Sticks and stones may be the things that break your bones, but words and actions can still cut, which is why saying you forgive someone for something they’ve done to hurt you is much easier than actually doing it. Nevertheless, it is important that we embrace healing in the form of forgiveness. When we permit ourselves to release past hurts, it leads us down the path towards a healthier and happier life, but it takes effort.
This is where our fourth chakra (Anahata) comes into play, which, according to Caroline Myss’ Anatomy of the Spirit, is where our emotions are housed. “The middle chakra, it mediates between the body and spirit and determines their health and strength,” Myss says. “Fourth chakra energy is emotional in nature and helps propel our emotional development.”
It makes sense since this chakra is apparently located right in the center of our chest, making it a neighbor to our very precious heart.
When we’re emotionally wounded, either through abandonment, adultery, divorce, or the death of a loved one, the pain often manifests itself in other forms, such as anxiety, stress or jealousy. The emotional strain is so powerful that it can literally feel like a weight on our shoulders or pressure on our chests. In order to authentically and completely heal, we must confront our emotional issues, and this chakra is the key to accessing them.
But far too often, we cover up the hurt with temporary bandages like shopping, trips, alcohol or medication. These distractions end up obstructing our connection with the deeper emotional stirrings that are causing us grief. And we soon start seeing ourselves as victims. It’s up to us to find the spiritual insight into that pain, and to forgive and let go, so that we may move forward.
Here are five tips to help you put hurt feelings where they belong — in the past so you can make room for more joy and love to enter your life.
Live Well, Live Better. Sign up here for more inspiring expert advice on living your best life from Books for Better Living and Penguin Random House.
The Man (or Woman) In the Mirror
Start by looking into your heart and doing some good old self-examination. Ask yourself what makes you happy. Think about why you do the things you do. For many of us, this can be uncomfortable and scary—otherwise, we’d already be healed, right? But don’t judge yourself too harshly if you are struggling with this step because according to Myss, “to be healed means to be fully self-contained, always positive, always happy, always sure of oneself, and never needing anyone. No wonder few ever consider themselves ‘healed.’”
Face Your Demons
This step is a monumental one — it’s committing to the act of healing, and coming to terms with the fact that it won’t always be pretty. In fact, it’ll require you to face the truth, no matter how ugly it gets. After you prepare yourself to turn inwards, no matter how painful it might be at first, stay the course. It’s important for you to identify your wounds and examine their impact on your present life.
Speak Your Truth
Verbalize your wounds and observe how you let it control your life, your language, and your actions. And be honest, so that your healing can be honest too. This step will require an outside “witness,” like a therapist or dear, trusted friend.
Make That Change
Now it’s time to make the change. Change your language, use new words, and stop using certain words, especially when it comes to how you talk to and about yourself. End negative patterns, and start new ones with the guidance of a therapist. Be more appreciative and grateful for what you do have, which might be hard at first, so maybe fake it till you make it. Start a spiritual practice, like yoga or meditation, to release anxiety and help keep you grounded.
The final step to complete healing, of course, is forgiveness. Many people think forgivingness is just saying, “It’s okay,” but that’s just the first, most shallow layer of it. Forgiveness is much more complex than that; it’s liberating yourself from being a victim and releasing the control and power you’ve given to the person who hurt you. Maybe it’s a non-angry letter to them, or perhaps it’s an internal conversation with yourself. Have a ritual to mark the official letting-go of the negative energy. It can be as small as lighting a candle or praying, to getting rid of whatever reminds you of them and no longer serves a purpose in your life.
Now you can fill the empty space that the negative energy left with love and appreciation for the moment. Remember, life is too short to be brought down by others. As Buddha said, “There is only now.”
Illustration: Marie Guillard