When I or others are struggling with forgiving others who have hurt us, there is a process we go through which leads us to a important choice. Are we going to forgive and get better? Better, that is, to choose to become kinder, nicer, wiser, more understanding person with others as well as with ourselves. OR we will choose not to forgive because “I want them to suffer and feel my anger at them until they die!” Sadly, what unforgiveness does is hurt us – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We usually stop growing and end up angry, hurt and our bodies feel pain and we can develop different diseases including the possibility of diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Diabetes has a direct line from trauma to our bodies. Deep grief also attacks the immune system.
Without choosing to forgive and heal, we often become bitter. So our choice is bitter or better. It is a choice and only we can make it. I was talking to a person who had been sexual, mentally and emotional abused. She was deeply struggling to recover and heal from trauma. The pain in her eyes was over flowing with tears. The hurt seemed unbearable. I felt it with her. It is overwhelming her and seemed like it would never end.
She said, “I can’t forgive that thing. He did horrible things to me, horrible. I haven’t told you about some of the worst. I can’t speak the words yet. My doctor is worried about me having diabetes. I can’t keep going like this but I can’t forgive. If I forgive, he wins! He can’t win I have worked too hard to win and stay angry so he never gets control again, never. But I can’t keep staying in this pain, it is torture.”
Becoming bitterness is the process that takes our hurt, anger, despair and fear and changing our Internal Frame of Reference. The internal frame of reference is a philosophical concept. It is the view we have of ourselves and the world that was developed and came from our many experiences in life from people, situations, experiences, traumas, etc. It is how I decide to feel and think about it about me and the world I live in. Often victims start as happy, loving children who after being traumatized change to depressed, fearful and angry children/adults. This is a shift in their internal frame of reference.
If I have been hurt and angry and see no way of getting out of it, or bent on vengeance, my internal frame of reference will see the world as out to hurt me or get me. I then may choice to avoid the pain by becoming aggressive, shy, class clown, bully, negative, bitter, etc. This behavior is how I have chosen to be in my world, often because I had to protect me. This is my Being in the World. How I behave is based on how I view the world, my internal frame of reference which influences my feelings, thought and behaviors, or Being in the World. Now you are philosophers!
John came into my office, upset, panicked and very angry. “I’ll never forgive him. He hurt me, he destroyed my life.” We had been working on forgiving his father for molesting him, father was now deceased. He understood intellectually that forgiveness was something he had to do for him. The hard part was he needed to feel the feelings of the betrayal to heal and forgive. He said “I understand it is for me! I get that! I hate it! Hate it! I won’t ever forgive him, may he rot in hell for what he did to me. I hate him.” He then began to cry with deep, painful sobs. He cried and cried. He yelled at him, cried some more…then when the deep anguishing tears were done, he became quiet. “I do forgive him, I loved him in spite of what he did to me. All I wanted was love from him. He called it “love” that it wasn’t for sure. I will never understand why he could do such a horrible thing to me, never. I don’t think he intended to ruin my life.”
John chose to forgive, so he could heal and let the deep anguishing pain go. “I had such a hard time letting go of the pain. I had tucked it away deep inside of me in a coffin-like box where it would stay forever. But it didn’t stay there. It keep changing my how I acted and I end up hurting others and myself. I coped the best I could but it always got out somehow.”
“I thought if I could stay angry and not forgive him then I could keep going. I kept going but I became angry, bitter and started hating my life and people around me. I tried and tried to change, but I had to let the deep pain go. I had to forgive. That made the difference.”
Next time more about forgiveness and bitterness and its process.