Happiness 104: How To Forgive & Release

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Happiness 103: After The Slump

Unforgiveness in the self usually manifests as regret or shame

Regret is unforgiveness of our past self through wanting to have done things differently

Though regretting is healthy and necessary, it shouldn’t be constant

  • Some things are unchangeable and uncontrollable, and regret is how we grieve to release that control
  • We often resolve our regrets merely by affirming the statement “I did what I thought was best at the time given what I knew”

Stronger regrets usually travel through a few predictable stages

  1. Denial about what happened
  2. Bewilderment or shock over how it happened
  3. Self-punishment over the consequences of the event
  4. Cycling back into denial to make the pain go away
  5. Accepting that we need to let go
  6. Taking comfort in how universal the feeling is
  7. Laugh at ourselves and take ourselves much less seriously
  8. Let time pass to permit the emotion to fade

Shame is the belief that we are defective, inadequate or flawed

  • In effect, shame is the healthy feeling of guilt applied chronically in an unhealthy way
  • Working through shame involves accepting ourselves, which requires digging through the six layers of self-deception

We create layers of self-deception to avoid confronting ourselves

We can only be mentally well when we forgive both ourselves and others

  • Most people have grown up trained by psychological trauma that their genuine selves are unacceptable
  • We can only connect with others to the degree that we can connect with ourselves, and sometimes personal discovery must go beyond self-awareness
  • It is each person’s responsibility to peel back the layers of deception to understand true feelings and thoughts that motivate us

Sixth Layer – Toxic Shame

A complete non-acceptance of self

  • Inability to look at the self in any way, shape or form
  • Often unable to understand internal thoughts and feelings

Mindsets and thoughts

  • Self-indulgent
  • Controlling
  • Grandiosity
  • Depression
  • Self-doubt/self-hatred
  • Perfectionism
  • A strong sense of inferiority and inadequacy
  • Personality disorders

Frequent behaviors

  • Physical violence
  • Addictions of all sorts, including eating disorders
  • Sexually acting out/sexual abuse
  • Compulsions and repetitive behaviors
  • Personal failure
  • Compulsive lying
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Criminal behavior

Fifth Layer – Cover-ups

Recognition of personal issues, but blames others for all of it

  • Usually caused by the feelings of shame and guilt that come from hearing truths
  • Thoughts generally vacillate between blaming and denying

Mindsets and thoughts

  • Judgmental
  • Applying frequent repeated defenses
  • Perfectionist
  • Patronizing
  • Rage/anger
  • Envious
  • Blaming
  • Caretaker role
  • Enabling
  • Rescuer role
  • Victimizing
  • Depressed

Frequent behaviors

  • People-pleasing
  • Moralizing or religiousness
  • Transferring shame to others by acting exempt from all wrongdoing
  • Controlling

Fourth Layer – Rigid family roles

Tries to be a stereotype to fulfill a struggling sense of identity

  • Hero
  • Star
  • Victim
  • Problem Child
  • Rebel
  • Helpless Parent
  • Enabler
  • Perfect One
  • Surrogate Spouse
  • Offender
  • Scapegoat
  • Lost Child
  • Mascot
  • “Sick One”

Third Layer – Defenses

Starts to understand personal responsibility in issues, but unwilling to accept the role

  • Displacement
  • Disassociation
  • Denial
  • Idealized fantasy bonds with others
  • Repression
  • Over-identification
  • Projection
  • Delusions

Second Layer – Internalized shame

Directly confronts the issues, but has difficulty in accepting them

  • We often feel overwhelmed and attack the wrong sources in that feeling

Becomes toxic over chronic negative feelings

  • Abandonment
  • Rejection
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Shameless parents or guardians

First Layer – core beliefs of self from parenting

A healthy core belief includes both a sufficient type of guilt and a strongly developed ego

An unhealthy core belief comes from poor parenting where the child feels they are flawed, inadequate, defective, and “not good enough”

Uncovering and accepting our genuine self is an emotionally intense experience

Stage 1 – Identifying all six layers

Bad parents lead to children thinking there is something wrong with them as they are, and bad parents are usually

  • Rejecting
  • Absent
  • Indifferent
  • Hostile
  • Threatening
  • Abusive
  • Silent
  • Neglectful
  • Guilt-Tripping
  • Shaming

Self-rejection creates

  • Compulsive and addictive behaviors
  • Character-based defense strategies against shame

People create false selves from a perceived need

  1. Parents rejected the child’s “real self”
  2. The child needed to please their parents to survive

False selves have distinct characteristics

  • Alienated from real self
  • Actor/actress
  • Plans and plods
  • Fearful
  • Withholding/silent
  • Conditionally loves selfishly
  • Critical/perfectionist
  • Denies, hides, and judges feelings
  • Passive or aggressive
  • Overly rational/logical
  • Difficulty playing and having fun
  • Pretends to be strong or helpless
  • Values power and control
  • Distrustful
  • Avoids/distrusts being nurtured
  • Prideful and controlling
  • Self-righteous
  • Lives in the past
  • Believes everyone is “on their own”
  • Repeats painful patterns throughout life
  • Secretive
  • Fearful of making decisions
  • Self-centered

These characteristics will mix and match to form many types of identities

  • Victim
  • Alienated
  • Workaholic
  • Provider
  • Hero
  • Co-dependent
  • Helpless
  • Drug/alcohol abuser
  • Rebel
  • Little parent
  • Enabler
  • Perfect one
  • Problem child
  • Identified patient/symptom-bearer
  • Star
  • Surrogate spouse
  • Offender
  • Scapegoat
  • Lost child
  • Mascot
  • Judge
  • Family consciousness
  • People pleaser
  • Rescuer
  • Caretaker
  • Entertainer
  • Controller
  • Manipulator
  • Family trash can
  • Hides behind a mask
  • Fearful
  • Withholds
  • Loves conditionally
  • Critical
  • Hides feelings
  • Overdeveloped parent
  • Distrusting
  • Controls
  • Withdraws
  • Self-righteous
  • Blocks unconscious material
  • Avoids nurture
  • Blaming
  • Numb or empty
  • Hyper-aware
  • Depressed
  • Unhappy

Stage 2 – Identify our self-lies

We must identify how we are lying to ourselves and accept that they are lies

  • As we discover our lies, we must be prepared to forgive ourselves

A person’s false self can trigger from many sources in unexpected ways

  • Memories
  • Facial expressions
  • Smells
  • Sounds
  • Someone’s behavior

Learn to spot a false self in yourself and others

  1. High Shame/Low Self-Esteem – can’t respect self or others, trapped by feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness, defense mechanisms shield from hypersensitive self-judgment
  2. Distorted View of Others – displaced anger makes themselves victims of others’ bad behaviors, and the need for victimization maintains a hostility and unfairness towards others
  3. Distorted View of Self – consciously or unconsciously unable to deal with personal mistakes, the denials show as either hard on self or infinitely better than others
  4. Motivated By Fear – the helplessness or need for hyper-vigilance scales with the fear, and the size of the hyper-vigilance determines the size of a hyper-response
  5. Black-and-White Thinking – splitting and assigning people into “all or nothing” rigid categories with no possible gray area: safe/unsafe, good/evil, OK/unwell, etc.
  6. Enslaved By Self-Criticism – feelings of guilt lead irrationally to more self-criticism than given to others: Good/Bad, Perfect/Failure, Saint/Sinner, Worthy/Unworthy of Love, Competent/Incompetent, etc.
  7. Fear of Abandonment – leads to either constant people-pleasing and over-extending self to find love or putting up strict boundaries to prevent relationships and the risk of abandonment from those relationships
  8. Loneliness – caused by severe detachment, can be accomplished in numerous ways including physical or emotional withdrawal or pretending to be the “life of the party”
  9. Putting on a subtle well-guarded “life of the party” facade
    • This “life of the party” facade is one of the most skillful and deceptive responses of the shame-based False Self
    • The lively, enjoyable conversation (unknown to others) is not intended to befriend anyone, initiate relationships or deepen relationships
    • The facade is built to keep control of the conversation
      • Controls the topic of conversation
      • Controls the emotional distance and tones of conversation
      • Helps them feel good about themselves and receive positive regard from others
      • Prevents involvement in more in-depth discussions that can threaten feelings of security
      • Prevents unexpected intrusions when performed correctly
      • Puts the environment securely in their control
      • Gives a sense of friendly positive affirmation without having to get involved in a more intimate friendship
    • There are other variations such as continually talking to prevent others from speaking

Stage 3 – Exposure to pain

Start exposing the defenses and cover-ups

  • Feeling actual pain is the most effective way to demonstrate the “real self”
  • Look at the behavior, roles, and defenses from denying that we are flawed
  • Ultimately, the “real self” will be lovable, good and whole as they are

Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness comes in three different forms

1. Exoneration – typically what “forgiveness” implies by most people

Wipes the slate clean and restores the offender to a complete state of where they were

There are three common exoneration situations

  1. A genuine accident where fault can’t be assigned
  2. A child or someone who didn’t understand the hurt they were inflicting
  3. The person who hurt you is:
    • Truly sorry
    • Takes full responsibility without excuses
    • Asks for forgiveness
    • Genuinely determined to not repeat the action

If someone has fully apologized and is trying or has tried to make amends, it is your moral duty to exonerate them from what they have done

  • To not forgive someone genuinely seeking it is damaging to your mind
  • It indicates that there may be something more wrong with you than your offender

2. Forbearance – partial admission of guilt

Forbearance is necessary when the offender

  1. Makes a partial apology, which may not even be entirely authentic
  2. Mingles their expression of sorrow with blame that you somehow caused them to behave badly

You should practice forbearance if either you need to or want to keep in connection with them, even if you are in no way responsible for any wrong

  • Stop dwelling on the particular offense
  • Do away with grudges and fantasies of revenge
  • Keep a degree of watchfulness (i.e., “forgive and forget”, or “trust, but verify”)

With time and love, forbearance can rise to exoneration and eventually full forgiveness if they change

3. Release – personal separation from the offense

This type of forgiveness is necessary when someone does not believe they did anything wrong, or they give a thoroughly insincere apology with no reparations whatsoever

This situation often comes from

  • Adult survivors of child abuse
  • A victim of being cheated on by a partner
  • A betrayal by a friend or family member

Release doesn’t have many requirements

  • The offender doesn’t require forbearance, isn’t exonerated, and doesn’t need you in a continued relationship with them
  • Releasing asks you to stop defining your life based on a past hurt and to give up your bad feelings and preoccupation with the negative things that happened to you
  • Release allows you to let go of the burden that is weighing you down from the past

If anyone ever wrongs you, then your happiness depends on releasing the grudge and negativity you’re holding

  • You aren’t forgetting, but to release is to accept that what happened was outside of your control and that you now bear the consequence of it
  • If you do not release the pain and anger and move past dwelling on old hurts or betrayals, you will be allowing the ones who hurt you to live in your mind constantly without your permission

Whether it’s through individual efforts, psychotherapy or religion it’s vital to release any perceived wrongdoing

  • Never let yourself go to sleep without releasing the grudge, since it will encode itself into the subconscious when you do
  • Holding onto any perceived hurts for any significant length of time will quickly destroy all of the previously mentioned happiness that you’ve worked so hard to develop
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