Forgiving someone who has broken your heart is a process that is necessary. Without forgiveness, the heartbreak you are experiencing will not be able to dissipate.
Plus, as long as we remain in a state of non-forgiveness or resentment, we live and exist in a negative energy state. You see, resentment has a lot of friends and none of these are friends to whom you would like to open your heart, body, or being.
Resentment’s best friend is anger and anger’s best friend is rage. Rage’s best friend is bitterness and bitterness’s best friend is pessimism. Resentment, anger, rage, bitterness, and pessimism make quite a team.
If you invite this team, whom I refer to as The Toxic Five, into your heart-home, it will be the biggest mistake you make in your life. If you remain in this state of non-forgiveness, The Toxic Five will take over and destroy you from within.
These Toxic Five destroy you by flooding your body with cortisol. And when this happens, cortisol puts you on the alert and this causes anxiety. Once anxiety sets in, you are set up for a full-blown panic attack.
Panic attacks often feel like heart attacks and there is a very reason for this. Emotions, whether they are good or bad, pool within the heart. This process exacerbates the feelings of having a broken heart and adds fuel to the fire of The Toxic Five.
For years, I was destroyed by The Toxic Five. If you have read my book, Dying to Wake Up, you recall the love-hate relationship with my father. While I owe my success to his strict discipline and his unwavering desire to see me excel, my father often used violence as a means to an end. Because of his own precarious survival as a teen, he only knew the language of raw survival. Often this language of raw survival is all brass tacks and no gentle guidance.
The beatings I received at the hands of my father were brutal. For years, I seethed in anger because our relationship was one only marked by violence. I did not know what it was like to be touched tenderly by my father. His disapproving gaze, his rough treatment of me, and his drive to bend me to his will were always with me.
It was the biggest irony of both my life and my death when my father was the very person to greet me on the other side. Not only did he greet me, he extended a hand into Hell to pull me out and show me the unconditional love that is Heaven itself.
When he and I were both stripped away of the mortal ego in death, pure love flowed between us. All of the years of pain washed away when my dad extended his hand into my afterlife.
He pulled me out of the lake of fire, Hell itself, and also pulled me out of my emotional hell, which had served as an emotional prison for years. In the after-life, my father brought me personally to God to show me the compassion, all-encompassing, and eternal love that God has for all of us.
In that moment, the seed of forgiveness was planted in my heart. Just as quickly, I was whisked back into my body to face my material life again. Though the seed of forgiveness had been planted, it still needed to be watered and tended in order to bloom.
So how do you get rid of these Toxic Five?
The only way to get rid of The Toxic Five is through forgiveness.
Whether or not you are willing to hear it, the healing path requires forgiveness to be at its foundation.
If you are not ready to forgive, you may say to yourself, “But how can I forgive after my loved one hurt me in the deepest and most unimaginable ways?”
You may have heard this before, but I will say it again: forgiveness is for you. It may sound trite, but it is a powerful sliver of wisdom. While you may believe that forgiving someone means letting that person off the hook, you are really letting yourself off the hook.
When you make forgiveness the center of your being, The Toxic Five can no longer occupy the center of your being. Forgiveness makes her home in the center of your being and The Toxic Five can no longer exist there. Just like light drives away the darkness, The Toxic Five are driven away by forgiveness.
In his book, Forgive for Good, Dr. Fred Luskin says the following, “forgiveness helps people control their emotions so they maintain good judgment. They do not waste precious energy trapped in anger and hurt over things they can do nothing about. Forgiveness acknowledges we can’t change the past. Forgiveness allows us not to stay stuck in the past.”
How do I forgive?
Unless a hurtful person is still in your life, you must become aware of the fact that whatever occurred in the past is not present in your ‘now.’ All we have is the present and each of us can choose our thoughts in the present. Therefore, you must make the decision each moment to keep going over past events or to remain in the present.
Next, you must emotionally detach from the past. You need to ground yourself by taking a deep breath, feeling yourself present in your body, and letting yourself know that in that moment all is well.
Next, try to uncover underlying motives in your loved one’s behavior. In my own father’s case, he was living with chronic PTSD. His PTSD was due to his experience during ongoing wars after the creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan in 1947. He has known the face of hate, the face of poverty, and for a period of time even his own mortality. During this time, he did not know if the next moment would hold life or death for him and his family.
My father gave me frequent beatings because my father knew no better and also because he suffered from untreated PTSD. My father knew no better way to help me succeed. Still, even if he had he was daily facing down his own demons. This does not make my father’s behavior right or good.
However, looking at his perspective helped me understand a bigger picture. After I understood this larger picture, I was able to take that seed of forgiveness and cultivate compassion for my father.
I also understood that I was not blameless. I come from a culture and family system where the motto for raising children is akin to “spare the rod and spoil child.” The expression from my own culture talks of ‘bending a crooked nail to become straight.’ My father had been raised this way and in turn I had raised my son this way.
I came to understand that my oldest son had come to fear me more than love me. I had continued the abusive pattern from my childhood and had become my own father. In forgiving my father, I was also able to forgive myself and break the abusive pattern with my son.
On the other hand, unlike me, it could be that you are blameless. It could be that you experienced horrendous abuse as a child, but you refused to be abusive toward your own children or others. It could be that you cannot even comprehend the mindset of the person who hurt you; in fact, they could be monstrous without explanation.
Still, you must let go of what happened to you and focus on being in the now. Any time you re-play the abuse you suffered, you bring the abuse back to life. The only time replaying abuse can be effective is when you are being treated for PTSD and undergoing exposure therapy. I am referring to a very specific circumstance where a licensed psychotherapist knows how to expose you to trauma in bits and pieces. This exposure in small bits can lessen trauma’s hold on you. But, unless you are undergoing exposure therapy with a competent counselor, dwelling on the past only makes it more real. When the abuse is more real forgiveness is out of range.
If you cannot get over the thoughts of the past, use these thoughts to create a journal. I recommend writing a letter to yourself and giving yourself the comfort that you needed in the moment the abuse was occurring. Go back and tell your younger self that you are wonderful, amazing, beautiful, worthy, and most of all lovable. Whatever that person was doing to you in the moment had nothing to do with your worth. Write love letters to your younger self and take them to heart.
Finally, refuse to give to others the abuse that was given to you. Instead, find ways to cultivate unconditional love towards others. When you do kindness to others and think of them in loving and accepting ways, you expect feelings of self-love and self-worth. Any loving thought towards another being, whether it be human or animal places you within the universe of love.
Spend fifteen minutes a day forcing solely on loving thoughts and thoughts of gratitude. Occupy your mind more with what is right than what is wrong. Find concrete ways to dwell in the ‘love space’ whenever you can.
This also includes doing acts of love towards strangers. Open the door for people, allow someone in a hurry to cut in front of you in the grocery store, say “hello” to others and give strangers a smile. But, most of all, when you are faced with something that would normally trigger your own anger, choose kindness. Even if it is hard in the moment, staying in ‘love spaces’ and ‘kind spaces’ will start changing you from the inside out. This is when forgiveness really becomes powerful and you are transformed.
If you would like to know more about how to forgive someone who broke your heart, please click the contact form and reach out to me. I would love to hear from you!