Seven months before my dad passed away, I came across A Course in Miracles, a self-study spiritual discipline in which forgiveness is the Course’s fundamental teaching.
But forgiveness wasn’t the reason why I decided to embark on the Course. In fact, I wasn’t aware that I needed to forgive at all to heal my wounded self.
The pain I suffered as a child, caused by an abusive father, merged with the pain I experienced, in my adulthood, from an abusive relationship. Eckhart Tolle says in his book The Power of Now that, the accumulated pain we have endured throughout our lives is a negative energy field that invades our bodies and minds. It’s the emotional pain-body, the pain that lives on in us, dormant or actively.
Well, I can surely say my pain-body was dormant.
I didn’t know I had an emotionally abusive parent until a few years ago. I always excused my dad’ behaviour and even defended him when someone pointed out his bad mood. I was so used to live that kind of life that I didn’t even realise that my partner at that time was also an emotionally abusive, just like my dad was.
In 2011, I hit rock bottom. The crash was painful but, I finally woke up and realised I had to take back my life. I decided to leave everything behind and start a new life in the UK. I left everyone and everything, but my pain remained dormant within me.
In December 2017, six months after I bought a copy of A Course in Miracles, I was totally in awe of the Course. It was changing the way I saw the world. It was helping me to heal my mind, to learn to trust, and open my heart.
At that time, my parents came to England to spend Christmas together. One evening, while we were having dinner, my dad said something that triggered the demons in me. I talked to him very harshly, and I immediately felt extremely guilty. I left the table and went to my bedroom. All the pain I had held within came out but, rather than suppressing it, as I had been doing during all those years, I asked; what would You have me do?
And then the answer came to me: Forgive your dad.
That night, I wrote the most painful letter I’ve ever written, to my dad. A heartfelt letter that I have included at the bottom of this post.
When I wrote that letter, my dad had lung cancer which was spreading quickly through his body. No one knew that. He left this world four weeks after I wrote that letter.
Learning to forgive him was the most precious gift to heal and free my Soul.
Below, I share the tools that helped me open my heart to love and forgiveness, and I hope they help you too.
WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?
Forgiveness is accepting that we projected our guilt and judgments onto the person who hurt us, it is letting go of our feelings of anger and sorrow, and allowing ourselves to heal.
The power of forgiveness lies in accepting that the problem is not in someone’s action, but in the way in which we perceive that action.A COURSE IN MIRACLES
The metaphysical text A Course in Miracles says that forgiveness lies in accepting that the problem is not in someone’s action, but in the way in which we perceive that action. The problem is not outside but rather inside us. We believe that we are vulnerable and that our external circumstances can hurt us. If we continue to believe that the problem is outside us, we will be caught up in an endless fight.
MISTAKEN BELIEFS ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Whether our parents abused us, our partner was unfaithful, or our friend betrayed us, we all face the question; Can I forgive that?
Your first reaction to this may be; hell no!
I get that. I remember saying that while watching a video of a mum who came face to face with the person who murdered her son in Court. She stood right in front of him and hugged him.
Many people find impossible to forgive because they have a wrong concept of forgiveness. They hold a set of limiting beliefs, passed on from generation to generation, that prevents them from opening their hearts.
Some of the mistaken beliefs about forgiveness include:
- Forgiving that person means I am excusing her actions.
- Forgiving that person means I shouldn’t have any more feelings about what happened.
- Forgiving that person means everything is okay.
- Forgiving that person means I should forget the incident ever happened.
- Forgiving that person means I have to continue to include her or him in my life.
- Forgiving that person means that she or he wins.
By forgiving, we make the conscious decision of accepting the past and letting it go to release feelings of revenge or resentment toward someone who hurt us, and allowing us to be fully present and at peace in the present.
Forgiveness is the ultimate self-care practice for our well-being.
BUT, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO FORGIVE?
There are several reasons why it is so hard for us to forgive someone who hurt us or let us down.
- Revenge: According to science, there is a chemical in our brains that wants us to seek revenge on someone who has hurt us. We haven’t been taught how to deal with the pain that we suffer when we feel wronged or mistreated, and we often encourage each other to seek revenge. This approach will never bring peace to us, as it misses the very basic spiritual principle of karma, which states that, what you put out is returned to you.
- Limiting beliefs: We grow up with countless thoughts and believes that block our willingness to forgive. We learnt patterns of information or behaviour unconsciously, such as, if someone hurts me in a way that feels irreparable, I must say; “I will never forgive you”, or if someone wounds us emotionally or physically, we must think; “That’s unforgivable.” We also protect our egos by telling ourselves statements like, “If I forgive him, I will show myself as a weak person”, or “She is not sorry for what she did, how can I forgive her?”.
- We judge others: Blaming and condemning others is part of our desperately way to protect our egos. Sentences such as, “He did that to me because he doesn’t care about anyone” or “She betrayed me. She deserves to be alone and miserable” are just harsh judgements on others.
- We enjoy feeling superior to others. It is almost an automated response to experience anger when we feel betrayed, taken advantage of, violated or powerless. This feeling of anger often led to self-pity messages such as; “You don’t deserve what they have done to you”, or “I wouldn’t have done this to them”. At this point, we can’t help but identify ourselves as “the victim”, and by definition, victims are always innocent. So naturally, we feel morally superior to whoever hurt us in the first place.
- Fear to forgive. Many of us might think that forgiveness requires to say “I forgive you” to the person who betrayed or hurt us. Even forgiveness is sometimes an uncomfortable concept for some people. Forgiveness doesn’t involve the other person, and it is not for their benefit, but for our benefit. By forgiving, we are freeing our bodies and minds.
- Lack of empathy for others. Empathy is crucial in the forgiveness process. Empathy connects us to each other. It goes beyond conditions, judgements and expectations. It is the medicine that helps us move toward loving relationships, remove the boundaries that separate us from each other and “see” the world from a non-dual perspective.
“To forgive is to set the prisoner free…and to discover that the prisoner was you.”Lewis Smedes
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, needs and boundaries can help us to be able to forgive.
The next question we might ask ourselves when we have been hurt is, why should I forgive?
Many studies have shown that practising forgiveness is good for our emotional and physical health.
Anger, bitterness, hate, all these emotions weigh heavily on our bodies and in our thoughts. When we don’t process and release our emotions, they live trapped inside us. Our Sacral chakra becomes blocked, not allowing our energy to flow freely, and therefore causing an unbalance in our Heart chakra. This blockage can manifest mental and physical diseases, such as digestion problems, abdominal pain, migraine, high blood pressure, and ultimately, depression and anxiety.
When we forgive and let go of a grievance, we are nurturing our body and our minds. Forgiveness isn’t the only way to let go of negative emotions, but it’s one of the best.
STEPS TO FORGIVE
First of all, in order to forgive, we need to have the willingness to do so. We first have to understand that our happiness and inner peace is more important to us than the desire to be right and make someone else wrong.
“You must carry a chaos inside you to give birth to a dancing star.”Nietzsche
If we decide that we are willing to forgive, then, trying the following steps can help us even when it feels impossible:
- Grieving: Healing forgiveness is a long process and must not skip over the negative feelings. We must acknowledge, embrace and release the hurt, anger, hate, sadness, and all those negative feelings we are experiencing before we can forgive. This is certainly a grieving process, we are grieving the loss of either the parent, partner or friend we deserved but we didn’t get, or the loss of our trust, integrity, faith, or support.
- Acceptance: We need to acknowledge the incident that hurt or angered us. We can’t heal something until we admit to ourselves that it is there, it happened. By accepting how we felt about the incident and how it made us react, not only we will take responsibility for our own emotions and feelings, but also, it will allow us to bring loving compassion, acceptance and forgiveness to ourselves.
- Letting go: At this point, we should be able to let go of all our anger and sadness, let go of all our expectations. For instance, the expectation that our partner will change; giving the parent who hurt us the power to determine our worth or identity; letting go of the denial of how badly they hurt us, and letting go of the desire for revenge.
- Develop empathy: Empathy is intuitively feeling what another feels. It is the ability to be aware of, to understand and to appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others. Probably we won’t fully know why a person acted the way he or she did, however, changing the way we look at the hurtful event and trying to do so from their point of view will promote empathy.
- Be compassionate: Compassion takes empathy a step further. When we are compassionate, we feel the pain, anger or fear of the person who mistreated us. We recognise that the person is in pain, we feel sympathy, so we help them see where they are hurting. Compassion helps to melt away those pains.
“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”Dalai lama
Lastly, we could decide whether we want to tell the other person that we have forgiven him or her or we want to express forgiveness on our own. We would say the words, “I forgive you” aloud and then add as much explanation as we feel.
Forgiveness puts the final seal on what happened that hurt us. We will still remember what happened, but we will no longer be bound by it.
December 23rd, 2017
LETTER TO MY FATHER (Translated from Spanish)
I am writing this letter to you while you are downstairs, watching TV with mum, without knowing what I am feeling right now.
When I moved to England, six years ago now, I lied to everyone, saying that I would stay for a year just to learn English and then I would come back. The truth is that I was leaving my beloved Barcelona for good. For my well-being.
I wanted to leave behind all the crap that was holding me back. I was sick of surviving in life. I wanted to start a new life, find my true self, meet new people… but there was a deeper reason for moving abroad that I didn’t want to admit. I needed to stay away from you and mum.
All these years that I have been living in England, I thought I had forgiven you but after what happened over dinner tonight, and how I overreacted, I realised there is still resentment towards you.
I had buried my emotions because of fear to express my anger and sadness.
But you don’t deserve this anger from me now. And neither do I.
I forgive you for not being able to give me love. I know you didn’t know how to do it because you grew up without love.
I forgive you for all the hurtful words you said to me when you were drunk. I know you couldn’t cope with your sadness and grief at that moment.
I forgive you for that time when I begged you an apology after you hit me and you refused to apologise because you thought you hadn’t done anything wrong. I wholeheartedly know that you couldn’t see my pain and hurt because your soul was dying.
I know you are deeply sorry for all your mistakes from the past. I see it in your eyes.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you.
I love you, just the way you are.