Free Yourself and Forgive

forgiveSometimes I write about forgiveness and people get very upset. I recognize there are some things we want to put into the category of unforgivable, so let me clarify what I mean when I say I believe forgiveness is freeing and vital if you want to be at peace. I am not talking about deciding that something traumatic or hurtful that happened in your past is now okay with you. I’m not talking about picking up the phone or sending an email to a person who betrayed you, and telling them it’s water under the bridge. You don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to speak to the person, or see them ever again, but if you’re holding on to anger, they’re still hurting you, and that’s my point.

When we’re enraged with someone, we’re carrying them around inside our heads and our hearts because whatever happened is in the past, but in order for us to stay angry, we have to keep thinking about it, and fueling that flame, and rage is a poor constant companion. It seeps into everything. It makes it hard for us to be intimate, to trust other people, to let our guard down, because to do that, you have to be vulnerable, but to hold onto rage, you have to be tough; staying angry requires constant vigilance. We end up depleting our energy on that, when we could be spending it on opening to love, which feels so much better.

How do you forgive someone who stole any chance you had at a normal, innocent childhood, for example? That’s a difficult one, right? Because something was taken from you, and you can never have it back. You can never know what it would have been like to be in Kindergarten feeling safe and secure. You can never know how it might have felt if you’d been able to relate to kids your age, not just in Kindergarten, but in elementary school, junior high, high school, college. It turns out not having a childhood affects you for your whole life. So how do you forgive that? You can re-parent yourself. That little kid who was scared and confused and hurt and alienated is still available to you, and you already know that. If you’re an adult, you aren’t powerless anymore, and it’s never too late to heal. Maybe you get yourself some help, some support. In fact, I’d highly recommend you do that.

Healing takes dedication, time, energy, and a willingness to lean into your pain. If you refuse to work with your issues, don’t expect them to get tired and go away, they’ll just keep showing up for you in every area of your life. They’ll be bubbling right underneath the surface of everything you say and do. If you face your fears, your rage, your loss, your grief, if you allow yourself to mourn, you’ll find you don’t mourn forever. The deep feelings arise, and they hurt, and you cry and you feel raw and maybe some days you feel hopeless or alone or scared, but you hang on, and eventually the heat and the power and the strength of all that old stuff starts to subside, and you can loosen your grip and start to breathe again, maybe for the first time in a very long time.

It’s just, if you’re using a ton of energy to stay angry, you’re probably not going to have enough left to heal. Blame keeps us stuck. It places our ability to be happy in someone else’s hands, or in events over which we had, and have, no control. The past can’t be rewritten; whatever happened, happened. Some things shape us, but the only thing that defines you is what you do about what you’ve been given; how you proceed, how you live your life, and show up for yourself, and the people you love, and the people you don’t even know. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It has very little to do with anyone else.

Sometimes people balk at the word forgiveness, so let me say this. If you’re living your life and you’re happy and you don’t feel like you’re carrying someone who betrayed you within your heart, then I think you’re good to go. You don’t have to call that forgiveness, but that’s what it is in my book. You are not a prisoner of another person’s actions or inactions; you’re liberated.

The same goes for people who enter our lives later in life. Maybe you had an idyllic childhood, but something unthinkable happened later. This is your life. You get to decide how much energy you’re going to spend looking back. If you work on it enough, you can witness your experience. You can examine your thinking. You can choose one thought over another and there’s so much power in that. Choose the thoughts that strengthen you. Feed the love. Let the rest of it go, as much as you can. It doesn’t have to fit into a neat little box. You certainly don’t have to be grateful for everything that’s ever happened to you, just try to grow from your pain. Allow it to soften you and make you more insightful and compassionate, and likely to reach out to other people in pain. That way, at least, some beauty grows from it. Learn to love yourself as you are right now, and understand, you wouldn’t be you without every event that’s ever befallen you. Remind yourself that you’re strong, and unhook your journey from someone else’s past behavior. That’s their journey, it isn’t yours.

Sending you love, and a huge hug,

Ally Hamilton

No One Can Save You but You

franklNothing breaks my heart more than a child in an unsafe environment, whether we’re talking about physical or emotional violence. If something happened along your journey that made you feel terrified and powerless, my heart also goes out to you. You do not have to let your past dictate your present, though, and I hope this comes across in the most compassionate way possible, but I believe it’s your work to heal. I think that really needs to be your priority, because if you don’t, you’ll never uncover and share your gifts, and you’ll also take other people down with you. You won’t mean to do that, it’s just that when a person crosses your path, and they see the beauty within you, even if you can’t see it yourself, they’re going to want to stop, and they might even fall in love with you. If you’re still struggling with things that happened to you, through no fault of your own, through nothing that was or is lacking within you, believe me when I tell you, those people who love you and see you will suffer and you might even hate them for it.

This is what abuse does. It cycles back on itself, and if you don’t break the loop, you perpetuate it. Those are your choices. Or you can try numbing yourself so you don’t feel anything, but what kind of life is that? Also, the rage seeps through, anyway. Healing is your best option by a long-shot. How you go about doing that is intensely personal. A great therapist is an excellent place to start. You can’t change anything that exists outside your awareness. If you’re in a state of misery and you can’t seem to pull yourself out of it, if you notice patterns in your life romantically or professionally that do not serve you, if you have difficulty maintaining close relationships with people, if you’re abusive and unable to control yourself when you get angry, you need to find help and support. Nothing good can blossom and sustain itself until you go back and and investigate the source of your pain; it’ll just keep rising to the surface, driving your choices and your actions, wreaking havoc in any way possible to get your attention. It won’t end unless you end it.

Awareness is only step one, though. Figuring out what happened along the way to make you hate yourself, doubt yourself, believe you’re unworthy of love, or that you’re broken…that’s the beginning. Looking at your tendencies, your belief systems, your way of being in the world, your ability to be kind consistently, or not, all these are areas that need to be brought to the surface so you can get your hands and your head around them. Step two is figuring out how to rewire your system, how to unhook your journey from something that happened long ago. How to redefine yourself, recreate your outlook, reimagine your future, rediscover your capabilities, remember who and what you are, that’s step two.

For me, yoga was, and is an essential part of the equation. I think of therapy as the “top-down” part. You get inside your head, and by that I mean what’s conscious and what may be unconscious, and you hold that stuff up to the light so you can see what the hell is going on, and you do that in a safe environment with someone you trust, and you do not look away. You look until you see and you understand what you’ve been thinking, believing and doing that’s landed you in the state you’re in. Yoga is the “bottom-up” part in my book. You get on your mat and you breathe and you move, and whatever your tendencies are, they will show up on your mat with you. So if you have a loud, harsh unforgiving inner critic, guess what voice you’ll hear as you move through your practice? And because you’re aware of your tendencies and you now understand this does not have to be the way of things, the way of you, you can choose not to feed that voice. You do not have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. You could, if you cared to, kindly tell your inner critic to f&ck off, and you could begin to feed a loving, accepting, patient, kind, caring, compassionate voice. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen.

Is it painful to confront your pain? Hell yes. It’s brutal and uncomfortable, and if there was a way around it, I’d advise it, but it’s not like you have to lean into your pain for the rest of your life. If you’ve been living this way for thirty or forty years, then you’re probably in for a few fairly painful ones. They might be lonely or scary or isolating. You can probably count on a lot of resistance internally and externally. Confusion, fear, and doubt will travel with you for a time, but if you flood your system with new information from the top-down and the bottom-up, believe me you can heal. You can reinvent your life so it feels good to you. You can leave your past where it belongs, and get busy co-creating your present and your future. No one else can do it for you. No one else can save you, or complete you, or solve it for you. We each have to do our own journey.

If you’re in love with someone who isn’t yet willing or able to look honestly at self-destructive habits or patterns, you can’t save them. You can love them, but you cannot fix or mend or make up for anyone else’s inability to love themselves. You can get really hurt trying, though. Don’t over-inflate yourself. You aren’t here to manage anyone else’s path. No matter how much you love someone, they’re going to have to wrestle their own demons. If we could do it for each other, of course we would. We’d do it for our children and our parents and our best friends and our partners. It simply doesn’t work that way. We struggle through the birth canal, in the dark, trying to find our way until we come into the light. Sometimes you have to rebirth yourself. Same process. Wishing you strength and love and peace and joy and good health and wholeness. If you want to practice with me online, try this. Try it for a couple of weeks, and see if you notice a shift.  I teach because this practice transformed my life, and there are few things I enjoy more than sharing the tools that worked for me. Life is not something to get through, it’s something to be experienced and celebrated and lived fully, from your heart.

Sending you love, and a hug if you need one,

Ally Hamilton

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