Most people have been judged in ways that bring to question their very mission in life. Far fewer find an amygdala‘s mental tools to forgive, accept without expectations, and move on.
Well beyond harsh judgments or words that leave you feeling like a slug on skid row, lies the brain’s ability to embrace genuine reconciliation.
It’s true – your brain comes with equipment that segues into peace and recaptures gratitude, hope and joy. It’s rarely easy to pardon though, and has little to do with showing your side of a story in defense. Rather than recycle guilt, see yourself – along with others – as worthy of care without demands for change as a condition.
Forgiveness literally alters the brain’s wiring – away from distortions brought about by the past, and beyond fears that limit the future. It leads from misery of a broken promise, to wellness that builds new neuron pathways into physical, emotional and spiritual well being.
How do brains forgive?
From a brain’s perspective, forgiveness takes far more than merely letting go. It takes deliberate decisions to move beyond another person’s judgment of you. Replace a sad or disappointing encounter with memories of events that stoke healing, for instance, and your brain shifts focus.
The willingness to drop any need to blame diminishes your need to explain your perspective. A brain forgives as a commitment to understand the other side, to feel empathy for another, or to regain compassion for a person you care about who hurt you.
The event that caused conflict in the first place may not change, but forgiveness opens new segues into empathy, delight, and care for another person. Pardon designs mental escape routes for your thoughts – that may otherwise be relegated into corners that distrust or fear.
Forgiveness rarely opens another’s person’s eyes to see your inner value. Nor does it validate hurtful words or callous acts. To exonerate is not even to quell harsh judgments. It simply adds a peace that allows you to move on, and to embrace your mission with new delight.
Forgiving brains fuel unconditional love. How so? Speak of another’s genuine value, rather than replay disappointment’s darts – and sorrow fades from the brain’s amygdala, like clouds float off on a sunny day.
Mental benefits emerge in forgiveness
Crave healthier relationships? Rewired brains can unleash kindness without demands, or enjoy perceptions not colored by past perspectives. Since care cannot co-exist in human brains alongside attempts to change another, simply enjoy each moment without such limitations.
Long to find new freedom with those you value most? One way to let go of hurts is to replace grudges with generosity. Make kindness more important than hostility. Extend gestures of care to others and you’ll rewire the brain from victim modes, into habits that default to healthy relationships.
Not everybody will value your strengths, and those you love most will likely spot your flaws first. Convert compassion into daily practices that show care though, and expect well being to follow. Project images, words and icons ofacceptance, and these gradually become your perception of people who differ from you. Your brain rewires to delight in differences!
Stress defaults to unforgiveness
Stress comes from hostility – and while it gets dubbed by many names stress shrinks the brain and anxiety drains mental life. Simply stated, stress flips your brain into shutdown or shotgun mode.
You default to ruts or trigger further problems, because stress from unforgivenessmasks as savior but it strikes as killer!
Forgiveness, in contrast, leads to:
- Healthy relationships where others see efforts to make peace larger than personal gain.
- Fewer loneliness tanks and higher spiritual and psychological peaks to wellbeing
- Stress-free friendships that sidestep hostilities by yielding personal desires for shared harmony
- Fewer risks associated with depression, stress, and substance abuse that follows
Brains holding grudges slow to the speed of a slug
Most people want trusted relationships, yet many seem unable to attain these, because fear confuses people and distorts perceptions about what’s going on. When hurt by people you trust and love, your brain slips into confusion and sadness tends to follow.
Replay painful incidents mentally, or dwell on hurtful events, and negative feelings begin to crowd out possibilities and you may drown in a sense of injustice. The brain’s basal ganglia stores every reaction to severe disappointments. And if negative or bitter – these reactions limit your chances for finding well-being in a similar situation.
Brainwaves slow to a grind and serotonin supplies diminish under excessive weights of a grudge. Over time feelings of anger, sadness or resentment can rob your contentment, because these can form the engine that drives behavior. If you repeatedly find yourself drowning in a sense of injustice or bitter disappointment – you may create a pattern of bitterness.
Toxins will follow you into new relationships, and the cost tends to be far higher than the pain of disappointment. Your actions become tainted by the sense of loss – so that you lose sight of your ability to enjoy the present. Unable to understand your feelings, you use anger to cover up your hurt.
Depression and anxiety spring from an inability to forgive. You begin to sense your life lacks meaning to others you love most, and you seem to be at odds with all that you hold dear. Unless checked – you begin to lose ongoing connections with those you care about most.
How does the brain deal with forgiveness?
Laugh more as you keep alive in you – that three year old – active, curious and ready to be surprised by joy from others. To forgive is to choose change and graciousness in spite of conflict or accusations encountered. The first stage of forgiveness is the awareness that to forgive is far greater than the need to be right. It’s typically about your calm reactions to conflict rather than about gaining ground in a difficult situation.
Forgiveness is measured in health and well being – in spite of injustices and disappointments. To forgive a person who judges or hurts you is to refuse the role of victim and to unleash a new chemical and electrical circuitry for letting go of grudges. Once you leap past hurdles of anger or grief, you often find yourself ready to enter new doors of compassion and understanding for others who face injustice.
If you demand justice as a door into well being, you’ll likely find it harder to forgive folks who fail to see the problem or admit the pain it caused. If you value a person deeply, forgiving that person is likely harder because your amygdala stores its memory and your mind replays each sting. It takes a stronger desire for integrity, peace and wellbeing to move forward.
You can sense forgiveness if you no longer feel stress or tension in that person’s presence. No longer will you need to be understood, as Khalil Gibrand pointed out: If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don’t, they never were.
Here’s where an open mind helps to sustain forgiveness – and it doesn’t depend on another person feeling regret or sharing in your hurt. Admit your own mistakes quickly and treat others as if you walked in their shoes when conflicts arise. The brain responds with a warmth of compassion, care and curiosity – as forgiveness reconnects you to people you cherish.
Ever see entire communities flourish, when one or two people project mind-bending forgiveness?
My challenge is to forgive at least the 365 days of my life that I feel terrible about or have my emotional baggage lingering on for.
We all carry it within us, a burden of untold stories, a weight of emotions and we often don't know what to do with it.
We hold ourselves accountable for everything that went wrong and feel miserable all the time for what happened.
We forgive others for all the pain and agony they cause but never forgive ourselves.
I am going to forgive myself by telling my stories. Forgiveness is a long, hard and repetitive process. It is easier if you write it out then you can come back to it any time you need to.
Let our stories be told and let us all forgive ourselves.
I have learned it’s better to be misunderstood than to be fake, and I’m happiest being myself and loving others.
Inheritance of my loss
“In this line” she pointed towards a new ground, a new sight, a new camp or just a new space that wasn’t occupied or taken: she said while chewing every letter. We were picking up our bags that we carried from far away.
“HEERRREE!” she shouted. An airport authority security officer, dressed in blue, a bright blue. The colour looked so true, felt so righteous. Her uniform, so authoritative, felt so righteous.
“Miss, in this line, NOW!” She was shouting on top of her lungs, in front of my face. She was so close that I could feel her breath. I could see her chest sink in when she breathed the same air as me; her chest expanded with pride as she exhaled the air as if it was her air and I had no share of it.
Her sudden shouting, calling my whole family into this new invisible line so that the others so righteous, clean, true and innocent could walk past us quickly, brought me back from my thoughts. It was still May 5th 2002. On this new land, it was still May 5th 2002.
I thought to myself of how it could be…I had just left my country more than 24 hours ago and arrived at the Toronto Airport. On May 5th 2002, I had left behind everything I knew and after more than 24 hours later I had reached Canada, my new home, but it was still May 5th 2002. I was puzzled and I was so lost in this question unaware that things in this new world are hostile towards people who brought their pure souled religion and innocent traditions along with them.
Her shouting brought me back again to my new home, Canada. I was’t in Pakistan anymore. I wasn’t in Pakistan where I understood face expressions, I could cue into the body language, I could understand, I could be understood, where I was’t an alien: where I wasn’t treated as an alien.
I, along with my family, came to Canada on May 5th 2002, after, crossing over half of the world on a plane, my first plane ride, my first jet lag, my first international trip. It was my first interaction with a Canadian. We were trying to board a plane from Toronto International airport to get to Edmonton where the promise of new life awaited us. I was wearing a scarf ( a muslim head covering). My sister and my mother also had their heads covered. We weren’t aliens yet all of the sudden were teated as such. What ensued after in this invisible line was demeaning, a treatment that would be beneath aliens, insects and even roaches. All of our stuff was opened up. My mother was wearing a back support, so she was asked to lift her shirt up in the open and prove it. Prove that she wasn’t guilty. Prove that she was a human and innocent, righteous and true.
We were also carrying a personal computer. The security personal had to plug it in to check it. Understandable. So she plugged it in to the wall and then forwarded her index finger and pushed the big green “on” button. As she pushed turned the computer on she ran from her desk. She ran so fast. She ran and took shelter behind the automatic glass doors so she could protect herself from what she thought would happen. what she was told would happen. what she had seen on TV after september 11 happening. So she did what she was told to do with the muslims from Pakistan. Or with the muslims in general. But it was just a personal computer and to her surprise, nothing she was told or thought happened.
On May 5th, 2002 I inherited a loss. Loss of my pride, loss of my dignity, loss of my human right of respect. Because of 9/11 and demonization of muslim, I was forced to inherit this loss. Today on September 11, 2011 where we all mourn the loss, I wonder
Is my loss also being mourned?
Is it accounted for?
Does my voice count? Is it heard ? Can you hear my unheard voice?
We struggle in life because of a tenacious habit of wanting life to be different from what it is: The room you are in is too warm, you don’t like your job, or your partner isn’t quite the person of your dreams. You adjust the thermostat, get a new job, or tell your partner what you need. Now it’s too cool, you are earning less money, or your partner has found some flaws in you. The more we try to make life conform to our desires, the more we struggle, and the more we suffer. The only way out of this vicious cycle is to accept what arises, completely…
Paradoxically, such radical acceptance opens a way of living that we could hardly have imagined.
— Ken McLeod, “Something from Nothing” (via journeytoenlightenment)
Why so distant
Have you ever had that muggy feeling when you meet somebody… yeah that feeling that there is something rebelliously wrong with you. You know what I am talking about right? Its like Israelis asking Palestinians why are so distant we have only killed couple millions of you. I hate it when that happens to me… I am left with a bad taste in my mouth of myself- rivetingly try to convince myself to do whatever so I am liked- and lose true meaning of myself.
I ran into her some month ago and she said “why so distant”
“You are never around and when you are I never know about it” my mouth iterated. The perfect her, smiled and looked into my eyes assuring “next time I will send you an email”.
Boom! next thing you know a big thing happens, emailsgets sent out and you are left figuring out why your name never made the list.
So you see why I am so distant and then couple years latter I run into her and the perfect her asks, “why so distant”.
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
— Samuel Johnson