The Holiday season has equal potential to bring us joy and peace or chaos and contention. This greatly depends on our ability to see and promote the good in ourselves and others. This month we feel that the topic of “Forgiveness” is a fitting sequel to our previous topics of boundaries, self-worth, and emotional self-reliance as growth in all these previous areas lead to a need to forgive. The truth is that we are both victims and offenders in this life, no matter how hard we try to avoid hurting others or being hurt. All that we can truly control Is whether we are victims twice.
Before we are ready to truly offer forgiveness to ourselves or others, we need to “integrate” our story. That is a fancy way of saying that we need to bring what is in our unconscious awareness into our conscious awareness. As we start being able to name our feelings and experiences, we are then prepped to tame the emotions that so often overwhelm us. These include feelings such as distrust, pain, and protection that often stems from being injured. So often we are in an autopilot or reactive state when we feel threatened, and that brings out the worst in most of us. When we reach the point where we have integrated enough to “name” our emotions and experiences with acceptance then we can “tame” how we respond. We can say, “Even though I feel this emotion, I can love and accept myself. I do not need to be defined by my emotions and can choose whether I will continue experiencing them.”
Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves. Once we have owned our experience, we can use the great gift of forgiveness to free us from the cycle of continued injury. As a trauma therapist, I want to be clear that this does not mean we accept further injury or condone the actions of hurtful people, instead it means we acknowledge that we all have a story, and all offenders have also been offended at some point in their lives. All we can control is whether we will perpetuate or end that cycle, or in other words, whether we will be victims twice. You are free to see the good in yourself and others, and it is this freedom which allows you both to move forward to higher ways of relating. You are also free to pick boundaries that honor who you are and your wish to become stronger and stop hurtful patterns in which you were previously stuck.
This holiday season, I wish each of us greater peace and joy that comes from the ability to mindfully act in a way that is consistent with our best intentions. Forgiveness perhaps is the greatest gift we can receive to set us free to start anew. Perhaps we can find the motivation to forgive others because we too have been forgiven for our weaknesses. As we let go of the losses of our past, we will be ready to feel the joy and peace that can be discovered during this time of year.
For more information on how to “integrate” your story check out: http://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/