To err is human, to forgive, divine. --Alexander Pope
How easily do you forgive yourself and others?
Do you constantly relive the experiences over and over again with anger or resentment?
Or are you one of the lucky few who are able to let go and forget the incident all together?
I remember many years ago my grandmother and I having a discussion on whether or not we forgave or forgot. At the time I was pretty certain that I forgot certain trespasses. However, when considering it now, I think in order to forget about a specific incident you have to be willing to not think of it at all. If you aren't thinking of it, you must not be bothered by it enough to be dwelling on the incident with anger and irritation. We all have events that makes us fume when we begin to remember the hurt or in some cases our own stupidity. I now view my forgetfulness as a very refined coping mechanism:)
When the rumination of the hurtful events is frequent it can impact overall health. This sort of chronic re-experiencing of the event coupled with an environment filled with constant reminders of the offenses makes it extremely difficult to forgive or forget. When we force ourselves to replay the event again and again in our heads we are not just experiencing it psychologically but scientist say we also show physical signs of stress while remembering the event. The experts (Worthington, Sandage, and Berry 2000) define unforgiveness "as a combination of delayed negative emotions (resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anger and fear) toward a transgressor." The repeated exposure to ruminations of offenses causes one to be stuck in negative emotions and live under the conditions of a hyperaroused stress response. Since stress plays a huge part in migraines, I believe forgiveness might be helpful to migrainuers and quite frankly everyone.
Research in the field of forgiveness as it relates to health is fairly new. Harvard researchers report that mentally nursing a grudge exhibits the physical consequences of muscles tensing, an increase in blood pressure, and an increase in sweating. Other studies show that through forgiveness there are improvements in blood pressure and heart rate as well as a decreased workload for the heart. A small study on people with chronic back pain found that those who focused on converting anger to compassion experienced more of a decrease in pain and anxiety than the control group.
Stanford University is home to the largest intervention study of interpersonal forgiveness-- "The Stanford Forgiveness Project". Researchers involved in this study believe forgiveness to be similar to the ability to see one's life through a positive lens. We could all benefit from the health benefits correlated to a decreased stress response (especially the migrainuer). Part of the project's design includes training in managing life's unfortunate offenses and using forgiveness to make peace with ourselves and our pasts. Their methodology includes these 9 steps to forgiveness, in case you want to train yourself:
1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone
3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
4. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering
now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years– ago.
5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself
that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
8. Remember that a life well lived is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
--Stanford Forgiveness Project
that can benefit us both physically and psychologically.