and teases out the ones that even though you feel they are true, they simply are silly and untrue. Pick one silly, yet real, statements to work with.
Take this statement, and turn it into something positive. Something so positive it leads the way straight to rainbows, puppy dogs, and sparkles.
Say it until you believe. Say it until you really, truly belive it. Say it until at least 51% believes
Here’s where the magic happens…...
Take that statement….and turn it into a song and dance! I’m super serious.
Adult Grace wants to hold onto her anger. Little Grace just wants to be happy, love everyone, and swing on the swingset while adding to her 4-leaf clover collection. When I can get on her level, I’m able to move beyond my desire for justice. When I can hijack my adult thinking brain, I’m able to move faster through my pain while still honoring the realness of it.
I’m not quite grateful for the access of this intense emotion. I’m still in the work and hitting it from all angles, both emotional and intellectual.