“Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”
Let’s face it – many of us have issues from our past that hold us back and cloud the enjoyment of our present. Whether it’s your “crappy childhood”, a terrible past relationship, a psycho ex partner, painful memories of school-yard bullies or some other story, holding onto resentment affects you in countless ways.
It can kill your enjoyment of life, affect current relationships, or hold you back from experiencing love. It can even live in your body and cause illness.
Years ago, I was living in a constant state of blame and resentment. I was angry at my parents, I was still incredibly pissed off at an ex-boyfriend who “done me wrong”, I was embarrassed and ashamed of my past mistakes and I carried all of those emotions around with me.
I was consumed with how I had been wronged. I just couldn’t enjoy my life and I couldn’t forgive. I would lay awake at night recounting a conversation from over ten years before and still feel just as aggrieved as the first time.
I tried counselling, therapy, coaching, books, and personal development courses like the Landmark Forum. But I was still angry. All the time.
Not anymore. The secret to releasing yourself is so simple and profound, it’s hard to articulate how much it has changed my life.
This one mantra can set you free – more than anything else.
I forgive you…
I love you…
This forgiveness exercise will clear about 80-90% of your “stuff”. Guaranteed. Don’t believe me? Well, you’ll just have to try it because all of my coaching clients try it and get amazing results.
A feeling of calm and peace about past events
The ability to get along with family members without resentment
Self love and self acceptance
A feeling that the world is a safe place
Less irrational worry and obsession about the past
Wouldn’t you say it’s worth giving it a shot?
To be able to move forward with your life, consciously manifest dreams and create guilt-free success, you must have a strong foundation. Part of that is mentally and emotionally decluttering your life.
The beauty of this exercise is that you don’t have to physically connect with the person. You don’t have to call them and say “I forgive you”. This exercise is not for them – this is about releasing yourself.
Here’s a common excuse:
But I just want them to acknowledge what they did to me was wrong
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse or condone their behaviour. Chances are, you will never get the acknowledgement or apology you crave. The only thing you have control over is how you feel about the experience. You’re still drinking the poison – they have moved on with their life.
But Denise, this thing they did was really, really bad. I can’t forgave that.
Some things are unforgivable. Even so, if you’ve been to therapy or counselling and you still can’t let it go, try and send forgiveness to the situation by doing this exercise.
I’ve heard incredible stories of victims forgiving people who raped or maimed them, family members forgiving drunk drivers who killed their children and other “unforgivable” crimes. Some of these amazing stories on Oprah.com will astound you and crack open your heart.
One thing is common to all these unbelievable stories. The sense of peace and acceptance felt by the person who forgave.
“I thought there would never be real joy in my life again. I realized I had to forgive or I would not be able to go on. I imagined how it would feel to be [her]. I had to put my victim story aside and get a heartfelt experience of her situation. This helped me to feel compassion for her and have peace of mind.”
– Donna, 52, California who experienced crushing disappointment
from her potential adopted child’s birth mother
“Forgiveness was not a cop-out, not soft and most definitely not about forgetting. Forgiveness gave me a voice, an opportunity to choose a legacy of healing and hope. Forgiveness has been transformational— and set me free. Forgiveness gave me a life filled with grace and possibility, and for that I am deeply grateful.”
– Katy, 45, Canada who forgave the young man
who killed her husband in a vicious attack
Ready to experience this transformation for yourself? Here’s how you do it:
1. Make a list
Get your journal and make a physical list of every single thing that has been done to you that you can’t forgive. Things that you are holding onto and incidences that have played on your mind for years.
It can be big or small, specific or general. Start with your parents – that’s always a fertile ground for material!
Think about your life chronologically and work your way though any traumatic events, childhood hurts, mistakes made by your family and embarrassments that still create a negative charge for you.
Just write down “When mum did this….” or “The time when…”. You don’t have to write an essay about each one.
Once you’ve written down everything obvious, think about:
- Every relationship problem you’ve ever had
- Mean bosses who criticised you, made you feel bad or made you cry
- Friends who were nasty or bitchy to you
- Strangers who made you feel bad by making a horrible comment
- A teacher who embarrassed you
Write it all down.
Lastly, it’s time to make a list of things to forgive yourself for. This is a really important list because you’d be surprised how much you are beating yourself up for past mistakes. A really small and stupid error you made 5, 10 or even 20 years ago could be holding you back from going out of your comfort zone today.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- You failed something really important
- You mean-girled someone at school and it still haunts you
- The time you dumped someone really nice in a really horrible way
- Gossipping or bitching behind someone else’s back
- When you made someone cry (unintentionally or not)
- You accidentally hurt an animal
- You stole something – no matter how small
- You cheated on a test
Nobody is 100% perfect and even if you think you’re the only person who’s made these mistakes, you could be making it mean:
I’m not a worthy person
I don’t deserve nice things to happen to me
I’m a failure
Do you really want to hang onto that anymore?
2. The simple process
Mentally affirm to that person or situation:
I forgive you
And I love you
That’s it. You can spend a couple of second on each one and then move on. Don’t get caught up in the emotion. You are only saying the mantra and releasing the memory. You may feel an overwhelming outpouring of sadness, but just continue the mantra.
I forgive you… evaporates the energy of resentment you hold towards them
I’m sorry… allows you to feel compassion for their side of the story
I love you… balances the energy, sends love to the situation and releases you from being the victim.
Allow emotions to bubble up and tears to flow but keep going until you’ve exhausted the list (and yourself). Afterwards, drink a lot of water and rest.
3. Check back
Give it a few days and then check in with your list to see if there is any charge remaining. You’ll be surprised to find that you can’t even recall certain “stories” and if you do, there won’t be any trace of embarrassment or anger.
Watch what happens next.
Things will shift in your real world. You will feel happier and lighter. Don’t be surprised if you get a call out of the blue from someone you’ve forgiven. They will experience the benefits too – they might feel lighter or more loving towards you.
You won’t be seeing that person or situation through a distorted filter anymore. You’ll be free of the chains and open to new possibilities for your relationship. You may never even think of them again, which can be a blessing. You’ve also given yourself a great gift – freedom.
If you’re really on a roll and you get addicted to forgiveness you can continue this experience:
- Forgive money for abandoning you
- Forgive your bank for raising interest rates
- Forgive your thighs and bum for holding onto fat
- Forgive your car for breaking down
- Forgive the Government for their failings
- Forgive the cat for peeing on your bed
There’s no end to forgiveness and after you get the really traumatic events out of the way, it’s fun and so freeing!
I know this simple forgiveness exercise can transform your life. If you do nothing else, go away and try this exercise before you feel skeptical (I forgive you for your skepticism, etc). I assure you, it will work for you – you aren’t some freaky exception.
After you’re done, come back and tell me in the comments what has opened up for you.
I forgive you, I’m sorry and I love you.