[In this series we examine the importance of the words we use and how changing our vocabulary can change our mind giving us opportunity for transformation. More articles can be found in this series @ Tools: Words]
photo by butupa
I have a small checklist that I keep on my desk that I review before every client call I do. The list contains the steps that I most often use when helping a client transform their life. One of the most important steps is forgiveness of self.
When something doesn’t go the way we would like it is very easy for us to blame ourselves. Even when there was no possible way we could have done anything differently. A perfect example of this is when a child in placed in a situation of trauma. There is no way the child could have prevented what happened. Even with the adult self knowing this sometimes they still blame themselves.
There are other times in which we make a poor choice and afterwards we think, “I should have known better.” There are even times when we know we are about to make a choice and we know that it is the wrong choice for our higher good in the short and/or long term.
Regardless why we feel like we are to blame for what has happened the fact that we do blame ourselves for our past can be debilitating. It can undermine our ability to make choices in the future because we think we are going make a poor choice again or a part of us can feel that we need to be punished for making those poor choices. When this happens we will subconsciously sabotage any new success.
Because of these reasons it is essential to spend time working on self-forgiveness. If we do not forgive ourselves then we will never move forward because we will be an emotional prisoner to the past. When we refuse to forgive ourselves then it is like we are reliving the past moment over and over again.
There are many steps to this process, but one of the concepts I always talk to clients about is the difference between feeling guilty and regretting what happened.
Feeling guilty about something robs us of our power. The hallmark of guilt is being emotionally attached to the past moment. When we feel guilty we relive the moment over and over again, beating ourselves up as we do so.
When we feel regret about something it is instructive. I can regret the choices I have made in the past and learn from those choices. When I regret something I can clearly state I am disappointed about how it turned out and that I would do things differently if I had the chance, but in when I look at a past choice with regret I am not emotionally trapped in the moment. Instead I have the opportunity to learn from my past choice and have the ability to live in the present.
One of the struggles we face when trying to forgive ourselves is the fear that “If I forgive myself then I will forget about the past and I will make the same mistake again. I will hurt myself or others again” or “If I forgive myself then I am saying what I did was OK. To forgive myself is to condone the action.”
Forgiveness does not equal saying it was or is OK. Forgiveness does not equal forgetting.
Forgiveness equals choose to take responsibility for the past, learn from the past, and choose to be present in the current moment making new choices.
Tapping on it might look this:
I know that I have made poor choices in the past…these choices have hurt me…and they have hurt others…but it does me no good to be stuck in these past moments….it does me no good to keep beating myself up for these choices…I need to forgive myself…when I forgive myself I am not saying my past choices are the choices I would make today…when I forgive myself I am not saying I want the same outcome…when I forgive myself I am not forgetting what happened…instead, when I forgive myself I choose to take the knowledge learned from that moment…I choose to take responsibility from the outcome…but I am choosing to no longer be stuck in the moment…when I forgive myself I can still regret what happened without feeling guilty….guilt is a prison…guilt is a trap…guilt prevents me from moving forward…guilt keeps me trapped in the past…when I forgive myself I am not doing it with the expectation that I am going to be perfect in the future…I give myself permission to be easy with myself as I move forward…I forgive myself…knowing I can forget what happened…but I don’t need to feel guilty….I choose not to be trapped in the moment.
In most cases this is not all that is needed for deep self-forgiveness, but it opens the door to being able to know that it is OK to forgive yourself, by seeing that regret is a healthy way of moving forward without having to feel guilt.