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Episode 217: Forgive and Forget


And hello to you and welcome to the Richard Nicholls podcast.
The personal development podcast series that's here to help inspire, educate and motivate you to be the best you can be.
I’m psychotherapist Richard Nicholls and this is episode 217 it’s titled Forgive and Forget And if you're ready we'll start the show.

Hi folks. Hope you're well. How was your month? There's a lot of anger about at the minute isn't there and some might say rightly so. The cost of living is going through the roof, interests rates are up and tempers are frayed. I use twitter a fair bit and do try to dilute the negatives down with some positives but it's gonna take more than one guy with an annoyingly cheery voice because once your brain is primed for anger

it's really easy to find other things to be angry about. Things that would normally only be a 3 out of 10 are using people to their limits because they're already upset. And I get it people are hurt, and feel that they need to hit out. But just because someone throws a ball at you it doesn't mean we have to catch it. And if out of instinct we do. We can just put it down and walk away.

There's a popular phrase you see banded around on social media.
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It's a phrase that came out of alcoholics anonymous meetings. Bizarrely if you see it on some instagram post more than likely its attributed to Buddha.

I think whenever phrases like this strike a chord with folk but we dont actually know the name of the person who started it off, people just stick Buddha on the end to give it some weight. And of course if you see something enough times it becomes true.

It's not as succinct, but I prefer the analogy of picking up and throwing dog crap at someone on the other side of the road.
It's not even going to hit them and all you'll get is smelly hands.

So what do we do?
If we've got filthy hands from picking up dog crap every day I guess we've got to wash your hands of it haven't we. We have to let go of it and never pick it up again. And to do that we need to accept that looking for more dog crap to pick up isn't good for us. But in that acceptance we're not saying that what someone did was acceptable. We're not letting them off the hook.

Forgiveness isn't saying that it's ok to be mistreated or even that you excuse them. It's that you can accept what happened and move on from it. That same old phrase long time listeners will have heard me say so many times. "It is what it is." The dictionary defines "to forgive" as this: Verb. To stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence, flaw, or mistake.

And the pedant in me says well, if that's what to forgive means then I will propose that we should forgive everyone of everything. I forgive Hitler, Harold Shipman and even that guard from The Shawshank Redemption. But language evolves doesn't it. And maybe, to you, forgive and forget doesn't mean letting go of something so as to feel better. It means forgive the abuser and forget the victim.

And it shouldn't. How often do we say "what goes around comes around" or you get what you give. Well how about you for-get what you for-give.
How about forgive and forget means you no longer give a crap and you get clean hands. Forgiveness means that you can live in the present rather than be stuck in the past and is a big part of life. Remember we all have our own world, our own reality.

That phenomenological individuality that I've spoken about before that everyones individual experiences are unique to them. No-one sees the world quite like you do, no-one feels exactly the same way as you do. And that's the same for everyone else too. Your world is not their world,

their thinking is not your thinking, the reasons for saying what they said, doing what they did are all unique to them and maybe even not fully understood by them either. So please dont try to understand them yourself. Because our lack of understanding can so easily create miscommunication, which immediately can lead on to anger and resentment.

And before you know it you're drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Or worse expecting to die yourself with a "that'll show them" mentality.
However you want to define forgiveness, whether it's about getting a better perspective over something that happened, giving up a sense of entitlement to revenge or no longer expecting an apology. I think it will always have one particular component.

And that is the origin of the word. To stop feeling angry or resentful. To me that is what forgive and forget means.
Bizarrely research has shown that staying angry and vengeful can have a detrimental effect even on your physical health as well as your mental health. It doesn't just worsen anxiety and depression

but lowers white blood cell count and cytotoxic T cell count that help fight disease. They slept better, had better cardiovascular health and reported greater life satisfaction. And obviously in relationships where someone has had an affair, greater levels of forgiveness will increase relationship satisfaction. And in doing that it also creates a stronger parenting alliance

and even children's perception of parenting. Children of parents who don't resent each other will have healthier attachment styles themselves and will have higher self esteem and less insecurity. Everyone's a winner. You'd think. Because holding onto those emotions ends up costing more than it buys you. But and its a big but.

It does mean that the one doing the forgiving has to let go of a daydream. And that's not nice. A fantasy that the past could be changed. Some magic wish that what happened was actually different. No-ones gonna say that's easy. And the only way to do that is to actually want to. It won't happen by itself.

You have to actually want to feel differently. And there might be a part of us that wants to hold onto our pain. What I would say is this.
Acknowledge that.
Acknowledge that you want to feel the pain because you're human and you've been hurt. But instead tell yourself that you are still entitled to feel hurt,

still entitled to feel betrayed or bitter. You're not letting go of your entitlement to feel it. You're letting go of actually feeling it. And you can pull it back in anytime you want to, should you ever want to. But you might find you don't want to, because it hurts. But it becomes a choice.

Let that process take as long as it needs to take. Forgiveness isn't instant because leaving the past in the past and living in the present takes time. But like I say "We can only overcome that which we first acknowledge." And when you do that you can give yourself permission to let "time heal all wounds", as the old phrase goes. Research shows though that although there is a correlation with time and forgiveness.

There was an academic paper published in 2010 about it in the journal Emotion from the APA the american psychological association. And yeah it did show that time heals and put a formula to it. What they also found is that a major component was what's called the valuable relationships hypothesis. If the person who did you wrong has a place in your life it was easier to forgive

than if the other person is actually completely irrelevant. If their relationship to you means nothing, then holding onto hate and resentment is easier it seems and if you value them being in your life forgiveness comes easier.
Which is barmy really. Because if someone has no value in your life anymore then you'd think it would be easier to move them out of your head but it isn't.

More than likely it's just that wanting someone in your life helps with the forgiveness process. So if you DO value someone then maybe you need to remind yourself of that. Its important to recognise whose in control of your life. To check out your locus of control. As you probably know if you've been listening to me for any length of time. Having an external locus of control is generally seen as problematic. It's important to feel in control of everything that you can control,

but it's important to also be able to accept the things that you can't.
Problems occur though when we get so used to having no autonomy that we don't actually see when we do in fact have a choice. When studying depression researchers will use mice to look at their brain chemistry and sadly to do that they have to make the mice depressed to see what happens in the brain and one particularly good method

If you want to describe it as good. Is to create learned helplessness. Where the mice are unpredictably given electric shocks, eventually the mice learn that they can't escape and become listless and exhibit depressed behaviours. Interestingly you can give the mice a choice at that point whether to either avoid a shock or get cheese instead, but by then they've already

learned that they have no control over whether they get shocks or not and just lay there. That's learned helplessness and us humans are certainly not immune to it. Thats what our Locus of Control is. Someone with a very external locus of control tends to believe that their own actions don't matter a great deal because even rewards in life are generally outside of their control.

And bad things are going to happen anyway. These folk are less likely to apply for a promotion because they feel that the successful candidate has already been chosen anyway and frustratingly they're less likely to vote in an election because they feel that their vote wouldn't count. Whereas those with a more internal locus of control who don't think that luck, chance or other people

plays a particularly noticeable part in determining what happens in their life are generally happier. Because they are less likely to see themselves as a victim, more likely to learn from mistakes and let go of their frustrations. They're more self assured and confident. Now, What comes first the chicken or the egg? It's difficult to know which way the direction of causality goes there. Is it that confident people feel more in control or being in control gives people confidence?

I think probably both ways to be honest. Yes, feeling as if you're coerced into everything and taken advantage can make it feel like you have little or no influence over where your life is going and that's definitely going to lower your self esteem and confidence. But if your confidence is low in the first place that can have a bearing on whether you trust your own decisions and mean you end up feeling that you need to take other

peoples advice all the time and maybe even expect to be told what to do and end up being taken advantage of, which makes things even worse because it makes you feel more helpless. So I would suggest looking at the concept of your locus of control. Someone elses apology is 100 percent in their hands, their control. Not ours. And to not allow

peace of mind until someone ELSE does something is definitely handing over control. Just like drinking poison and expecting the other one to die, or putting the dog crap you picked up in your pocket ready to rub their face in it if the time ever arises. Yet It never does and you spend your whole life walking around with dog crap in your pocket, adding to it every time you see a fresh one under a bush. I've exhausted that analogy now I'll not mention that again. It's even grossing me out.

Like I so often say understanding these things can lead to change. Often there are no tools and techniques for doing stuff for psychological change, sometimes just being aware that the process exists and that we're capable of change is all it takes to begin seeing alternative ways of thinking and feeling. One thing to add here is that people who don't apologise for stuff are often acting that way out of a fear

Fear of being seen as weak. It makes them vulnerable. It's not easy but try and feel compassion for them because of that. If someone's not emotionally strong enough to deal with that then that's a real shame. If a client said to me that they'd hurt someone but they just want to bury their hand in the sand about it because it's too painful to address I wouldn't give them homework of apologising.

Maybe we'd talk about it further down the line but I'd be able to see it from their perspective much easier because it wouldn't have been me that was hurt.
Look at like this, the process of forgiveness isn't for THEM it's for you. You can forgive someone not because they apologised or felt guilty. Not because they deserve forgiveness. But because you deserve peace of mind.

Anyway, time's up for today. As always if you want more content come and support me on Patreon where there's more to listen to every Monday morning. I mean I'll forgive you if you don't obviously time's a hard at the minute although it might save you money in the long run as you might not need as many therapy appointments. Potentially. This month I'm talking about introversion, extraversion, toxic positivity and stress. I think.

Don't hold me to it, it's just a to do list and I do often go off an tangents but come and join me on Patreon if you like. Either way you'll find some short 5 minute videos every Friday on my YouTube channel as a free alternative if needs be. Have a super September you beautiful people. Take care.