Rid Yourself of Emotional Clutter - Rancho La Puerta
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Rid Yourself of Emotional Clutter

The holiday season is a great time to rid clear the clutter from your home, your closets, and your mind. One of the most important ways to rid yourself of emotional clutter is to forgive those who disappointed or hurt you in the recent or distant past.

Why would we forgive someone who has betrayed or wronged us? 

The best reason is that forgiveness liberates us from the suffering of the past and allows us to forge ahead with greater potential for inner freedom and joy.

When we hold onto the memory of being wronged, we also hold on to anger, grief, and perhaps the wish for revenge. This continues to fuel the pain and likely makes it stronger over time. Holding onto the past hurts and disappointments us, keeping us hostage, as it creates a loop in the brain wherein which we continue to relive the past. While we can never change the past, forgiveness changes how we go forward in our lives.

Letting go and releasing the pain of past violations is hard for many of us. It may even seem impossible. We’ve learned in recent studies that forgiveness is a skill that can be significantly improved with practice over time.

Forgiveness is one of the most important gifts we can ever give to ourselves. It’s ultimately about taking a stand that I will not permit my life will not to be defined by this person, trauma, or hurt. It is a statement that you are going to live life on your terms and not give away your significance or personal power to anyone.

Forgiving someone does not mean that they are off the hook or not accountable for their actions, and certainly does not incline us to stick around for further maltreatment. It’s not about them, it’s about you and me, choosing to set ourselves free so that we can move forward to a better future. We are choosing to write your narrative in a way that liberates us from the old story and allows us to redefine how we show up for the days to come.

Besides the reward of letting go of a painful past, there are powerful health benefits that go hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiveness. In the physical realm, physically, this is associated with lower heart rate, blood pressure, and overall stress. Forgiveness leads to heightened energy levels, improved sleep quality, and better concentration. Psychologically, forgiveness leads to decreased anxiety and inner turmoil while simultaneously restoring positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Learning to forgive also improves our capacity to experience more healthy, more fulfilling relationships. 

The question remains: How do we give up the anger and resentment and forgive someone who has hurt, disappointed, or betrayed us? 

Here are some strategies that help to build your skill of forgiveness and release past hurt, betrayal, and disappointments. This takes practice, and results will likely take time to happen. Over time, with regular attention to the ideas below, you will continue to strengthen your capacity for forgiveness. Incorporating the strategies below will help enhance your capacity for forgiveness.

Forgiveness Strategies

  1. Build a simple, mindfulness practice.

Do something daily in which you evoke even just a few minutes of relaxation. Breathwork, meditation, a walk-in nature, and lying in bed without a device all help to bring you to a place of balance, of homeostasis. This is a great foundation from which you can establish your forgiveness practice.

  1. Reflect deeply about the situation.

Make sure that you are not exaggerating or reconfiguring any aspects of the story so that you can assess the situation honestly.

  1. Reframe your grievance story.

Your grievance story is the one that you tell over and over to yourself, and possibly to others. It’s about the way you were maltreated. It is the story that even when true holds you hostage. Consider another way to cast your story so that rather than being the victim, you become the survivor, or better yet, the hero of your story.

  1. Strengthen your capacity for kindness and compassion for yourself for landing in a painful situation.

Blaming yourself for not seeing the signs sooner doesn’t help, and impedes the process of making change. Be kind to yourself, the way you would be to a loved one.

  1. Create new associations with your old story of neglect or abuse.

Practice a ritual that says goodbye to the past as you once experienced it. Welcome the support and love that you now invite into your life. Light a candle, for example, to symbolize the brightness of the moment and the days ahead, or gather some friends to celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of a new phase of life.

  1. Surround yourself with people who fill you up.

This can help carry you through a lot of hurt. None of us can do life alone and we can’t expect ourselves to get through the pain of the past alone. Allowing ourselves to share our stories and lean on loved ones for support is a vital way to limit feelings of isolation and remind us of the good that exists in our lives. Seek professional help if needed.

You cannot control others, but you can manage your own choices. As you release the past, you will begin to morph into the champion of your story. Ultimately you might even develop empathy and compassion for the abuser.

Whether or not you do, acknowledge and celebrate your wins for releasing past hurts. You will begin to notice a shift in your consciousness, confidence, and how you show up in your relationships.

Forgiveness often leads to clarity, empathy, and compassion for yourself, for others, and perhaps even for the one who hurt you. It can transform years of suffering into an experience of connection and grace within oneself and all other relationships.

Please practice these strategies a little bit every day. You’ll see the results in a month or two. Start with the smaller, easier to forgive hurts, and build your way up to the more painful ones.

Be kind to yourself as you practice refocusing how you see the situation and celebrate small victories won. Your results are cumulative, and your forgiveness muscle will strengthen over time, as will your experience of well-being. Simultaneously you’ll likely find the emotional clutter in your life getting smaller and tidier.

This is an excellent time of year to be put your forgiveness practice into action.

Randy Kamen, EdD, is a psychologist, life-coach, and author of the bestseller Behind the Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life. Dr. Kamen pioneered new territory in mind-body medicine and positive psychology at Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Boston University’s School of Medicine. She leads global, live online courses and workshops and runs women’s empowerment retreats on Martha’s Vineyard. Dr. Kamen is part-time faculty at Harvard Medical School where she has taught women’s leadership and writing, publishing, promoting your book. She appears on radio, television, print and online media outlets. Her blog can be found at DrRandyKamen.com and her regular FacebookLive Show, “Simple Strategies to Create Your Extraordinary Life” is Dr. Randy Kamen on Thursdays at noon ET.