Holding onto anger and resentment is bad for both your mental and physical health. And if you’re struggling with addiction, it’s an obstacle to your recovery. Moving from anger to forgiveness is a healing experience—and while it’s easier said than done, here are some steps you can take to achieve a healthier state in 2016.
Let’s get one thing straight: forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did to hurt, upset or anger you is okay. And you don’t even have to tell them they are forgiven. Forgiving others is about helping yourself, and you are the only one who has to know about it.
Also, forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to pretend the incident never happened, or continue to allow that person to be in your life. Forgiveness is not capitulation or giving in. It means accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live with it. It won’t happen overnight.
Forgiveness may be especially difficult if the hurt went deep, or the other person was abusive, or if he or she didn’t express any regret for their actions. Find a good time and place to be alone with your thoughts, then:
- Think about the incident that hurt, upset or angered you. Accept that it happened. Even this part can take time! Accept that your feelings are legitimate. Accept your reaction. You need to acknowledge the reality of what happened and realize the legitimacy of the effect it had on you.
- Consider whether you experienced growth as a result of what happened. Did you learn anything about yourself? Did it help you define your needs and boundaries?
- Remember that every human being is flawed, including the person that harmed you. That person was acting from his or her own beliefs and frame of reference—which are different from yours—because that’s what we all do. And he or she was trying to have a need met. Try to figure out what that need was and why the person tried to meet it in such a hurtful way.
- Whether you decide to tell the person involved or not, you still need to say the words, “I forgive you,” out loud. You can add to that as much as necessary, but sometimes that is all you need.
Let that be the end of it. You don’t need to forget what happened, but letting go means you won’t be emotionally stuck or bound by it. You’ll achieve more serenity and self-confidence, and hopefully you’ll achieve healthier relationships and stronger recovery. Forgiveness is a lifelong skill and process.
Unresolved anger is often a factor in addictive and compulsive behaviors and relapse. Forgiveness is an important step in healing. To discuss this topic with one of our trained counselors, please call Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800. Horizon also offers private counseling services for reasons other than addiction.