Stop living in the past is a key theme in my life. We spend many hours a day ruminating over events that have happened. Something thoughtless said during a meeting at work. Something unkind said to a child while rushing to get out the door in the morning. But does thinking about it over and over changing anything?
Not so much. I used to wake up during the night in a sweat thinking about that unkind word that came out of my mouth during a stressful time during the day. I used to drive in a daze of rumination going over and over an event that I didn't handle well. That behaviour never helped me resolve my inner conflict, it left me feeling worse and worse about it.
Forgive others, grow from it, and then let it go. How beautifully simple. I forgive what others say when they say something careless that did hurt me but was clearly an outburst from the emotion of a stressful moment. I know it's not what they think of me or what they mean to say. I don't hold a grudge against them for days, weeks, years even. I forgive them and let it go. Sometimes I think about the situation and consider if I may have done something differently which may have reduced the stressful situation for all involved. I learnt how to learn from the experience. I commit to handle the situation differently next time, and then I let it go.
By spending my time ruminating about the past I am taking time from creating my future. I am not making the best use of my time. It makes incredibly good sense to extend my forgiveness to myself when I am the one who has made the mistake. For isn't it from our mistakes that we learn? To learn I must forgive myself. I must consider the situation, learn from the situation, commit to to better next time and move on.
So often I don't give myself this luxury. I punish myself by thinking about the situation and making myself feel bad about the situation over and over. I take my focus from my future and dwell in the past - achieving nothing.
I have found two reason why I do this which may be relevant for you.
Firstly, I have not been self aware enough to even realise that I am punishing myself about something - I don't realise that I need to forgive myself. This lack of self awareness doesn't relate to saying an unkind word to the child, it goes deeper than that. For example, my children are on their way to growing up, finishing school and moving away from home. I haven't been the best parent that I wanted to be. I have needed to learn so much about myself that I punish myself for not being there enough for them, or supporting them as well as I would have liked.
I have come to realise that actually, I AM the best possible mother that they could ever have. The greatest mistake would be to never have taken the time to learn the lessons in the first place, and now - as they begin to navigate an adult life - now they need my support and guidance as much as they did when they were younger. I forgive myself. Everything that happened was the right thing to happen for me to learn the lessons I needed to learn.
I forgive myself. It even feels good and freeing just writing it. These are the types of lessons and forgiveness's that can truly change your life and can open you up to great learning and lessons. This is what we need to teach our children.
Secondly, I didn't learn how to say sorry as a child. I have struggled to acknowledge my mistakes that have affected others because I'm just not good at saying sorry. Saying sorry - I believed - draws attention to my mistake. It makes me take responsibility for my mistake when it was easier to lay responsibility in front of someone else. But saying sorry has the completely opposite effect to what I thought. It doesn't make the person think badly of me - it allows the other person think well of me! It make me vulnerable and allows us both to learn from the mistake - and move on!
I say sorry as often as I can now. It seems to help in the process of drawing the lesson from the mistake, forgiving myself and moving on. I am learning how to be free of my rumination because the bond between the person and myself is intrinsically stronger. We achieve the thing so many of us seek - human connection.
Here for you,