I was introduced to EFT about a year ago and I love it. I’m amazed at the way it quickly gets rid of unwanted emotions, but I’m wondering if this is always a good thing. I made some really poor choices in the past. I feel really bad about these choices. I know EFT would be a great tool for getting rid of these emotions, but I’m afraid that if I don’t feel bad about them that I am condoning the past behavior. Is it okay to let go of these negative emotions about my past choices?
At its core this question is about forgiveness. Sometimes this question is about forgiving ourselves (like the questions above); other times it’s about forgiving others. “If I forgive them for hurting me I am saying what they did is okay.”
The person who asked this question is exactly right. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a great tool for helping us to forgive, but forgiveness can be a tricky business.
Forgiveness can come along with lots of baggage.
- “If I forgive myself I am going to make the same mistake again”
- “If I forgive I am saying what happen was right”
- “If I forgive they are going to do the same thing to someone else and I will have condoned it.”
- “I did something wrong and I deserve to suffer, not to be forgiven.”
- “If I forgive them then I am going to give up my status as victim and I don’t know how to live not as a victim. People only give me attention because I am a victim and they will all leave me.” [This was a real fear of one of my clients.]
When discussing forgiveness it’s a good idea to look at forgiving oneself and forgiving others separately.
Forgiveness and un-forgiveness are routinely accompanied by regret and/or guilt. Even though these two emotions are very similar they are different in a very striking way.
For example, I may say, “I regret eating that extra candy bar.” When I make this statement I am saying I wish I had made a different choice because I now understand the consequences of that choice, but it’s not something I am emotionally bound up in right now.
To feel guilty about something is not only to wish we had made a different choice, but we also feel emotionally bad in the moment. “I feel guilty for eating that extra candy bar.” With this statement I am saying I wish I had made a different choice and I feel bad about that choice right now.
When we forgive ourselves we are not saying we made a good choice in the past. We are not saying we will make the same choice again. We are not saying we didn’t learn from the past. Instead, when we forgive we are moving from guilt to regret.
Guilt is debilitating. Regret is instructive. That is why forgiveness of our self is so important. When we forgive we move from being an emotional prisoner of the past to learning from the past.
When it comes to forgiving others the most powerful idea I have encountered is, “When we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive someone else we are wishing ill on them and taking the poison ourselves.” When we refuse to forgive someone else we are not hurting the person in any way. We are only hurting ourselves by carrying around the ill will (and sometimes hatred) for someone else.
When we choose to forgive someone else we are doing this solely for ourselves. We are not condoning their action. We are not saying they can take this action against us (or anyone else) again. We are simply saying, “I choose not to be a prisoner to this past action. I will no longer carry this poison of guilt, hatred and un-forgiveness in my body.”
How To Use EFT To Forgive
Often we hear the phrase, “forgive and forget.” This is a really accurate — and sometimes destructive — sentiment. When we forgive we are not forgetting what has come before. We still keep the lessons from the past. We are going to make choices in the future to keep us safe from the same situation. When we forgive we are simply choosing not to be an emotional prisoner to the past.
With that in mind, I think it is very important to carry the ideas of why we forgive into our tapping, not just the fact that we are forgiving. By doing this we are able to not only deal with the emotions around what needs to be forgiven, but we are also dealing with all the resistance we have to offering forgiveness.
Here is a sample tapping patter for forgiving oneself:
Just because I am forgiving myself for past actions, this doesn’t mean I am saying those were good choices…those choices are who I was…not who I am…I have learned from those choices…I don’t need to be holding onto the guilt to make sure I make good choices in the future…by holding onto guilt I am continuing to punish myself…I don’t need to keep punishing myself…I give my self permission to forgive myself…I choose to know forgiving myself is allowed…I choose to know forgiving myself is a path to health…and not forgiving myself is not a path to health…I forgive myself for not forgiving myself yet…I know I have learned the lesson from the past poor choice…I give myself permission to let this go and move on. [How to use these tapping phrases]
Here is a sample tapping patter for forgiving someone else:
I give myself permission to forgive [insert name]…When I forgive them I am not saying what they did is right…when I offer forgiveness it is all about me…it has nothing to do with them…it has nothing to do with condoning their actions…I am letting go of this so I am no longer imprisoned by the past…when I hold a grudge it is like I am wishing ill on someone else but taking the poison myself…I need to forgive for my health and well being…this choice is for me…it is not for them…I also forgive myself for not giving forgiveness earlier…what matters is that I am now choosing to move on…by giving forgiveness I am not giving them permission to do the same thing again…when I forgive it doesn’t mean that I have not learned a lesson from this…I have learned from this…when I forgive I am not inviting this in again…I am forgiving so I can move on…when I forgive I still might remember what happened, but I am no longer imprisoned by what happened…forgiveness can be hard…I give myself permission to be easy with myself as I go through the forgiveness process…I am doing this for me…and no one else…and I am allowed to do this for myself…it doesn’t matter if the other person deserves forgiveness…I deserve to forgive…because it is the best thing for me [How to use these tapping phrases]