- - Friday, March 30, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Bitterness can be more than just a nasty taste in your mouth. It can be an offense that burrows itself in your heart – and mind. Experts explain that bitterness can take root when you feel someone has taken something from you that you are powerless to get back. Some related questions are: Is there a disappointment that replays in your mind? Do you find yourself retelling a hurt, over and over again? With details? Do you hear the offending person’s name and cringe?

If you answered yes to one or all, you want to ensure you are dealing with the related emotions in a healthy manner. Studies show the feelings of resentment, unresolved anger and grudges that can accompany hurt and disappointment – eclipse even more than your peace and joy, they are linked to serious health issues.

Chronic disappointment, resentment, bitterness and anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, immune response as well as mental and emotional health. Those changes, then, increase risks of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, digestive disorders, depressed immune system, depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About the Health Benefits of Forgiveness

More than Words: Forgiveness is an intentional act of releasing negative emotions for a wrong, an offense. Forgiveness does not mean pretending everything is “OK.” Nor, does it mean forgetting the hurt either. It means putting it to one side and moving forward. And, too, it may also mean doing so when the offender fails to display sincere concern, remorse or apology for their actions—it may involve letting the other person go free when he or she doesn’t deserve it. It is letting go and releasing the negative that tries to take you captive into the darkness of someone else’s poor choices.

It is a mindful process you must be willing to take – recognizing, the good you are doing – for the life you are saving, is your own. And while others can support you, no one else can do it for you. It’s dynamic. And in the process, it is important to remember, forgiveness does not mean you are excusing poor behavior, understanding it, or reconciliatory toward it or the offender.

Forgiveness is for your own happiness and well-being. It’s about your peace and joy — and good health. When you hold on to the hurt, pain, resentment, and anger – it harms you far more than it harms the offender. And it can contaminate other areas of your life (relationships, actions, productivity, dreams and well-being). Experts aptly share, “it is like you are drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Forgiveness frees you to live in the present, letting go of the past and toxic relationships as well as incidents. Freeing you to move on, in healthier ways without anger, bitterness, disappointment, contempt, frustration or grudge – and the list goes on.

Bottomline, releasing, or letting go, of the negative thoughts and feelings greatly improves your well-being—emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, intellectual and mental– all of which are interconnected and interrelated to your physical health.

Forgiveness experts further describe that any complete understanding in forgiveness also needs to include the type of relationship between transgressor and victim and the broader context in which that relationship is embedded. For example, the process of forgiveness depends too on whether it occurs between friends, married adults or those in a romantic relationship, a parent and a child, or other associated relationships at home, work, school or in your community – since these relationships subsume different roles and serve different psychological needs.

Good News: While some people can easily forgive others (sincerely, not just words), for most people, forgiveness takes some preparation and effort. The good news is anyone can improve their forgiveness skills and Frederic Luskin, PhD, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project at Stanford University, likens the process to mastering a sport: “If you practice forgiveness, you get better at it –you can learn skills that help you do it even better.” Here are some wise pointers he makes in his body of work, Forgive for Good:

Lay the Groundwork: Take time and, if possible, write. Journal about your feelings, the offender and offense (the change it made in your life, how it affected you physically and mentally, etc.)
Be diligent but don’t rush the process – set the intention to forgive and move at your pace knowing it may take days, weeks, months (up to two years). If you find you aren’t making any headway after months of focused intention and exercise, you might want to consider working toward acceptance rather than forgiveness.
Change your story. Do you have a longstanding “grievance story” that you constantly repeat to yourself and others? A grievance story typically describes how somebody else ruined your life. And it’s not true. In reality, somebody else did something painful, shameful, or difficult. Then it is your job to handle. Turn your grievance story into a hero story that focuses on what you did to recover from or cope with the situation. By shifting from ‘poor me’ to ‘here’s what I did,’ you no longer cast yourself in the role of victim.
Focus on the here and now. You may feel upset about something that happened in the past, but what’s distressing you at this very moment are the feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions you’re having right now. Calming your body and mind can help short circuit your stress response. Take time to breathe deeply, pray, look at something beautiful or remember how much you love someone.
Make it about you. You might have a chance to tell the person who hurt you that you forgive him or her, or you might not. You might receive heartfelt gratitude and reconciliation in return, or you might not. Regardless, you can still choose to forgive. The aim is to find peace for yourself, with or without the offender’s help. Whatever the outcome, you can still free-up the personal energy you’re spending on holding a grudge and begin using it for more constructive purposes.
Take baby steps. You wouldn’t walk into a weight room for the first time and try to lift 300 pounds. You’d work your way up to that heavier weight gradually. The same principle holds true when learning to forgive. Don’t start with the worst thing that ever happened to you. Begin with something smaller and work up.
Have elastic expectations. Forgiveness won’t necessarily erase all your pain. When somebody has deliberately betrayed you, and something reminds you about what that person has done, it’s natural to still feel hurt or resentment or even spasms of hate. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you lose all negative feelings forever. But it does mean that the hurt is no longer center stage.

Moving Beyond to a Life of Improved Health and Contentment
• While we cannot control another person’s behaviors or thoughts, you have tremendous control over yours. And while no one wants to be bitter, it can sneak up on you (bitterness is unforgiveness fermented) – make it a priority to understand the impact and manage your feelings/emotions.
• Forgiveness is a choice, an active operation —it is not just words. You will not always “feel like it” – you must be willing and committed to do the work.
• Learn from the past, live in the present, believe in the future. Often, the offense is no longer happening, except in your mind. When you start thinking about the past, acknowledge it, and return to the present.
• Whether it is meditation, therapy, prayer, deep breathing, journaling, reading or exercising, these can help as you work through the process
• Remember, too that someone’s poor behaviors and judgement, do not define you
Also, in light of the recent tragedies at our schools, Las Vegas – and around the globe, I want to add an important note with respect to the victims of tragedy. And while it takes time, victims need to be heard and share their story with wise, caring support to help ensure bitterness does not take root (or that they harbor bitterness) as they move through the dynamic process of healing from the trauma. In fact, a healthy life for the afflicted can’t really begin to go on until they work through the impact and let go of anything that’s eating away at them.

Studies show that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards in the process for better health and wellness, lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and quality of sleep, and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.


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