When we reach out for help and support, we don’t always get the responses we deserve. Forgiveness is not about making bad behavior okay, but finding liberation from the adrenaline-saturated reactions that come in harm’s wake.
In this episode, I’ll offer a nervous system-based definition for forgiveness, answer a question about making time for meditation, and tell you all about my first therapy session ever.
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Forgiveness can be a pretty charged word. For me, I can’t help but go back to Phillip’s Temple CME church, voices echoing through the sanctuary as we asked the Lord to forgive us our trespasses as we forgave those who trespassed against us. I was educated in a fundamentalist Christian elementary school, and my ideas about forgiveness are shaped by that experience - forgiveness is something I, as a worthless sinner, should ask God for on a daily basis.
In psychology, forgiveness is not dependent on any outside source or deity, and forgiveness isn’t something given to the offender - it’s for the person who has been hurt, betrayed, or injured and is suffering as a result of unskillful action.
It’s a decision to release negative emotions and resentment. It’s an expression of resilience in the wake of not getting what we hoped for or what we deserved.
So I propose we look at forgiveness through the lens of the nervous system, where it would begin with stress management - a process of working with your fight, flight, flee, or feign reactions to an event or person who’s hurt you until you’re able to access emotions other than fear, rage, avoidance, despair, and other adrenaline-saturated reactions to being on the receiving end of wrong-doing.
Dr. Leo Deon, who’s deceased - but I changed his name anyway - gave me lots of time and practice to approach forgiveness this way, and taught me the importance of finding medicine that works, especially if the cure that’s initially offered feels worse than the disease.
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Dr. Juko Holiday is the owner and director of Ease Mountain Yoga & Nourishing Arts, a yoga studio & wellness center in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
Ease Mountain Yoga & Nourishing Arts
9573 Highway 9
Ben Lomond, CA 95005