Who are you trying to forgive? Who are you needing to forgive?
Is it a family member? A Husband or wife? Friend? A Significant other?
Or maybe even yourself?
“Shame: the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” - Brené Brown
As a therapist working with people recovering from substance abuse and disordered eating, I encounter shame and guilt daily. The shame and guilt are clear in their eyes from the first moment meeting with them. I can see it in how they walk, how they carry his or herself, and how they talk. It is difficult to do any other work with them prior to beginning the process of forgiveness.
One therapeutic technique that I like to use is called, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Simply put, it is a technique focused on forgiving yourself and moving towards living your core values.
Acceptance is when you’re able to accept the actions that you have taken. Perhaps you are not ready to fully forgive yourself, but the first step to forgiveness is accepting your decisions, behaviors, and yourself. If you're able to accept reality and accept what you have done, you will then be able to take the next step: making a commitment.
Commitment, to live your values. Living a value-based life can be difficult at times and it requires us to feel uncomfortable emotions. This lifestyle also means doing things when we don't necessarily feel like doing them. In the substance abuse and disordered eating world, this may mean using healthy coping skills, when all one really wants to do is fall back into the old behavior patterns. Fall back into what is comfortable.
When you are truly living your values, it requires a deep commitment; moments of struggle and doubt will arise. And when they do, you must ask yourself the question, "Am I willing to feel my emotions (see Breathing Through It blog post) and continue moving forward, if it means I can live a more fulfilling life?"
If you can accept the things you cannot change, forgive yourself, and find serenity, what would living your values look like?
Written by Natalie Rothwell, LCSW, Primary Counselor at Focus Treatment Centers, Chattanooga, TN