My healing journey has been moving on leaps and bounds over the past few weeks. My special Saturday, which I wrote about in my last post, really has been a turning point after months of digging up the past and being faced with some difficult truths. However it became clear to me that I needed to deal with some old emotions before I could move any further forward.
I woke up on Tuesday morning and my first thoughts were very negative, I started remembering the negative behaviour of a friend and then this sparked off anger towards another person. I stopped myself and realised that what I was doing wasn’t helpful. I did some EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) on the anger and I realised that I was actually more angry at myself for letting these people hurt me. I then did a STOP process on the negative thoughts about my friend and realised that continuing to think that way will make me anxious and defensive when I go and see them, which in turn is more likely to create their negative behaviour. If I imagine my visit going well, I’ll be feeling positive and confident when I see them and they are more likely to respond positively too. Positivity is infectious after all!
I made an intention to find a way of forgiving the people who have upset me in the past so that I can move on. With the support of my psychologist, I have processed the first upsetting memory I could remember, which really helped to dissolve those emotions. Whilst I could go through each upsetting memory with my psychologist, it would be a timely and costly process which I can’t afford right now. Instead I turned to the great sage that is Google! I researched forgiveness rituals in different religions and cultures, but many put too much emphasis on God for me, or had lengthy affirmations to remember! Eventually I found a simple ritual on a yoga website which was more about exploring feelings than making proclamations to God. I should note now that my version of spirituality, as it stands at the moment (and I think it is fluid), is one where I honour the universe and see myself as part of a universe in which everything is connected. I do ‘talk’ to the universe, I thank it for blessings and sometimes use the word God or Lord when asking for help, but I don’t associate with any formal religion. I love singing carols at Christmas and the feeling I get when inside a church. I enjoy quiet Buddhist meditation and chanting along with the Hare Krishnas. I love the active worships of yoga and walking in nature. Some may call me undisciplined or flaky for enjoying elements of so many religions but I think that anything that connects me to my spirituality, and therefore helps me to be a better person, can only be a good thing.
I have a little table in my bedroom; some might call it an altar but that’s a little too religious for me! On it I have cards with inspirational messages, crystals, beads, a picture of an owl (after owls visited me in a dream and reminded me to be wise), a candle, incense and a sleepy Buddha. Before my ritual I lit a candle and some incense and held a rose quartz to help me tap into my emotions. One by one I wrote down the things that each person had done to hurt me and spoke my grievances out loud as if I were talking to them. The results were very surprising. People and events that I didn’t think had affected me that much ended up provoking the strongest reactions and I cried angry, hurt tears. Other people that I thought I would struggle to forgive were actually the easiest and I quickly felt a deep compassion for them. Since realising that everyone is just a scared child inside, trying to protect themselves and do what they feel is right, I find it easier to feel compassion for people. Instead of feeling angry I tend to feel sad that they must be hurting so much and I want to help them. I’m sure there is a story about a beast who seems really aggressive to everyone so they are all scared of it, but one person tries to communicate with it and it turns out that the beast just has a big thorn stuck in it causing it lots of pain. Once removed the beast is a pleasure to be around. I know from experience that pain, whether emotional or physical, clouds your brain. I was difficult to be around just because I could not cope with how much pain I was in. It consumed me, making me lash out and behave strangely.
As well as forgiving those who had hurt me, I realised that I had to forgive myself for letting them. We can be in control of our thoughts; we don’t have to let people hurt us. I have never been an assertive person and as a result people have taken advantage of me. My feelings have been hurt and I have not spoken up. If I had, the person who hurt me would probably have apologised straight away. I believe that all the emotional stress and hurt I carried, that I was too scared to speak up about, led to me developing M.E. and anorexia. I need to forgive myself for that. I was just a scared child trying to protect myself and do what I thought was right. This is part of learning to love myself and as a result becoming able to love others.
After completing my forgiveness ritual I put all the grievances I had written down into an envelope and put it in my box with heavy stuff on top (a tip from my best friend for putting away unhelpful thoughts either literally or imaginary). Then I took a primrose from my garden and walked to the common near my house. I went to the pond, which has a stream running through it, and let the primrose drift away downstream. I then crossed over the stream. I saw the flower as symbolising letting go of the past and stepping across the stream as moving on. Then I went and told my oak tree and picked up a pinecone for my ‘altar’ as a memento of the day. Perhaps to symbolise the intricate and beautiful seed that the tree of my life will grow from.
Since my forgiveness ritual, every time a negative thought pops into my head about a past event I think “nope, I’ve dealt with that, don’t need to think about it” and push it aside. Of course I’ll keep aware and if anything comes up too often I will have to go back and work some more on it, but that’s ok. It’s all growth. I’ve also felt a strong urge to reach out and connect with my loved ones, just to let them know that I’m thinking of them and there for them if they need me. Now that I’ve helped myself I’m ready to help others again. You cannot pour from an empty cup as they say!
It is human nature to carry around past experiences; they are there to warn us about potential dangers. But when the past experiences you’re carrying are things like “I needed you and you weren’t there for me” leading you to trust no one, rather than “I burnt my hand when I picked up that tray without an oven glove” you might need to do some work on yourself.
Here’s the ritual I used: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/anger-forgiveness/
There are lots more out there that may make more sense to you, so be curious and explore!