You deserve peace

It’s said holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head.

But, can holding a grudge affect your health?

It’s very human to spend mental coin engaged in virtual conversations with others who have harmed us. It’s easy to stay angry with those who have caused us pain.

We may avoid those who have hurt us, but conversations rage inside the privacy of our own minds. All those things we wished we’d said or done at the time, circle through in our imagined conversations.

We may even wish them harm. But when we do this, who pays the greatest price?

The injury may be long in the past, yet we experience it as though it just happened. The effects of revisiting past hurts don’t stay only in our thoughts, as our bodies respond with a chemical cascade appropriate to our thoughts.

One memory of a past hurt can bring back the same feelings we had at the time of the injury.

I appreciate the visual created by Michael Singer, in his book Untethered Soul, of unresolved hurts becoming like thorns sticking into our flesh.

Anything that touches the thorn, or reminds of what’s happened in the past, reactivates the pain. So, we start to avoid anything that can touch them, essentially bubble-wrapping ourselves in protection. We close off parts of ourselves, and start to show up differently in the world.

These thorns can fester and become infected, affecting our health, happiness, and quality of life.

We may suppress our hurt feelings and resist them, only to find the memory activated when something reminds us of what happened. Carl Jung’s insight often proves true: “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”

The pain may surface with greater intensity somewhere down the road, often looking quite unlike what it really is.

It may show up as anger, bitterness, resentment, and even as emotional and health issues.

Research reveals harbouring a grudge negatively affects our blood pressure, as well as the blood flow to our hearts. There’s a correlation between held rancour and the number of medications used, quality of sleep, and body issues.

If we had to wait until someone apologized or felt sorry for us to forgive, we might be waiting a long time.

Sometimes, they aren’t sorry, they don’t even know the pain they’ve caused, or they’re dead. Waiting for another to feel sorry would only keep us trapped and locked into our own pain

What to do?

Forgiveness practices are helpful in removing those thorns, and lessening the impact past misdeeds have on our health and happiness.

Before you stop reading, I invite you to get clear about what forgiveness really is. Many misunderstand forgiveness, what it is, and who it’s for.

Let’s be clear to start. Forgiveness isn’t for anyone else. It’s an inside job, and is for the benefit of the person who forgives. Forgiveness isn’t about condoning, minimizing, or saying what happened is OK, and it isn’t forgive and forget.

For forgiveness to take place, we never have to see or have contact with someone who has harmed us. Forgiveness is about reducing our own suffering and reducing the impact hurtful experiences have on our lives.

We stop paying the price for what’s happened.

I’ve wished it wasn’t so, but for bigger hurts, it can take time. Forgiveness is a process and is often done in layers. Sometimes, with bigger hurts, a period of grieving must precede forgiveness.

I used to get impatient with myself, thinking I had failed in my practice, when an old hurt would surface. What I’ve learned is when an old thorn gets touched, there’s another level of healing that’s ready to take place. 

Instead of moving into self-judgment, self-compassion and patience are important.

There are many different ways to forgive, to liberate ourselves from past hurts. It’s not one-size-fits all. Even setting an intention to forgive causes a shift inside of us, a loosening of the thorn. It’s a place to start.

It’s suggested not to begin with the biggest hurts, but to start with smaller things. As we practice forgiveness, our capacity to forgive increases, and we’re better able to deal with the big stuff.

It’s worth investigating forgiveness practices to find the ones that work best for you. There are many resources available free on the internet.

Forgiveness practices can move us from feeling like a victim into being a victor, as we remove thorns remaining from another’s unskilled or malicious actions.

Forgiveness isn’t about the other; it’s an act of self-love and liberation from the past. You deserve peace.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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