David Hamilton helps us just ‘let it go’ with this simple hack
I think most people would agree that forgiveness can be tough. Not only is it difficult to move through painful emotions, but to forgive can feel like we’re letting someone off the hook. Forgiveness is more about us than the other person, though. According to research, forgiveness can reduce hurt, depression and the need for revenge*. Given that forgiveness can free us from these negatives, we can reframe it instead as a gift to ourselves. The exercise below is adapted from a process that was invented several years ago at Stanford University and helped people who had lost loved ones to acts of violence in Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone. After going through the process, they made improvements in mental health, experienced less stress and had lower need for vengeance. They felt more positive and had more hope for the future.
NOW TRY SOMETHING NEW
The Forgiveness Process
- Make a decision to forgive Be clear that you want to forgive and move on, even if you don’t know how. You must at least be wishing to try.
- Recognise it is good for you to let go To help, write your answers to the following questions:
•Is holding onto the past doing me any good? If not, why not?
•How could my life be improved if I let this issue go?
- Practise empathy Have you hurt or offended anyone in the past? What was going on in your life at the time that influenced your behaviour? Sometimes, just acknowledging that everyone has issues, pain, general ‘stuff’ going on in their lives that affects how they behave, can help us to move on with our lives. Empathy makes forgiveness easier.
- Write a letter to the person who has hurt you (but don’t post it) This is about getting things off your chest. Write about how you feel, how you were hurt, and say what you would like to say to the person. Imagine talking to them face-to-face and finish by saying that you are choosing to let go now and move on with your life and that you wish them well with theirs. It’s important to get stuff off your chest but to finish on a positive note. You could turn this into a ritual and even have a ‘letting go’ party.
- Read an inspirational book where someone forgave Sometimes, just reading a story about someone who has been through a lot but who forgave can help us to forgive. One of my favourites is Left to Tell by Immaculée Illibagiza, who survived the Rwandan Holocaust of 1994 but learned to forgive those who killed her family.
- Take positive action This is about doing something positive that demonstrates to yourself that you have moved on. What have you not done because you have been holding onto the past? Could you do it now?
- Dr David Hamilton is a Scottish author with a PhD in organic chemistry, and tours the UK giving speeches on the mind-body connection. Go to drdavidhamilton.com