Do you ever find yourself holding onto old grievances?
Someone did something to you in your past and every time you think of it, you get pissed off. Examples include a history of abuse, an indiscretion, a social put-down that embarrassed you, a lack of support you thought you deserved but which was never given and so forth. While the incident could have happened years ago and the person who did it might even be dead, it is just as real as if it happened yesterday when you begin to think about it.
The incident could also have happened last week and you are still both angry and obsessed about it.
It is important to note that if you are able to talk to the person and, in some way, resolve the issues between you, this is the best action to take.
Sometimes, though, resolving the issue in real time is not possible because the person is dead and, therefore, not physically available to you or the emotional barriers between you are so formidable that the person is not available to you psychologically.
If this applies to you, I have some suggestions for you.
But first, let me help you understand how it is that an incident that may have occurred years ago can still be so real to you.
Your ability to think about something is a powerful gift. This is your imagination. When you imagine a situation and allow yourself to experience it, your brain can’t tell if it is a real experience or only in your head.
The upside of imagination is that you can relive your vacation, playing in the pool with your kids, or your mom’s great Thanksgiving meals. The downside is that you can become tethered to your past.
Let me give you an example of the power of your imagination.
Stop for a moment and try to make your mouth water.
Most likely, you won’t have a whole lot of success as you can’t force your body to make this happen.
Now, if you can, copy this section of the article and have someone read the script to you as you close your eyes and imagine the scene they are reading.
- You walk into your kitchen and go over to the refrigerator.
- You open the door to the fridge and feel the blast of cold air on your face.
- You, then, notice the lemon sitting on the shelf. You pick it up and feel the cold skin.
- You close the fridge door and put the lemon on the cutting board on the counter.
- You take out a sharp knife and as you cut off a slice of lemon, you see the juice pool up on the board.
- You pick up the lemon wedge, put it in your mouth and bite into it.
Your imagination made your mouth water. It is as if you just bit into a real lemon wedge.
You can, now, understand how it is that every time you think of what happened to you in the past, you relive it as if it were yesterday.
Ultimately, you want to forgive the person as this will allow you cut the ties with and move beyond your past. I addressed forgiveness in my last post.
Sometimes, however, forgiving a person is difficult and you need to add a step before you can engage forgiveness
The step you can add is to view the past through the filter of an IWBNI.
The word IWBNI is an acronym that stands for It Would Be Nice If.
The process behind using an IWBNI is this;
Labeling the incident as an IWBNI as in “It would be nice if the incident had not taken place or the person had not been such a jerk and so forth.” allows you to both acknowledge the onerous nature of the incident (because what you are saying about it is TRUE) and let it go (because the unstated implication of IWBNI is that it did occur.
When you replay it in your mind, you are trying to resolve or understand it. Many things that happen to us are often beyond any typical logical understanding because they are so onerous and, therefore, seem to defy logic.
Using an IWBNI acknowledges that you may never understand it and that you are choosing to let it go and move past it. This is after-all what you want.
Like forgiveness, which I discussed in the last post, using an IWBNI does not justify, minimize, or excuse what took place. It only accepts that it did take place.
Following this acceptance which begins the process of moving on facilitates the process of forgiveness which allows you to fianally cut the ties that bind you to your past.
By the way, I discussed using IWBNI’s in my 7/20/16 post on dealing with regret.
I welcome your comments.