I was recently interviewed in the March issue of Cosmopolitan about how to get over past hurts and move on with your life. The article, however, was a bit disappointing since they only used about 5 minutes worth of the 30 minute interview. I’m fully aware of their space constraints but since the published tips were taken out of context, their readers are going to have some difficulty implementing them.
To rectify the situation, I’ve decided to post all of the tips from the interview on my blog so you can successfully use them to let go of anything that’s been holding you back. Give them a shot and let me know how well they work for you.
You can read the original Cosmo article here: http://jaycataldo.com/cosmo.pdf
Preliminary Steps (to be completed before main forgiveness work):
Step 1: Make a list of everything that’s been bothering you.
Step 2: Starting with the first item, begin to reflect on how much MORE pain you’re feeling by choosing to hold onto it. The Buddha said that holding onto anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intention of burning someone else. YOU are the only one who gets hurt. Ask yourself: “How is holding onto this incident negatively affecting my life?” Write down your insights.
Step 3: Take full responsibility for all of your pain. If you have grieved for a few months and the situation still feels raw, then it’s because you are choosing to not move on. By making this choice you are playing a victim role. Would you rather continue to be a victim or be free of your pain for good? It might be time to make a new choice.
Step 4: What would your future self say to you about this issue? Would they tell you it was a good idea to hold on to the pain for another 5 years or that it was a smart decision to let it go and move on? Ask yourself: “Will I still be upset about this issue 5 years from now?” If not, then why not let it go right now?
Step 5: Once you’re ready, start your forgiveness work. Remember to go back to your list and complete all of these steps for each item.
Step 1: You first need to understand what forgiveness is and how it benefits only YOU, not the other person. Forgiveness is a completely internal process; you don’t have to let the person know you’ve forgiven them, nor do you ever need to interact with them again. You’ll know your work is done when you can think about the issue and no emotional distress arises.
Step 2: Acknowledge the offense. Let the uncomfortable feelings come up and feel them as intensely as possible with your eyes closed. Don’t try to distract yourself or shut them out. Sit with all the feelings until they dissipate (it could take anywhere from 1-15 minutes). The key is to let go of the situation (stop thinking about it) once the feelings come up and then focus only on the sensations in your body from that point forward. Perform this step each time these feelings come up over the course of the week.
Step 3: Once the feelings have left, picture the offender in your mind’s eye and say whatever you need to say to them. Get it all off your chest. Don’t hold anything back.
Step 4: Ask yourself, “Was it the incident itself that hurt me or the way I chose to label it that’s causing me pain?” Can you change how you look at it the situation/see it from a different perspective? Write down any insights.
Step 5: Was there a lesson to be learned from the experience? Write this down. What can you do to make sure this type of situation can never happen to you again (or at least minimize the chances of this)?
Step 6: Did you gain anything positive from this experience (strength, new insights, etc)? Do you know anyone who has suffered through a similar circumstance but turned out ok in the end? Write all of this down.
Step 7: Are you experiencing any secondary benefits from holding on to this pain? Many times we will be reluctant to let go of the problem if we are benefitting from it in some way. Be honest with yourself. Do you get extra attention (from friends, family, etc) by holding on to the past and not forgiving this person? Can you achieve these benefits some other way? How?
Step 8: Tell yourself the offender is just like you, trying to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. They are just doing the best they can and, since we’re all human, we all frequently make mistakes. Sometimes, people have deep-seated issues that lead them to purposely try to hurt others. They are usually replaying some childhood drama that has nothing to do with you, other than you just happened to get caught up in it.
Step 9: Ask yourself if you have ever done something similar to something else. Have you ever hurt someone’s feelings, etc? Didn’t you wish you could have been forgiven for your own transgression?
Step 10: Ask yourself: “What would an independent 3rd party say about this entire situation and the way I’ve been handling it?” Write down your insights.
Step 11: Simply decide to forgive them and let the situation go. Say “I forgive you and set you free” to the person in your mind’s eye. You do NOT have to do this in the real world. In fact, you don’t have to let the offender know you’ve forgiven them if you don’t want to. Just wish them the best in your heart and hope they get to a place where they no longer have to act this way towards others.
Step 12: Forgive yourself for the part you played in the situation. You were only doing the best you could at the time so let go of all blame, shame and guilt regarding your actions. If this is tough, repeat the above steps again on your own part in the situation.
Step 13: Now it’s time to move on. What would you be doing if this incident never happened? Pick a goal you’d like to achieve now that this old incident can no longer hold you back. What’s the smallest step you can take right now in the direction of this goal? Go take that step.
If you still find yourself thinking about the situation (or person), only allow yourself 5 minutes a day to think about it and feel bad (set a timer). Afterwards, force yourself to think of something else each and every time those thoughts pop up.
You can also snap a rubber band on your wrist each time the thoughts arise. Over time, they’ll come up less and less. After the snap, make the mental pictures of the incident small, dark, disassociated (see yourself in the picture) and make it float far away from your face. Notice how your feelings start to change after making these modifications.
If the feelings come back and overwhelm you, go back to step 2. Close your eyes and sit with your feelings until they dissipate.
If you get stuck, go and find a competent hypnotherapist or TIPI practitioner to help you release your negative emotions.