When a person hurts another, grief and anger are natural and healthy responses. Self-pity, too, is normal – there’s no set time for how long it takes to work through and process being hurt.
Trudy (not her real name) got a divorce after four years of marriage, during which she was psychologically and sometimes even physically abused. She was only able to pick up the pieces after undergoing counselling.
She learnt about constructive anger, which solves a problem at any given time by galvanising a person to respond appropriately to the situation; and destructive anger, which is repetitive and has no positive result.
During a conflict, brain pathways are created that make anger more likely. When anger becomes a habit rather than a way of processing in the moment, or when a person holds on to it for a long time, it can be detrimental to their wellbeing as well as those around them.
Trudy recognised how destructive anger played a part in the dissolution of her marriage. But she also learnt about forgiveness, and how one of its biggest misconceptions is that it means condoning the offender’s behaviour.
Forgiveness means the person recognises they have been wronged but chooses to cleanse their heart. They don’t make excuses for the bad behaviour, but accept what has happened and try to make peace with it.
Letting the good outweigh the bad
When someone you care about acts in a way that is hurtful, it’s important to remember all the good this person has done in your life. Think of their positive aspects rather than the negative.
This is not to say you should stick around to be taken advantage of, or that you should remain in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. It means successful relationships are hard to cultivate and maintain, especially if one holds grudges, keeps score, or constantly thinks about ways to get revenge.
Trudy has since learnt that setting boundaries is crucial. This doesn’t mean blaming, accusing or disowning another person; rather, it’s about learning to say, openly and honestly: “What you just did is not OK.”
Just about every relationship requires the involvement of forgiveness to be sustained. Everyone is flawed, and their perceptions may be, too. As such, getting hurt is inevitable.
The thing is, people’s brains are designed to keep them safe from danger, so a lot of what is perceived isn’t accurate, especially after time has passed. Often, your brains simplify an event to accentuate the threat.
And because distortions are created, the quickest way to grant forgiveness and move on is to change the story in one’s mind. For example, if you are still smarting over not being invited to a friend’s wedding years ago, perhaps examine if there had been conflict at the time, or if it had been a genuine oversight on their part.
Time heals all wounds… doesn’t it?
Attributing one’s present distress to something that happened in the past is a way of making oneself a victim. For example, it isn’t healthy to claim the reason you are unhappy now is because your partner left you five years ago.
A more truthful and helpful statement would be to acknowledge you are still unhappy today because of what your partner did, but to also accept that you didn’t have the adequate resources then to deal with it.
And while you still haven’t figured out how to entirely make peace with what has happened, forgiveness will allow you to find your way towards letting go and healing.
Finally, Trudy believes you are the only one who can save yourself. You have to solve the problem, figure out how to be OK – even if it’s with the help of a counsellor – and move on.
When you are able to do this, you are able to regain a sense of resilience; and when you are able to forgive, you are better able to lead a more peaceful life going forward.
The best part is, you realise you are able to cope – perhaps even thrive – when faced with difficulty. That, to her, is the biggest benefit of all.
TELEME Healing Life Stories is a collection of inspirational stories of how ordinary people triumph over their health conditions and recover to lead a healthier life. Email [email protected] to share your story.