By Mike DuBose
In our last article, we outlined how bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness can wreak havoc on our minds, bodies, and relationships, often shaving years from our lives, causing disease, and making life miserable. Based on our research, my path as a psychologist and personal experience, let’s explore ways to flush those painful, haunting memories.
List all of the people who have offended, neglected, or abused you and their actions: Take a couple of weeks to write down your negative thoughts that resulted in your anger, bitterness, and resentment. Invite them to the surface, no matter how painful. Many people don’t realize what is causing their unhappiness.
Know it takes time to heal, forgive, and move on: Resolving major conflict is complex and quick fixes don’t exist. There are often deep wounds that need to be recognized and treated.
Understand that life’s conflicts are unavoidable: Many go through life with hurts and resentments. From the outside, everything looks rosy, but deep down, they are hurting.
Talking about your painful past is the glue that brings people and relationships together: Dr. Fran Walfish reports “Just letting go is easier said than done because it leaves you holding the intense rage with no place to expel our aggressive impulses.” Sometimes, it takes guidance from trained experts. Dr. Fredrick Mau (hypnotist and therapist) and Dr. Josh Fowler, MD (psychiatrist), are excellent professionals.
Seek God’s help: If God created the universe, He can help you. Regardless of your religion, turn over your sorrows and hurts to the Creator. Ask Him to heal your heart. As a Christian, Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and those who hurt us. It’s hard to hate while you are praying for offenders.
Write a letter: Pen a personal, detailed note to the person who has hurt or offended you. Read and refine the letter for a couple of days and then destroy it. It’s therapeutic to document and release your emotions.
Meet your offender: Our minds would rather sulk in private, unresolved anger than re-build relationships or resolve problems. Take notes, rehearse your presentation, and then, talk with the person face-to-face. Get the hurt out in the open. If not possible, send them a carefully worded letter that invites them to talk about your feelings.
Be nice: There are many offensive people who would like nothing better than to make people’s lives miserable. The solution: Be kind but don’t let them run over you.
If the person is dead, go to their grave: Many people don’t resolve their conflicts before offenders die. We cannot talk with the dead, but it helps to candidly voice your pain at the gravesite.
Forgive and train your brain: While it takes work to reach this point, realize that many people have flawed personalities and in order for us to resolve conflicts, it’s important that we truly forgive them. As hurtful images surface, resist them and shift your thoughts to a peaceful scene. Eventually, they will appear less frequently and some will go away.
The Bottom Line: We have a choice. We can be miserable with our unhappy, controlling past or we can resolve to move forward. It’s a joyful feeling that as we near death, we will be free of resentment or anger towards others. Visit my non-profit website on ways to build a happy life.
Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985, when he began his family of companies, and author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for a free copy of his book and additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.