3 Steps to Forgiveness and How to Take Him to Zero

Posted on June 30, 2010


He hurt you. Big time. And try as you might, you just can’t seem to let it go. Well-meaning people may encourage you to “forgive and forget.” But I’m here to tell you that even though holding onto that anger will be detrimental in the long run, your friends are only HALF right.

Why Trying to Forget may be Futile

There is a part of our brains called the amygdala whose sole function is to remember situations that hurt us and to store them for future protection. That amygdala is the reason you don’t reach for a hot pan without an oven mitt and or put a fork in the electrical outlet. You learned those lessons long ago and you have the amygdala to thank for remembering them.

So stop trying to forget what happened already. It happened. Your brain is wired to remember hurt for survival purposes. Technically, you probably won’t forget. Not forgetting, however, is no excuse for harboring resentment.

Why You’ll Want to Forgive

Although I could cite hundreds of examples of how holding onto stored anger increases your stress and chances of physical ailments (like migraines), not to mention increases signs of aging, I won’t. Because there’s an even better reason to forgive someone.

Think of a woman you know who is bitter, resentful and vindictive. Do you want to be that woman? Of course not. That’s why you need to learn how to forgive.

Here’s how to do it

Step 1: Acknowledge your hurt by finding a way to release your sadness and your anger. Cry, go to kick boxing class, fantasize about revenge. Give yourself space and time to clear out these emotions.

Step 2: Answer the question: What did you learn from this experience? Every experience, no matter how good or bad, has something to teach us.

Step 3: Figure out what you will now choose to change for the better. You are not the person you were before you got hurt. Because of this experience, you have the opportunity to learn and change. Make a conscious effort to choose to change for the better. Perhaps you need to choose a different partner or be more assertive. Experiences are only good teachers if we choose to make a positive change because of them.

If Steps 1-3 Don’t Work, Try This.

The following exercise is adapted from the book What Happy Women Know by Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg. I love it because it works:

Think of a scale from minus 10 to plus 10. It’s your personal scale. At the negative end is the worst form of dislike, hate if you will. At the positive end, at plus 10, is love. If you hate, you’re bathing yourself in negative emotion and expending energy on someone you already know is not worth it. And remember, energy is finite. If you show up too often at the negative end, you’ll soon run dry. At the other end, at love, is where you flourish and enjoy a meaningful life, where you actually receive energy.

So where on the scale does Mr. Wrong belong? Not on the negative end, because he’s not worth expending energy on, not a single atom’s worth. Not on the plus side either, because he clearly hasn’t earned a spot there. So take him to zero-and keep him there. Every time your brain conjures up his name, just deposit him at the center of the scale and leave him there and go on with your day. He can’t bother you anymore.

*Personally, I like the mantra “Take him to zero.” It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Posted in: Love 101