Sunday, May 23, 2010

Forgiveness is a Process

We need to understand that forgiveness is a process and when it comes from a healthy place it takes time. Often people who proclaim instant forgiveness haven’t given themselves time and space to really work through what has happened. Many of us feel a moral or religious urgency to forgive but we must make sure we are being honest with ourselves and honoring our true feelings.

Forgiveness can be liberating. It can free us and keep us from being stuck in the past but in order for it to truly be effective, it needs to be something we have faced not simply something we have stifled.

What are some signs that you still need to work through the issue?
1. You can’t think about it or talk about it without becoming overwhelmed.
2. Someone hurt you or your children but you feel the need to protect them by making their feelings your first priority.
3. You have a lot of physical ailments or somatic complaints. Somatic complaints are bodily symptoms that have no medical explanation such as migraines, digestive issues, and muscle ache.
4. You still blame yourself for the actions of the other person.
5. You are struggling with depression, PTSD, or panic attacks.
6. You are engaging in harmful activities such as unsafe sexual practices, harmful eating habits, substance abuse, or an inability to sleep through the night.
7. Your emotions feel out of control. You either experience very extreme, uncontrollable outbursts or you are totally numb.
8. You can’t figure out why you’re not happy.
9. You are often in unhealthy, exploitive relationships.

So what are some good steps to take in the process toward forgiveness?
1. Be honest with yourself and if it is safe be honest with the person about how the experience has affected you. Trying to bury your feelings only distracts you from the healing work that needs to be done.

2. Find constructive ways not destructive ways to release your anger. Instead of turning to violence, vengeance, or other negative behaviors try some healthy strategies. Some things that may help are journaling, talking to those you trust, exercise, getting active in your community, spiritual activities, and expressing yourself through artistic expression.

3. Accept that you may never know the reason for what has happened. Sometimes we say we can’t move forward until we know why. The truth is the person who did it may not really understand the reason for their behavior. Instead of handing your healing over to them for an explanation accept the fact that your growth is not dependent on their process.

4. Use thought stopping. When you find yourself replaying the event over and over in your mind, begin to actively take control over your thinking. Focus your energy on what is going right in your life and begin to imagine the life you would like to create for yourself.

5. If you have made a decision to forgive, be patient with yourself. There are times when things will remind you of what happened. Understand that this is a part of the process but with each season your ability to survive the memories will grow stronger.

6. Remember that forgiving the person doesn’t mean that what happened is OK or acceptable. The act or actions were wrong but you may choose to not make the event the center of your life.

7. Consider what empowering lessons you can learn from the experience. What have you learned about yourself, about the other person, about relationships, about life in general?

8. If you feel stuck, consider speaking with a counselor. Therapy is a helpful place to work through difficult experiences and to determine how to best move forward with your life.

In essence, forgiveness is not just something to do merely out of obligation to the other person. When it is authentic, forgiveness can be freedom for you. You can be liberated so that the past no longer has the final say in your life. Living life controlled by anger, grief, and despair, is no way to really live. You deserve more and more is possible. Begin now. Exhale.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reawaken Your Passion

Sometimes we lose ourselves by being caught up in the business of life. We can become so busy, so distracted, so caught up in the routine of our daily activities, that we forget our fire. Consider now the things that used to bring you joy, excitement, passion, purpose. Consider now the parts of you that you have let slip away. Some aspects of ourselves were for a season and we are content to close those chapters of our lives, but there are other parts of us that we need to reclaim, rediscover, and revive. It may be some relationships you have neglected, it may be your artistic expression, or it may be self care strategies you used to do to nurture your mind, body, or spirit. Now is the perfect time for a divine pause – a season to reflect on the person you have become and the parts of you that need to be pulled out of the shade into the sunshine.

So with all that you have on your plate, how can you reclaim your bliss? Here are a few strategies:

1. Separate the external expectations from the internal call. There are so many voices, opinions, “shoulds” that bombard our spirits and chip away at our understanding of ourselves. At some point, you have to shut out what you have been convinced you need to do and get back to your core. What is your calling, your purpose, your passion? Deferred dreams peer out of the closets of our mind’s eye, begging to be unleashed. Dare to dream again. Dare to respond to your inner voice.

2. Cut out the fluff and take responsibility for managing your time. To make time for your dreams, destiny, bliss, you will need to harness the courage to say “no” to distraction, fear, drama, and extreme self sacrifice. What are you willing to change so you can carve out time for the things that really matter to you? When you get clear about your priorities and honest about what you need in your life, it will become much easier to see the things, people, activities that need to go. Carve out space so you can live again, grow again, and sing again.

3. Get in the presence of inspiring people. When you are on the treadmill of life and surrounded by people who live on the treadmill, it becomes easy to lose sight of the things that speak to your spirit. Get in the presence of those who inspire you, encourage you, provoke thought, illicit creativity, and remind you to live with passion. People who show up fully to life motivate others to do the same. To shift your life you need to be around those who are willing to walk outside of the lines and who are not uncomfortable or intimidated by those who refuse to stay in the box. To re-shape your life you may need to re-shape your relationship circle.

4. Have periodic check-ins with yourself. We have to be vigilant about not losing ourselves. It is so easy to slowly but surely forget about the things that bring fire to our lives. The next thing you know, years have passed and you didn’t realize you were living below your possibility. Make a point to stop and evaluate where you are and where you want to be. It is never too late to reclaim your fire.

Remember that life fulfillment can be a priority and not just an afterthought. Yes you have obligations, responsibilities, bills, commitments, but it is vital that you not give up you. Having a completed to-do list while stifling your soul is not the way you want to live. You deserve more and you can have more. The key is to live with balance. There are things you need to do but on that list consider including things that truly feed your spirit. Pursue your passion, stir up your gifts, and unleash your possibility.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dealing with Difficult People

Whether the difficult people in your life are co-workers, family, or unreliable friends, you have to take responsibility for your well-being. It is often said, we can’t control the actions of others but we do have a say in how we respond. To be honest, difficult people can cause stress, confusion, anger, disappointment, frustration, and irritation. When we are not careful, we can allow difficult people to bring us to a place where we are out of character, out of integrity, and out of control. It is very important that we develop skills and strategies that promote our mental health, clarity, and empowerment. Here are a few pointers:

1. Acknowledge that the person is bringing confusion and drama into your life. At some point we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, be clear about not making or accepting excuses, and see people for who they are. Knowledge is power and when we operate from a place of denial we surrender our power. So the first step is to be honest with yourself about the person and the difficulty that they create.

2. Try to hear the person out so you can distinguish reality from drama, truth from lies, and helpful feedback from hateration. The reality is sometimes even negative people may have an honest issue. So instead of dismissing everything they say, listen first to determine if their comments have any value.

3. If you determine the person is just bringing chaos and drama, ignore them, shut it down, and end the conversation. When you argue with difficult people, the confusion and anger gets magnified. You don’t have to try to convince them of anything, especially if they make it clear that they are willing to hear you out. Boundaries are an important sign of self respect so you should love and respect yourself enough to avoid entertaining people whose intentions are to harm or hinder you.

4. When the person continues to cross the line, you should truly consider taking an action. Determine the safest and most effective strategy. This may be confronting the person about their behavior, documenting what is happening, filing a report, pressing charges, obtaining a restraining order, or asking someone to mediate the situation. You don’t have to handle it alone and honestly some people when ignored begin to escalate their negative behavior. Your safety, emotionally and physically, are important so don’t let fear or pride keep you from asking for help.

5. Be aware that forgiving doesn’t have to always mean forgetting. From your moral, religious, spiritual, or personal code you may find it important to forgive people. Forgiveness can be a gift to yourself and others but you also don’t want to pretend a character issue doesn’t exist and as a result become vulnerable to continuous violation and disrespect. So while you may choose to forgive, you should also remain observant to determine if the person has truly grown to the place where they deserve the trust of close friendship.

6. Finally make sure to engage in activities to take care of yourself. You may need to reduce or eliminate contact with the person. You should also engage in activities that affirm you, inspire you, and nurture you. The stress and drama can weigh you down so be intentional about making your mental health a priority.

We all encounter difficult people but don’t forget you still have choices you can make to protect your peace of mind.