Rid Yourself Of Toxic Feelings Through Forgiveness

Being in a relationship means that at some point there will likely be times when we experience feelings of hurt and betrayal as a result of feeling like our expectations or boundaries were violated in some way.  This can happen in our relationships with an intimate partner, friend, family member, or coworker and can influence us to varying degrees depending on our thoughts about the betrayal as well as how we decide to manage it. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to forgive is defined as an action “to give up resentment or stop feeling angry” (2017).  It is imperative to debunk the assumption that forgiveness is a process we go through for the individuals who have hurt us but rather forgiveness is a choice we can make in order to improve and change things for ourselves.  When we feel hurt and betrayed by others, we are likely to experience feelings of anger and resentment, which are emotions that have the potential to prevent us from experiencing what we want.  Holding onto these negative feelings have a more direct and negative effect on the individual doing so, rather than on the individual we are angry with.  To forgive does not mean that we are condoning or ignoring behavior that caused hurt but rather it is an avenue for gaining peace within our hearts and minds.  

Here are some steps we can take to help us promote forgiveness in order to gain relief and resolution within ourselves:

1.     Acknowledge what happened.  In order to better understand what you are thinking and feeling, identify triggers to your hurt, anger, and resentment. Sharing your experience with an objective person or journaling so that you can express yourself instead of bottling your thoughts and feelings can assist with this step.

2.     Ask yourself what you want to have happen.  Being able to identify what you believe will help you feel better can direct your focus to productive problem solving rather than ruminating on an event in the past. 

3.     Identify constraints that may prevent you from letting go of your anger and resentment.  Look for reasons you are using to justify your negative feelings and challenge whether they are rational or not.

4.     Ask yourself how you are benefiting from holding on to your anger and resentment.  It can be helpful to remind yourself that forgiving does not mean condoning but rather it can alleviate toxic feelings.

5.     Consider different perspectives of your anger and reframe your needs.  It can be beneficial to empathize with the individual who hurt you as well as use meditation or spirituality to gain a healthier outlook on how you would like to manage your relationships.

6.     Decide to let go.  Even though you may never forget how someone hurt or betrayed you, you have the power to decide how you want it to affect you.  Don’t allow your anger and resentment to be in control. 

~ Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT