Last year a random thought popped into my head “I forgive myself.” It was a very comforting thought and I felt a sense of relief as I contemplated this idea. I forgive myself for where I’m at and everywhere I’m resenting me.
I’m not sure where it came from. I wasn’t reading any material about forgiveness and I’m not someone who attends a church. Perhaps it came from my subconscious or some higher force urging me to let go of my resentments.
Either way it lead me to consider the standards I was imposing on myself and the negative feelings around a sense of not having achieved enough in life. I realised I was really pissed off with myself. Why the fuck haven’t I made my life work better than this? Why don’t I have more money? Surely I could have figured this all out by now? The more I went into it the more I realised I had high expectations of myself and that I may need to sooth my self talk a bit. To adopt a more encouraging approach.
Despite a ton of analysis, self-help and psychological inquiry I had, up until that point, never just sat down with myself and said “I forgive me’ I didn’t get it all right, I made some mistakes, I made some poor choices but I can forgive myself and move on. Start over”.
After mulling this over for a while “I forgive myself ” turned into “I forgive myself and I forgive others”.. and then it became “there’s a reason why everyone does everything so I can forgive people” For a few days I felt waves of forgiveness come over me.
Then I came up against a road block. People I couldn’t just “forgive” the places in me where I held onto intense resentments. How could so n’ so have been such an a-hole of magnitude. What xyz did was beyond rotten and they don’t deserve my forgiveness. Etc etc. As I dredged up the past I realised how much these resentments were like unresolved poisons in my psyche and I wondered how to let them go.
I googled “resentment processing” and found this table from the Narcotics Anonymous 12 step program. Whilst I’ve never taken narcotics in my life, something about the process spoke to me and I thought that exploring my resentments in this way might be helpful.
So I made an excel spread sheet of my resentments based on the above table. OMG lol as I’m writing this I realise how weird that sounds. Yes I made a spread sheet to process my emotions. I listed all my major resentments, the cause, the part of myself that was hurt or threatened, and where I might have been to blame.
The first thing that struck me was how incredibly long my resentment list was.. it was extraordinary. I was carrying around A TON OF CRAP and hadn’t fully appreciated the breadth and depth of it. Seeing it on a spreadsheet really made that clear.
The “where was I to blame” aspect was a bit confronting because some things I really don’t take responsibility for.. like someone being verbally abusive.. I’m really not going to own that shit but I could own the fact that I allowed it to go on without taking action. (I also appreciated that NA is an offshoot of AA which was founded in the 1930s so there are some old fashioned ideas/wording in the content but overall it seems to be very empowering for people)
I can honestly say that I felt a massive sense of relief once I had explored all of my resentments in this way. Some of them really did just fall away and I was able to forgive people. Even though I had talked about many of these issues with counsellors or trusted friends something about the visual table aspect really worked for me.
I never thought excel would help me heal my resentments but there you go. Sometimes the answers to life’s problem are simpler than we realise.
I now find that I can cultivate a feeling of forgiveness towards people after I have processed resentments in this way. I don’t think there’s any particular trick to growing the quality of forgiveness within. It’s just an intention to do so and works once the road blocks are moved out of the way.
The Truth about Mental Health blog is an affiliate of Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Woman’s Health Psychiatrist. Check out her 44 day online course that explores holistic interventions like diet, meditation, exercise and mindset.