After a break-up, are you left feeling like a failure or worse? Is there stuff you blame yourself for when you look back over the relationship?
In the days and months after a relationship has ended (romantic or otherwise), we sometimes turn to ourselves to assign blame or make sense of why things have turned out this way. This is a little – no, a lot – condemning and it gets in the way of you being able to move on.
Although what we think we’ve done or not done during the demise of a relationship may seem rational, we often find it difficult to let things go and get stuck on a loop. We have a tendency to replay the “should, would, could have” scenarios. It’s called being human. But it’s about time you forgave yourself – isn’t it?
What to do about it?
I’m going to share with you how to self-forgive responsibly. This isn’t a spiritual act of watching your shit float away into the clouds. This is a pragmatic approach that requires some effort.
By the way, I love meditation but for me this isn’t about lessening the intensity of what you feel emotionally, or excusing yourself. It’s about facing whatever is weighing you down and breaking the negative thought patterns in order to set yourself free.
The method my steps are based on, comes from a self-directed workbook called ‘Moving Forward! Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself’, by Everett L. Worthington, Jr and Brandon J. Griffin. I’m giving you my (shortened) version.
It’s time to recapture your true, positive self and moving from a place of regret to freeeeedom. Whoopee! Get your journal out…
STEP 1: What’s been bugging you?
Choose ONE incident you’ve been feeling guilty about, can’t seem to forget or you’ve been blaming yourself for. Pick something you want to move on from. Use the following journal prompts:
• What caused you to act the way you did and what were you thinking of at the time?
• What was happening around you? Were you reacting to something, someone or another influence?
• Which of your values did your actions violate?
• How is all this impacting on your life now (for example, are you blaming yourself, feeling guilty or ashamed, anger towards others, disappointed or mis-trusting of others, grieving)?
• Describe what self-forgiveness means to you. What does it look like? How would your life be different if you forgave yourself?
“Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves”. Thich Nhat Hanh.
STEP 2: What’s your response-ability?
Taking responsibility doesn’t need to involve any contact with others. This is simply part of the process of forgiving yourself so it’s better to focus on the end outcome rather than depend on others for forgiveness. Continue in your journal:
• Think about the role you played and any mistakes you’ve made along the way. This is not a beating yourself up exercise. Make no judgements on yourself about this.
• Complete the following sentences: I accept responsibility for my own actions…I’m sorry that…I feel (insert your emotion) because….I am forgiven because….
• Write an apology note (please do not send it). Read it aloud to yourself or a friend that you trust and will not make any judgements about the situation. In your note, make an explicit request of forgiveness and empathise with the emotions felt by all involved.
• If spirituality is important to you, write about how you intend to restore your sense of spirituality.
“We are supposed to forgive everyone – including ourselves”. Denis Waitley.
STEP 3: Breaking the thought patterns.
This is an important step in self-repair. As my gran used to say, “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”. Making mistakes is inevitable. We are all perfectly imperfect. Sometimes our expectations are off the chart. Back to your journal:
• Explore what expectations you have of yourself (in the context of your relationships). To what extent do you believe you are capable of making mistakes? How much of what you feel is healthy? What do you notice about what you’ve written?
• Recognise any repetitive thought patterns you are playing on loop about the stuff you’ve forgiven yourself for. Write down the exact thoughts.
• Write down 2 or 3 thoughts you’d like to replace those with. We’re not going to stop the thoughts occurring but simply re-direct them to a more positive place and interrupt the rumination.
“When guilt rears its ugly head confront it, discuss it and let it go. The past is over. Forgive yourself and move on”. Bernie S. Siegal.
STEP 4: Forgiving yourself (emotionally).
It’s time to wholeheartedly forgive yourself. Not just physically but emotionally too. Continue on with your journal and consider the following prompts:
• What relief will you experience by letting go of your condemnation? Imagine what it feels like to let go of a heavy backpack. Feel the sense of relief and embrace it.
• Recall a movie, book or story about self-forgiveness that resonates with you. Do any parallels exist in your story? Describe the journey, resistance and rewards those characters gained from self-forgiveness. FYI – mine is It’s a Wonderful Life.
• This time, write a note to yourself about self-forgiveness. Let it be known that you have chosen to give yourself this gift. State why you are worth this gift and why it’s important.
Love yourself – accept yourself – forgive yourself – and be good t yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things”. Leo. F. Buscaglia.
STEP 5: Rebuild yourself.
Learning from our experiences is key to personal growth. Some of these experiences are more positive than others. Freedom from your mistakes doesn’t mean you’ll never make another one again, it’s about recognising your worth in spite of your flaws. In your journal, write:
• What did this experience teach you? What positive consequences would you like to see?
• What makes you valuable in spite of your mistakes?
• Who or what can you count on to remind you of your worth?
• How has your commitment to these 6 steps changed how you see yourself?
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself”. Mark Twain.
STEP 6: Reconnecting with you.
This part is simple. A little more journaling and you’re there:
• Write a list of your values and identify the top 3-5 (the non-negotiables). Explore what each one means to you.
• How will you incorporate these into your “new normal” now that you’ve forgiven yourself?
• Reflect on the 6 steps as a whole and decide what’s been most helpful to you and list the reasons for this.
Go you! remember this process takes time so spread it out over a couple of weeks and re-visit each step when you can. Like most things the art of forgiveness takes practise. It’s important to keep doing it though so your brain begins to recognise what’s a healthy way for you to deal with similar future situations.
“Forgiveness is a gift you must first give to yourself”. Me.
Need a friendly ear?
That’s cool. I’m here to offer you compassionate and non-judgemental support. Let me know what you need.