Feeling Fiery - Thinking Cool Challenge
Who do you need to forgive?
Why are we so mad?
Watch this video first, then we'll get into lesson on why our anger causes us to lose the race!
That clip was from the movie Sea Biscuit - Jeff Bridges character asks Tobey Maguire's character "Son, what are you so mad at?" And that's the question we are going to explore in this module.
Have you ever wondered why your fuse can flip to hot so fast? Is there something more going on than simply personality? There just might be!
In this module I want to introduce you to a few models that might help shed a light on why you behave the way you do.
So, we are going to kick off this module with something that might come as a surprise to you. It's forgiveness.
Research on forgiveness has escalated/exploded in recent years and has been found to have an impact on overall wellbeing including:
what a laundry list!
Researchers, Jack Berry and Everett Worthington, found that people who were disinclined to forgive were more likely to be prone to anger, anxiety and other negative emotions.
All great reasons to forgive.
Forgiveness Starts With Self!
And when we are talking forgiveness we don't just mean forgiving others for their transgressions against you - whether small or large. We also mean forgiving yourself.
As I've begun to study forgiveness in recent times, I've come to find that the person I need to forgive myself the most is me! But more about that in upcoming lessons.
So if you aren't great at forgiving you may be hanging on to too many things - both huge and slight - that, like a guillotine hanging over your head - keep your aggravation levels simmering at a high level.
Anger is a feeling, Forgiveness is a decision
However, let's be clear here. Anger and forgiveness go hand in hand. Anger is a feeling. Forgiveness is a decision. Forgiveness happens when you work through your emotions - of which anger is likely to be one - and your release that energy from your body.
And before you start worrying that you are going to be asked to turn into a marshmallow - forgiveness isn't about letting people walk all over you, nor stopping them from facing the consequences of their behaviors.
Forgiveness doesn't mean consequences aren't realized
If somebody has abused you - that doesn't mean that they get to still be in your space. Most forgiveness researchers suggest that forgiving doesn't mean you continue to expose yourself to that situation.
It also doesn't mean that, as an example, if the abuse was say illegal or physical that they shouldn't face the justice system. You can forgive the person, while you are taking them to court!
Forgiveness says, "I see that what you were doing worked for you, but it didn't work for me. But I'm doing the work so that I can move on. So that I can put that incident behind me and it no longer claims power over my world."
Ponder this ...
Forgiveness says "I see that you were doing what worked for you, but it didn't work for me. But I'm doing the work so that I can move on so that you and that incident no longer claims power over my world."
They don't have to forgive you - that's their journey!
As well, as you practice forgiveness, you don't have to worry about whether the other person has forgiven you. For example, if you've had a huge row with a friend and it has seen your relationship disintegrate, and you've done the forgiveness work, there's nothing you can do about whether or not that person forgives you.
Having said that, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence around of people doing the forgiveness work, and a few hours/days/weeks later the other person contacts them and apologises or reaches out.
Forgive through meditation
So how do you forgive? Well I've been doing a Mind Valley course called 6 Phase Meditation and this is what Vishen Lakihani teaches.
This process is to be used in a meditation. DO NOT USE IT face-to-face.
Identify who you want to forgive
Firstly, identify who you want to forgive. And start small. Make it something that doesn't have a huge hit for you. It is too big to try start with forgiving your cheating scumbag, partner - you need to build up your muscles to get to that one. Instead, start with a small tiff you had with someone.
Create a safe space
Next, mentally set the space - somewhere that you feel safe and comfortable. So you might visualize being in a coffee shop, or maybe in a park, the beach or something like that.
Tell them the impact
Next you tell the person what what they did and how it impacted you. For example, I think back to a teacher I had at High School Mr Spence. He ripped me to shreds in front of the class and told me that I would never amount to anything and that I was a waste of space and to get out of his classroom.
So in my forgiveness, practice I say to him,
"Mr Spence, I know I was a chatterbox in the class. But you had no right to scream at me like that.
I was bored in your classes because you would get up and just talk in a monotone and you didn't seem to care whether we found the lesson interesting or not. It wasn't right of me to talk, but to call me useless and say that I was a waste of space was unforgivable.
I was embarrassed in front of my class and it deeply reinforced that at Manurewa High we weren't meant to amount to much.
I wish I'd had the courage to tell my parents what you said, so that no other student would ever be spoken to again by you in that way."
That was me "reading the charge" to Mr Spence in my meditation.
Let out the pain
Now the next part in your mediation is to feel the anger and hurt. Let the rage out - but you only do it for a a minute max. You could punch a pillow, cry whatever feels right for you.
Step a moment in their shoes
Once you've done that then you start to think what could have happened to cause that person to do that? What could/might be going on in their world.
Back to Mr Spence. In my meditation, I wonder, was it because he was nearing retirement and he was tired with life. Was it because he was burned out by a system that was failing. Could it have been that he had a family crisis or an illness that caused him to not put in the preparation work. Maybe he'd been screamed at like this himself and he had those words rattling around in his psyche
As Vishen teaches hurt people, hurt people. And with the forgiveness process you are breaking the chain of that ever revolving cycle of hurt.
It doesn't mean that what they did was right or justifiable - you're simply flexing your empathy muscle. You’re just trying to imagine what might have contributed to that person being that way.
What did you learn?
Then you think about what you learned. For example, from Mr Spence, I learned that I could rise above people who are negative wizards, and that I needed to learn to be more engaged in my own learning, not relying on others to be good teachers.
Hug it out
And in the final step, if you can you imagine giving the person a hug. It's okay if the first time you practice the meditation that you can't do this - you can build up to it.
Forgiveness is a daily practice
With the forgiveness meditation you want to do it daily.
And you can be forgiving anything from the cashier at the store who was talking on the phone and ignoring you and you wanted to slap them.
To the person who tail-gated you in your car, to your child being cheeky to you, anything that gives you a negative charge you want to use the forgiveness exercise on.
As well, do remember to forgive yourself - whether it is drinking too much at a work function, shouting at your children or partner, giving a work colleague a mouthful!
Sonja Lyubormirsky's book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want contains a number of great exercises if you want to dig deeper into forgiveness
In the next lesson we are going to look at another reason why you might have a short fuse. But for now head over to the Take Action Tab and do your activities for this lesson.
Here is the meditation that I outlined in the lesson. My recommendation is that you commit to doing it each morning throughout the entire challenge.
Click here if you want to do the full 6 Phase Meditation. (We will be covering this meditation again in upcoming lessons, so up to you whether you do it now or later).
Download the Resources
and Take Inspired Action
If you're getting in to this topic, then this article has some links to lots of research and it was one of the better articles I read during my research. (As an aside, Positive Psychology, is a fabulous site for all things regarding the science of human behavior and in particular positive psychology. Seph is a great guy!
Here's a motivational clip from YouTube on Forgiveness - no big deal whether you watch it or not
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