Forgive and forget

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Louise Hay

Forgive and forget

"Forgive and forget" is not always good advice. Memory doesn't work at will, and forgiveness is a time-consuming exercise. Moreover, sometimes, even knowing that it is the wisest choice, it is impossible to grant it.

Last update: June 03, 2022

Sometimes it happens: forgiving and forgetting seems impossible. We know that the ideal, the healthiest and even the most necessary thing would be to take that step, the exercise of forgiveness to move on.

However, no one gets it overnight. Because it is not a magic trick and sometimes there is even the will to grant it.

Everyone carries with them the consequences of adverse situations, the signs of disappointments and the traumas of traumatic experiences. In the course of our life, we often forgive. On the other hand, there are experiences that leave an indelible mark on the heart, holes in which the sediment of a silent pain that alters everything is deposited.

Grudges that last for decades and a past that is still very present. It is equally true that living this way is neither easy nor healthy. The resentment that persists, resists and dulls our ability to trust life and people again, deprives us of well-being and happiness. Is there perhaps a way to overcome these situations?

“Being able to forget is the basis of sanity. Remembering incessantly leads to obsession and madness ”.

-Jack Londra-

What cannot be forgiven or erased from the mind can alter many areas of our life.

Failing to forgive or forget: why does this happen?

Forgiving and forgetting is common advice. It's like a cultural adage that we grow up with and that, in many cases, we integrate into our mental register. Especially Eastern cultures see the exercise of forgiveness as a way to preserve social harmony.

However, in the West we resort to forgiveness as that individual mechanism with which to lighten a burden, recover psychological balance and close a stage. Forgiveness is advised and also a mental health exercise. The problem comes when we can neither forgive nor forget.

Science has been studying this phenomenon for some time and psychology is also interested in individual differences in this sense. There are people capable of forgiving very serious acts (slander, infidelity, theft, etc.). Others, however, do not forgive those who, despite being always present in their life, forget their birthday. What are these singularities due to?

Forgiveness is always a personal choice, an act of will that comes (or doesn't come) when you feel ready.

Forgiveness is not a choice, it is a process

When we fail to forgive or forget, the reason lies in the emotional wound suffered. The greater the burden of the affront, the more time it takes to process what happened and heal that suffering layer by layer. And as always happens, each person has their own rhythms. Not everyone succeeds at the same speed.

In general, forgiving those who have hurt us is part of the epilogue of that delicate path of healing. It is the final point with which we hope, finally, to turn the page. There are those who reach this milestone earlier because they have processed and accepted the experience faster.

Others, on the other hand, will never succeed because they don't want to or because they get stuck, trapped in anger and resentment. Not being able to deal with negative emotions fuels memory, and consequently suffering.

The research study conducted at the University of Munich indicates interesting data in this regard. Only when you are able to give forgiveness will you achieve greater mental well-being. However, those who forgive by "obligation" do not get any progress because the resentment still lives in them.

What happened was traumatic and we don't want to forgive

It is clear that forgiveness is a very personal choice. It's also true that there are traumatic experiences where the pain is so immense that there is no such option. Once again, it should be noted that every experience is unique and that every particularity must be understood.

Robert Enright, leader of the International Forgiveness Institute and a pioneer in the study of forgiveness, remembers that it is common to have misconceptions about forgiveness. It is essential to keep the following in mind:

  • Forgiving is not the same as excusing the wrong suffered. When one offers one's forgiveness, one does not justify or expect reconciliation.
  • Forgiveness has the purpose of ending a phase, reducing resentment, anger and that emotional distress that can lead us to mental states of chronic wear and tear.

Sometimes resentment stays deep within us, altering the way we relate to others. Forgiveness is part of the emotional healing process and it is always advisable to take the last step. Whether or not to do so, however, is a strictly personal choice.

While it is not always possible to forgive, doing so offers great psychological benefits.

Do not forgive or forget - what consequences can it have?

Each of us has a different story, however the more grudges we keep in our existential backpack, the worse our quality of life will be. When we can't forgive or forget a past affront, the here and now can become unbearable.

We can lose faith in others, become fearful, suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress, memories that fill sleepless nights. If we find it difficult to regain control of our lives, we ask for the help of an expert.

Whether or not to grant forgiveness to those who have hurt us is an option that will come in due course. What is needed is to heal the wounds, the psychological discomfort.

Research carried out at the University of San Andrés indicates that forgiving reduces emotional pain, so memories become less present. It is then that we leave room for new opportunities and happiness. Going for it is a good option.

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