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Forgiveness

Many disregulated eaters are stuck in the past, with much of their energy going into trying to figure out why bad things happened to them or caused their life to turn out the way it has. While I’m all for understanding our histories, sometimes there’s work to be done to move beyond it, especially when it involves people who have caused you harm.

It’s easy to get fixated on folks who’ve hurt us. We can blame our unfulfilled or unhappy lives on them and avoid responsibility for having let ourselves become victims of our history. I’m not saying that for some people, especially those who’ve suffered trauma, it’s easy to get beyond pain and suffering, but that holding on to what has come before often gets in the way of living in the present and creating a better future.

Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of forgiveness. Here’s what Frederic Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project and author of FORGIVE FOR GOOD—A PROVEN PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS, has to say on the subject: “Forgiveness…is actually remembering differently. While lack of forgiveness is remembering something with an edge or a grudge or a sense of injustice, forgiveness means remembering it more benignly, with compassion. It involves some purpose of moving ahead, rather than just being stuck in the past.” (Psychotherapy Networker, Jan/Feb 2013, 61-2) The reason to forgive, Luskin maintains, is to move on. It’s a purposeful, intentional act we choose in order to improve our lives. He makes the point that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Because we no longer hold a grudge about something, we need not make believe it didn’t occur. In fact, he’s saying that forgiving is actually all about remembering, but in a different way than we have been doing.

If you’re wondering why it’s difficult to let go of hurt and forgive, Luskin has a partial answer: “…our neurology is wired to look for things that are wrong in order to keep us safe” and “many cultures foster revenge, retribution, payback, and total self-absorption.” Regarding this last term, when we’re hurt, we make our suffering all about us, when we could look at what was going on in the person who hurt us in order to have a more accurate, valuable view. Generally he or she had reasons for striking out that had nothing to do with us. When we understand this, it’s easier to forgive because we realize that someone wasn’t out to hurt us but to stop themselves from hurting.

Consider the benefits you’ll derive from forgiving someone in your history. Forgiveness is a courageous, defining act that will give you a better life today and tomorrow.

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How to Change Habits

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