Question : I have gone through a very painful and traumatic period in my life. And I just can’t seem to accept what I had to go through. The experience has crushed me from within. I have tried very hard to forgive the people involved and to let go of the past. But I have failed.
I realise I don’t want to forgive those people either. Because that would mean that what they did was OK. And I don’t want to say that to myself. But I am also tired of hating them.
I know that they are all happy in their lives and I am the only miserable one, still stuck in the past. Can you help me move forward in this situation?
Answer : When we go through painful experiences, there are so many shades and layers to the trauma that it would require careful work with the help of a therapist. We believe that trauma impacts the body, mind, energetic make-up and the soul of a person. There is an impact at all of these levels; and healing is about reaching out to all of these layers.
In this post, I have a suggestion that might help you take the first step in your journey through this experience. You have used a phrase – “I just can’t seem to accept what I had to go through.” And I wish to introduce you to something that might help you with that.
Imagine the whole concept of Acceptance on a spectrum. On one end is a total and complete acceptance of what is; and on the other end is a complete rejection of what is.
When something unbearable happens to us, we usually start from the ‘Rejection’ end of the spectrum. We tend to reject the people involved by being angry with them, hating them and cutting them off from our lives. We tend to reject the experience itself. Sometimes the rejection of the experience is so extreme that we even go into a state of denial that something like that has even happened to us. We reject with all our might.
This state of ‘Rejection’ is a very interesting one. Very unconsciously, it makes our mind wish that all those people also suffer just like us (vengeance) . It makes us wish at times that we were living in an alternate reality where everything was just as it was earlier. It even unconsciously makes us carry a lot of hurt and pain. This pain & hurt warps things in our mind to say that if we were to let go of the pain, we might forget or possibly forgive the other – thereby making whatever happened ‘acceptable’. And then we go right back into rejecting it all. A state of acceptance remains far and distant.
And then we come across many wise and renowned spiritualists talking about a state of acceptance and forgiveness. They say that one needs to forgive and accept everybody as fellow, hurting humans; and to look at their actions as acts of pain being deflected onto others. They talk about the amount of freedom and lightness that one can experience when they forgive, let go and accept everybody and everything around them. They talk about it as an inner-stillness that marks the zenith of all spiritual practices.
Well, all of those perspectives on acceptance are definitely true. But sometimes that degree of acceptance can be too overwhelming and premature if we have to practice it right away. Definitely not something our mind can handle when in pain!
A good place to start with rewiring your brain, is to tell yourself, “What happened is not acceptable. Perhaps it will never be acceptable. But I could at least accept that it happened to me and that the episode is over. ”
Bert Hellinger, the founder of a wonderful healing technique called Family Constellation uses the phrase “to be in Agreement“, when he refers to this.
If we were to visualise Agreement on the same spectrum I referred to earlier, the process of agreeing with the reality of your life starts somewhere in between the state of absolute rejection and the state of complete acceptance.
“I come into a state of agreement with my experience. It was too much for me to bear. But it happened! What was done is not acceptable. But this is my life. And I am in agreement with my life and with my fate.”
“I cried out for help. Nobody could help me. I was helpless and lost. I spent many years being helpless and broken. I was angry that I was all alone through it – and I was fighting an unknown battle within myself. And nobody even knew how to help me. But now, I agree with my loneliness and helplessness. That was how it was. And it is OK.”
“Perhaps my life is not going to be like others. Perhaps they have had it a little easier. My life seems a little more challenging. But it is still my life. I agree with the design of my life. I agree with how my life has been. And with this state of agreement I shall walk through the rest of my life.”
“I shall make choices in my life to move forward; to create happiness for myself. And I shall stay in this state of agreement with my choices. They are going to be my choices, to create my movement in life. And I agree with them all.”
Sometimes, it might be hard to even say these statements right away. In such a case, you do not need to force yourself.
“I am in agreement with my unwillingness to look at these statements. And this is where I am today.”
Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.
– Michael J. Fox
I believe that if we were to start with this state of agreement, it can kick-start a movement through your emotions. It is often relieving to stay in a state of agreement with your own self.
People who have practiced this through their own spiritual journeys have noticed that with time, they start moving along the spectrum, closer towards a state of complete agreement with everything and everyone around you. How might life be when we can stay in this state of agreement with all of life around us? Nothing is right or wrong. Nothing is acceptable or unacceptable. Everything is just the way it is!
I believe this is what the wise ones refer to as a state of complete acceptance and inner stillness.
NOTE : The questions and answers in this series are compilations of discussions during therapeutic sessions with my clients. These are not generic pieces of advice. I am deeply aware that these answers can seem way too simplistic for people actually going through similar situations. Please comment or connect with me if you find yourself grappling with something I have expressed.