Four Simple Ways to Forgive Yourself and Get on With Your Life


Matthew B. James, Ph.D. | Psychology Today

How to Forgive Yourself and Move on From the Past

“How unhappy is he who cannot forgive himself.”Publilius SyrusMany of us know that forgiveness is a good thing, right? It frees us from bitterness and anger, two emotions that not only don’t feel good but they can also ruin our physical health and hold us back from all the good we might achieve and experience. I know that many of you have worked on forgiving others.

But what about forgiving ourselves?

Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and consistent about offering forgiveness to others, isn’t forgiving ourselves often the most difficult?

Understanding why self-forgiveness is difficult can give us clues to make it easier:

#1 “God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't.” – Alfred Korzybski

When we’ve done something “wrong,” we register it in our nervous system. An injury to someone else might be accompanied by guilt. A mistake that costs us something we want might have sadness attached to it. When we’ve done something we regret, we often connect it to a limiting belief like, “I’m always saying the wrong things” or “I’ll never be able to cover my bills.”

If we try to forgive ourselves for something without releasing the underlying emotion or belief we’ve attached to it, the forgiveness just doesn’t take. No matter how hard you try to forgive, you continue to beat yourself up for whatever happened— because your nervous system tells you to!

What to do about that? Identify the limiting belief or negative emotion you’ve attached to what you’re trying to forgive in yourself. Release that first, using a process like the Mental Emotional Release® process (MER®), and you’ll find that forgiving yourself is not that difficult.

#2 “Forgiveness means letting go of the past.” – Gerald Jampolsky

We tend to think of ourselves as a continuum: a human being that begins with our past, moves briefly through our present and heads toward our future. Letting go of our own past—or the past that we have created in our heads—can feel shaky and “ungrounded,” like a boat that has slipped its mooring.

When we try to forgive ourselves, we’re trying to release something that feels like it is part of us. We’re releasing who we were in the moment that we did whatever it was. When we forgive what someone else has done, in a sense it feels easier. We’re releasing a part of our past that isn’t essentially who we are—unless we’ve told the story of that hurt so frequently that we’ve built our identity around it! In that case, it becomes hard to forgive the other person because the transgression and our reaction has become central to how we define ourselves.

To release that part of your past that you need to forgive, it’s helpful to remember that we’re all doing the best we can in any moment. If you had known that your action would cause pain to others or yourself, you probably wouldn’t have done it, right? And even if you knew that you were causing damage at the time, you had no idea how much you would regret it in the future.

Retain what you learned from the event but release everything else.

Read the full post here.

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