Thursday, 21 June 2018

Who in your life do you need to forgive? Forgiveness is about you!

Research and clinical practice show that forgiveness is one of the keys to emotional intimacy. It creates a safe space to deepen personal exploration and it allows each partner to share their broken parts.

In intimate relationships it is an absolute necessity, because heartache is inevitable when you deeply trust yourself to another. When we ar in love with someone, we open our hearts and become emotionally vulnerable. Even one unguarded or unkind word from our partner can cause a wound to our hearts. 

The reality is if you don’t want your heart to be hurt, don’t love. However, if you want a successful intimate relationship, learn how to forgive. 

Forgiveness in its most basic sense is letting go of the desire, the need, and the “right” to require punishment or restitution for the perceived offense. In forgiving, we renounce the right to hold resentment; we stop fanning the flame of anger , and instead seek to restore that which has been lost. 

The alternative to forgiveness is to allow little seeds of anger to be planted, watching them take root in the form of resentment which eventually leads to distance and walls developing in your relationship. You may have a situation currently that has taken root in your relationship in the form of resentment, anger, or perceived inequality. As you experience the implications of this circumstance, consider some of these aspects of forgiveness: 

Forgiveness is about you – your choice to let go of the experience of hurt and pain. 

Forgiveness is not about another person’s perception of your situation or relationship. 

Forgiveness provides a unique way to deepen your relationship and strengthen what you have together that is not possible any other way. When we are hurt, our natural response is to protect ourselves to ensure further harm does not occur. This happens through the release of adrenalin putting us into the “fight or flight” response. This could take the form of a spouse withdrawing emotionally, withholding who they are, their expressions of love, in an attempt to reduce vulnerability for a future wounding, an attempt to “flee” from potential hurt. An individual may protect themselves by becoming “armed”, by having an arsenal of criticism ready should they need to “fight” when anticipated pain is triggered in the future. 

The alternative to holding on to the hurt and protecting oneself from future pain is choosing to offer the gift of forgiveness and letting go of resentment. Nelson Mandela summed up resentment quite visually, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. 

Scientists who study forgiveness have long agreed that it is one of the most important contributors to a healthy relationship. Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer, more satisfying romantic relationships. Research has even found that people who practice unconditional forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer lives. 

Forgiveness is such a key component to a healthy relationship because, let’s face it, people are not perfect. No matter how close we come to finding a complete "soul mate," every individual is incredibly different from the next. It’s important to accept that we all have separate minds and points of view. Each of us is hurt, defended, flawed, and will inevitably make mistakes. Having this perspective doesn’t mean we should sit back and withstand abuse. However, if we want to enjoy a lasting relationship with someone we value and choose to spend our lives with, we may want to grow our ability to forgive. 

The science behind this may seem intuitive, but it helps to illustrate the important role forgiveness plays in a couple’s long-term well-being. Couples who do practice forgiveness show more behavioral regulation and have more positive 

motivation toward their partner. In other words, they drop the case rather than holding a grudge or harboring resentment. Instead, they put their effort into maintaining a positive relationship, in which they are less hostile or punishing. As the study put it, “[They] inhibit their tendency to damage their relationship by using negative interpersonal tactics like hitting, berating or avoiding their partner.” 

In practicing forgiveness, people are able to break a cycle that so many couples get into—an ongoing, destructive back and forth where no one really wins. 

Knowing the consequences of being unforgiving. Here are ways to become a more forgiving person. 

1. Think about the outcome you want. 

In dealing with relationship conflicts, we sometimes lose track of our goals. It’s important to emphasize cooperative over competitive goals; in other words, to share the common goal of getting back to being close as opposed to the competitive goal of "winning" the argument. As my father, psychologist Robert Firestone , likes to say, when you engage like this, “You may win the battle, but you’ll lose the war.” 

In order for you both to come out victorious, try to have empathy for your partner and see the situation from his or her eyes. Try to recognize the ways you may be hurting yourself and the relationship by acting out hostility, coldness, or holding a grudge. This doesn’t mean dismissing the things that matter to you, but it does mean talking about them in ways that will enhance your partner’s understanding and help you stay on a track, so you both get the outcome you want. 

2. Drop the case. 

Most people in relationships know what it’s like to quietly build a case against a partner, cataloging each and every mistake the person makes until they appear to us as a caricature of themselves. This distortion can injure and undermine your warm and loving feelings for your partner. Moreover, when you hold a grudge, the person who suffers most is you. In an earlier post, I elaborated on the importance of not building a case against your partner. Instead, wait until you are calm, try to express how you felt in the situation, and give your partner a chance to communicate their perspective. Be open and be a good listener. When we express our feelings and let them go, we can regain a kind, compassionate attitude toward our partner. 

3. Don’t listen to your critical inner voice. 

We all have cruel, coaching thoughts inside our head that get especially loud when it comes to our relationships. This “ critical inner voice” is full of bad advice that interferes with our happiness and tends to criticize us (or our partner) at every turn. It may tell us not to invest in or trust our partner. It may advise us to protect ourselves by not getting too close or to seek revenge when our partner messes up. Once again, these actions are rarely in our own best interest and will only wind up hurting us. 

This coaching “voice” may sound soothing at first, telling us, “Just give him the cold shoulder. It will make you feel better.” Or, “Just call her up and make her reassure you of how she feels.” However, once you listen to these thoughts, the same voice comes right back to punish you: “Here you are alone again. What a loser. You’ve just pushed him/her away, and now you won’t have anyone.” To act on our own, true point of view and move toward what you really want, you have to silence both the self-soothing and self-critical directives of your inner critic and act in ways that lead you toward your goals. 

4. Be aware of any fears of intimacy. 

If we find ourselves all of a sudden picking apart a partner or stubbornly unwilling to forgive a character flaw that was there from the beginning, we may want to consider that our own fears of intimacy are driving us to push the partner away. Most of us can easily see certain fears or hesitancies around closeness in our partner, but we often fail to recognize it in ourselves. We all face a certain amount of internal struggle when it comes to love and intimacy. Before you jump down a partner’s throat for showing up late or forgetting a favor, try to think if there may be some underlying inclination within you encouraging you to push him or her away. 

5. Don't recreate old family dynamics with your partner. 

Sometimes when a specific trait pushes our buttons more than others, it’s because it triggers something in us from our past. For example, if we had a parent who struggled with alcoholism, we may be extra sensitive to our partner getting tipsy at a party. If we had a caregiver who lost their temper at random, alarms may go off for us the minute our partner raises his or her voice. Be careful of ways you may project or even recreate old dynamics in your current relationships. Consider whether your behavior is really a reflection of how you want to act, or a reaction to something that’s been stirred up from your past. 

Forgiveness allows us to move beyond our pain, to heal, and to grow. Forgiveness also provides grace to your partner for a wrong that has been experienced. Forgiveness does not look to equalize a situation, does not look for whether a situation is fair, rather, looks at not allowing pain to take root. Forgiveness is about allowing yourself to stay vulnerable with hope for growth in your relationship. It requires a willing heart to look beyond the injury and see the person whom you love, whose dreams you hold as your own, and to see their own pain that has now become your own. 

When we take these steps, we may have thoughts telling us we are a fool, or we will just get hurt. Yet, being vulnerable actually makes us more likely to get what we want. It leads to healthier modes of relating and creates a more compassionate relationship. And, in the instances when someone is regularly hurting us with no sign of changing, we can be strong in our choice to move on, and do so without tormenting ourselves by plummeting into harmful feelings of victimization, shame, or misdirected anger. Yet, when it comes to the typical road bumps we experience with people we trust and choose to be close to long-term, it actually makes us happier to forgive. 

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Disclaimer: Comment expressed do not reflect the opinion of Isaac Yoma