I was reading a very interesting article that stated that not “letting go” actually causes physical tension. It explains alot within myself. I do not invest in many people emotionally but the few that I have, have hurt me deeply. They have no conception as to how deep the cut is…but I do and I have been dwelling in the pain thinking that if I forgive them, I’ll be letting them “off the hook”.
You can begin this exercise on letting go of tension by forgiving others by first becoming as comfortable as you can. As you allow your body to feel fully supported, gently close your eyes. Begin to relax by letting any tension or discomfort flow down your body, into the furniture and then into the ground. . . . continuing to relax more and more, let your mind become quiet and still.
Remaining very relaxed and yet alert, quiet the chatter in your mind and move your attention to that place within where you are open to healing and new possibilities. Now, from that centered, open place within, allow an image to form of a person you would like to forgive, or at least to explore the possibility of forgiving at some time in the future. This person may still be part of your life or you may no longer have any contact with him or her. When you have that image firmly in mind, you can begin to explore the process of forgiveness by noticing how you feel when you are reminded of how that person said or did something that caused you pain. Even though you may not want to touch those places in your heart that have been hurt, your willingness to recognize the depth of your own pain is an important motivation for forgiving. Begin to experience how you feel when you remember the incident or incidents that caused this ache inside.
As you re-experience this pain, it may help you to explore the reasons why you have not forgiven this person before now. Is your pain so great that you can’t imagine it ever going away? If that is the way you feel, perhaps forgiveness would seem like allowing the other person to get off Scott-free, while you have always had to carry the burden of that person’s action.
Have you not forgiven because you feel responsible for everything that happened in this encounter, including the responsibility that belongs to the other person.
Have your resentment and anger allowed the other person to have power over you?
Can it be that you and the other person have allowed the original actions or words to fester, so they now have grown out of proportion to whatever actually happened and forgiveness now has to encompass much more?
Is the reason you haven’t forgiven because you are afraid that if you do so, you will let down your guard and be unprotected and then the person will be able to hurt you again?
Finally, have you not forgiven because you really aren’t sure how to do it? . . .
Many people have these common concerns about forgiveness and one or more of them may have kept you from forgiving in the past. Nevertheless, I invite you to go through the imagery exercise and try it on to see if the coat of forgiveness might just fit you better than you had imaged. When you are finished, you may discover, despite your concerns, that you experience some restoration of inner harmony-and realize that forgiveness is possible.
Now let’s begin the forgiveness exercise by imaging that the person who has harmed you in some way is sitting in front you. If you were physically injured by that person and are afraid of being too close, either have the person be so far away that he or she could not possibly hurt you or allow an image to form of something that could protect you if you sense that you need protection.
Look carefully at who this person was when he or she hurt you emotionally, physically or, perhaps, financially. Take a moment to consider how he or she became the person he or she was at the time this happened. Based on how that person was raised and on what that person had experienced up to that time, could he or she have been any different when this happened?
The forgiveness exercise involves looking at this person and telling him or her what you need to say in order to heal the wounds you’ve been carrying so long. I will first go through this statement without any pauses and then I’ll read the words again more slowly, giving you time to repeat them either aloud or silently to yourself. You may want to say the words I say or, if you prefer, use other words that work better for you. There will be a few times when you will need to add your own words in order to make this exercise fit your specific situation, rather like fill-in-the-blank sentences.
Now, let’s rehearse how you can speak to the person who is sitting in front of you.
You begin with, “When you said or did (here is where you’ll insert whatever the person said or did that was wrong or hurtful), I was hurt and angry. I would have preferred (and here you say what it was that you would have liked instead). But you did not. Whenever I think of what you actually said or did, I have let myself be tied to negative feelings. I have held onto my demand that you should have said or done something different. I no longer choose to hold onto the tension and hurt that accompanies my memory of what you said or did.
“Therefore, I cancel the demands, expectations and conditions I placed on you that you should have (and here is where you will state again what you would have preferred). You are totally responsible for your own actions and deeds.”
“I now send my love (or, if that word is too strong for you, my acceptance) to you as a human being, just as you were and are now.”
Now let’s go through that again slowly and this time you can say the words after me, imagining as completely as possible that the person is sitting in front of you.
“When you said or did _______ . . . I was hurt and angry. . . . I would have preferred _____ . . . .But you did not. . . . When I think about what you said or did, . . . I have let myself be tied to negative feelings. . . . I have held onto my demand . . . that you should have said or done something different. . . . I no longer choose to hold onto the tension and hurt . . . that accompanies my memory of what you said or did.
“Therefore, I cancel the demands, expectations and conditions I placed on you that you should have ____. . . You are totally responsible for your own actions and deeds.”
Do not be concerned if you do not feel totally accepting of the other person, that is often the case when the hurt is very, very deep and the damage created was great. Yet when you at least attempt to let go of old demands that people be different from what they are, accept whatever sense of relief you experience as being a gift you give yourself. Each time you repeat this exercise, you will feel release from another piece of the pain.
If you find today that all your pain is gone for a specific incident, it may be that you will want to forgive the person for something else he or she did that still bothers you. We sometimes have to do this because our minds find it difficult to grant a blanket forgiveness for every action another has done. It is often helpful to go through this process for each demand you have been holding against another person. Remember, too, that the person does not have to be aware of what you have done. This exercise is for you much more than for him or her.
Now, as you prepare to end this exercise, feel the increased sense of power that comes from recognizing that you can have strong preferences that someone behave in a certain way and yet not demand that they act as you would want them to, no matter how reasonable those expectations may seem to you. Take just a moment now and experience the freedom that comes from taking responsibility only for your own actions and allowing others to be responsible for themselves.