Learning How To Forgive Yourself After the Affair
Forgiving Yourself for the Affair
Forgiving ourselves is one of the most difficult challenges we may face in our lifetimes. Although, we struggle on a daily basis to forgive others, and we certainly put forth an effort to do so, it’s not easy when it comes to ourselves. However, if we can apply the same principles for forgiving ourselves as we apply to forgiving others, our lives can be much more fulfilling.
With the understanding that holding on to grievances, angers and disappointments throws off the balance of our souls, our hearts, our minds and our bodies, we should also focus on forgiving “me”.
Without forgiveness there is guilt, shame, fury, disappointment and in some cases, confusion. With these emotions, even though they may be done subconsciously, the impact remains the same. Feelings such as this, are poison to us.
With this in mind, forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others.
This is not to say that you have the right to intentionally harm someone or hurt someone deliberately, because “after-all, you can just ask for forgiveness or forgive yourself and life moves on”, is not the case. This is not how it works.
Forgiveness is about healing, but, also about learning from our mistakes. Once we’ve learned, we don’t repeat those acts. When we aren’t able to forgive, generally we succumb to pain, guilt, anger, all sorts of unhealthy emotions.
Forgiving ourselves is not easy, however, it is doable and it is necessary in order to move past our mistakes. Regardless of what you’ve done or what others may have done to you, forgiveness can and does create healing.
Sometimes, when we’re hurt, and just as important, if we have brought hurt or harmed others, learning to forgive yourself can help us to improve and move forward. If not, living with the guilt and shame makes it difficult to live a fulfilling life. Until forgiveness happens, the burden of what we’ve done remains with us.
Remembering, that NONE of us are perfect. We make mistakes and there are times, we have poor judgment. This is simply a fact of life. Emotions come in to play, irrational thoughts take over. And affairs happen.
Although not easy to accept, if we ask for forgiveness from someone else, and they choose not to accept this forgiveness, we know in our hearts we did everything we could to make a wrong a right. But, what happens when it’s “you” you have to forgive?
What can you do to about it? Realizing, once something is done, it cannot be undone, how do we live with this? We wish we hadn’t done it, we brought pain to someone else and certainly, it was not intentional, however, it was done without thought. Without that part of our brain that we may have ignored.
We can’t “undo” the past. Once a deed is done, it’s done. However, forgiveness is not accomplished overnight. It may take years. Once forgiveness takes place, and only until then, can you begin to heal.
“A great teacher of psychiatry, Elvin Semard, summarized these steps as follows. In dealing with difficult feelings of any kind we need to take three steps. First, acknowledge the feelings. Second, bear them; this is the “work” of grieving, raging, and weeping. Third, put the feelings into perspective” (Edward M. Hallowell, 2011).
So, you’ve had an affair and it ended, not the way you intended or the way you envisioned, but with others being hurt, as well as, yourself. What now?
You have several choices here, you can berate yourself, remind yourself of what a horrible person you were, you can try to force yourself to believe that you were “simply no good to begin with”, you may even try to convince yourself that you believed something better, something good will come from this affair.
But, did you know that there is a part of our brains which shut down during stress, confusion, anger and/or painful situations? (This is not a justification for your actions, however, hopefully an explanation of how your mistake may have been created).
As an example Mr. Relly Nadler says this: “There is a big decision you have to make and there are many things to consider, too many things. You become so overwhelmed with information you can’t make a decision. Your thinking and mind feel like slush and you make a bad decision. Sharon Begley in a recent Newsweek article “I Can’t Think” reports that with too much information our decision making is often worse. Smart people acting stupid! Where did their IQ points go? The “brain freeze” is an experience we have all had. Now with the research from brain neuroscience and using functional MRI’s we can actually understand these phenomena. When our thinking gets temporally impaired like these examples above it is like we are operating with 10-15 less IQ points. The light goes out in the prefrontal cortex, which is our executive functioning and decision making region of the brain” (Nadler, 2011).
“Any strong emotion; fear, stress, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off the amygdala and impairs the prefrontal cortex’s working memory. The power of emotions overwhelms rationality. That is why when we are emotionally upset or stressed we can’t think straight. The IQ points we need to thoughtfully consider decisions are depleted temporarily (Nadler, 2011).
In other words, whatever is going on in your life at the moment, may have been cause for your decision to have the affair. Find out what it was. What is your reasoning behind the affair? What excuse did you give yourself?
The cold hard truth, excuses are usually lies that we use to convince ourselves are reasoning for our actions. What were or are your excuses? Really?
Write them down. Confront them. Place them into perspective. Answer each one individually. Once you have confronted the excuses, break them down if necessary, to a point by point basis. And destroy them. Realize and understand they were just that…an excuse to justify behavior you knew in your mind was wrong.
Once you have acknowledged your excuses for the affair, they just may appear for exactly for what they are. Lies…
The next step…once the excuses have been acknowledged, is how to remind yourself, not to ever allow those excuses to take hold of the “prefrontal cortex”, or in other words, to skew you vision of what is wrong and right.
Whatever emotions came into play before your “thinking brain” was put on hold, needs to come in to play. Promise yourself, you will not do this again. Do not allow yourself to be ruled more by emotions than common sense.
Most of us are blessed with common sense. However, there are times in our lives when our brain becomes so overwhelmed with thoughts of a better life, of “the grass is greener on the other side”, yes, cliché, but, there is also another cliché to add to this, “if we would water our own grass, it too would be green”. Learn from your mistake, do not repeat it.
Now…let it go….Life is about learning, it is about the mistakes we make at irrational moments. When we’re feeling less confident about ourselves or when we may at times, become selfish, and place ourselves before others. Knowing that we are or can hurt others by our actions, doesn’t it merit that second thought? Not allowing our emotions to overrule what we know is the difference between right or wrong
We can’t always make the right decisions, as stated earlier, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, but learning to forgive and move on from those mistake is most certainly progress. Don’t hang on to the guilt, the shame, or the anger of what you’ve done. Allow yourself to enjoy life to the fullest by forgiving yourself.
It can also help to focus on what is good about yourself. Not the feelings of rejection, anger, or hurt you may feel someone else has caused. Do not focus on what you feel is lacking or may be lacking in your life, deal with the excuses, confront them head on, and speak to your spouse, partner or whomever you may be in a relationship with. Do not allow emotions to take control over common sense.
If you find this has happened or is happening, be honest with yourself, confront yourself, take the time to understand why you are feeling the way you do. If it feels wrong, it probably is, don’t justify it, if you have, learn from your mistake, forgive yourself and move forward…Forgiveness is healing…Learn how to forgive yourself…