Now, if you’re like me, you really don’t need help learning how to be forgetful. I can easily forget where I left my keys and just as easily forget my own kids names (you know how it goes…Joe, Dan, Steve, I mean, Randy! You name the whole tribe before you get to the one you want!) That’s not really what I’m talking about. Sometimes, in order for us to move forward, we have to forget the past. That’s not always easy when your past has left painful scars to remind you how hurt you’ve been. At Legacy Counseling Service I provide counseling to women in the Tulsa and Broken Arrow areas who are stuck in depression, anxiety, or dissatisfying relationship because of past hurts that are difficult to move past. I know that you want to feel more freedom, confidence, self-worth, trust, and excitement about the future. Here are four tips for forgetting the past, healing from the heart ache, and looking to the future.
Tip #1: Befriend the pain
Most people would never say, “I love my pain.” Some people, however, have learned to befriend their pain. That is, they have learned to accept the pain and live with it. Pain, whether physical or emotional, can be devastating. Understanding where the pain comes from is part of the process to befriending your pain. That’s pretty easy when it’s physical pain, but it can be hard to pinpoint where emotional pain comes from. Once identified, though, you can begin to accept the fact that yes, you hurt and yes, you will survive. Some of our greatest lessons come from painful experiences in which we have had the strength to endure. You look back on the experience and be determined to not let the pain control you, but you control the pain. That sounds easy, but the truth is, sometimes you need help because depression, anxiety, alcohol, or anger has clouded your ability to do anything with the pain. Mental health counseling is a good tool to help identify the origin of pain and how to move past it. Befriend your pain.
Tip #2: Be willing to forgive
Wikipedia defines forgiveness as “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”1
It’s a whole lot easier to copy and paste that definition into this blog than it is to actually do what it says. But, if you want to move on with your life, forgiveness is a step you must take. Brandon was a 23 year old young man who was paralyzed in a car accident. Athletic, young and strong, the impact of such a life-changing event left him reeling. It could have overtaken this young man and left him with a future of anger and bitterness. Instead, he fought his way through the physical and emotional pain to a place where he truly forgave the driver of the other car and went on to live his life to the fullest – skydiving, crowd surfing in his wheelchair, working, and the list goes on. Without the desire and ability to forgive, Brandon’s life would be so very, very different.
What is really hard is when the offender is you, whether in truth or due to some flawed belief. Self-forgiveness is not something we practice well. When we hold on to self-hate and unforgiveness, it impacts not only our lives but our relationships with others. Our mental health and relationships suffers from the weight of our self-blame. “Self-hatred almost always stems from childhood. Trauma experienced after childhood also can fuel negative feelings about oneself”, according to Stacey Freedenthal. 2 The beginning of healing is self-compassion. Through cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapy modes, negative thoughts can be identified and self-compassion used to turn those thoughts into ones of forgiveness and self-care.
Tip #3: Be ready to move on
Once you have befriended your pain and accepted or given forgiveness, the next step is to move on toward a guilt-free, compassionate life. The way you feel about yourself, or the offender, after forgiveness has been given often leads to a change in your relationships as well. Some relationships may end, but that just means you are growing and changing yourself. It may be a little scary and leave you feeling uncertain about your future, and you may need someone (a friend, pastor or therapist) to be with you through the process. Your future is waiting for you.
As for forgetting? The more you practice forgiveness the memory of the hurt becomes more and more indistinct and less impactful. While you may not forget the pain completely, your new life of forgiveness and compassion will overshadow the pain and the pain will become less predominate in your mind and heart. And remember, forgetting and forgiving are not easy. You may need to do this many times as you encounter different seasons of life, and that’s okay and normal.
If you are ready to forget, forgive and move forward, give us a call. Legacy Counseling Service has therapists available for people of all ages and genders to help you deal with trauma, grief & loss, low self-esteem and self-hate. We are conveniently located between Broken Arrow and Tulsa, right off the Creek Turnpike. To learn more about us and how we can help, visit our website at www.legacycounseingservice.com.