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What to Do If You Can’t Forgive

“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.” ~Rumi

“I know I should forgive but I can’t.” I squirmed in my seat as I said this to my teacher.

I said this immediately after I explained all that I’d experienced during our meditation exercise.  In the meditation I’d had a vivid recollection of the constant verbal and emotional abuse I’d received from my dad.

It had been ten years since I’d lived at home, but I was still angry, still carrying all of those emotions from years ago. Instead of telling me all the virtues of why it’s important to forgive, my teacher asked me one question.

“Are you ready to forgive?”

“No,” I said.

“Then don’t.”

When he said that I burst into tears of relief.

At that time in my life so many people had been telling me about the virtues of forgiveness, suggesting different methods. When they’d see my resistance to forgiveness, they’d just tell me the same platitudes over and over again:

 Forgiveness isn’t about excusing the other person’s behavior.

 Forgiveness is for you not the other person.

 Forgiveness frees you.

I intellectually understood what they meant. But I still couldn’t do it. I didn’t know why I couldn’t. I had started to feel guilty and shameful that I wasn’t able to do this one thing that so many people agreed I should do.

My teacher giving me space to not forgive gave me the permission to observe myself and my pain without judgment. This meant I could explore the subtle feelings and beliefs that I didn’t even know I had. I uncovered my resistance by asking myself:

How was not-forgiving keeping me safe?

At the time I was a perfectionist and was excelling in my career. I had risen quickly through the ranks of my organization because I pushed myself hard and did a great job.

At the same time there would be moments where I would go into extreme procrastination. I had learned that I procrastinated because I felt like what I should be doing was going to harm me. I stopped and went into avoidance mode whenever I was afraid that I was going to experience burnout or if I thought I would fail and be rejected.

I looked at my reaction to not forgiving my dad in the same way. I was avoiding forgiveness because something about the idea of it made me feel unsafe.

I sat down and wrote about why not forgiving my dad was keeping me safe. In my journaling I was surprised to see that I felt safe with the power I had in not forgiving.

Through a family member who had told my dad I wasn’t willing to forgive him I’d heard that he was upset that I didn’t. That knowledge, that small thing that I had control of when I hadn’t felt in control of anything regarding my dad, felt like vindication.

I wrote deeper:

Why was it so important for me to hold that power? 

I realized that inside of me was still a teenaged girl living in the experience—she hadn’t graduated high school and moved out. She was still in that pain right now. In this moment. And that feeling of power was the only thing keeping her together.

It was shocking that I could feel her so strongly in my body. Mostly in my chest and in my stomach. The feeling was heavy and like sand  I couldn’t leave that girl feeling powerless while she was still actively in the moment of pain. I had to give her something to hold onto so she could survive.

I didn’t try to correct my perception or be more positive. I just listened to me. I finally connected with the depth of pain I had been feeling all along and how often it was there without me even noticing. I wasn’t used to connecting with my body  I wasn’t used to listening to myself without judging.

My teacher asked me if it was okay if instead of forgiving my dad if we released the energy that I was feeling from my body. I said yes, so he led me through a guided meditation.

In it I took several deep breaths and visualized that I was sending all of my dad’s energy and the energy of situation through the sun and back to my dad. By moving the light through the sun my dad would only receive pure light back, not any of the pain he’d projected.

I then took back my own energy, my authentic power, whatever I felt had been taken from me or whatever power I felt I’d given away. I visualized that energy moving through the sun and being cleansed so that all I received was my own pure light.

Then I visualized all the other people who had heard my story or actually witnessed what went on with my dad letting go of all their judgments and attachments, like streams of light rising into the sky.

After the meditation was done my body felt good. I felt lighter. I didn’t feel a part of me was caught in the past.

Suddenly I had a strong urge to forgive my father. And I did.

Over time I found that I still had more forgiving to do, but it was easier. I didn’t have to be convinced to forgive, I naturally wanted to.

What helped me the most when I couldn’t forgive was finally recognizing that forgiveness is more than making a mental choice and saying words. Forgiveness is a decision that’s made with the body and the soul. It comes naturally when it is ready. 

If you just can’t forgive, I invite you to explore what worked for me:

1. Accept that you aren’t ready to forgive and trust your decision.

2. Ask yourself how not-forgiving is keeping you safe and listen to your truth without minimizing or correcting your beliefs.

3. Be present and feel where those beliefs are still active in your body,

4. When you are ready (and only when you’re ready) releasing the energy that does not belong to you and reclaim what does using the process I wrote above.

When we are willing to stop forcing ourselves to do what we ‘should’ do and actually listen to our truth in the moment, we expand our capacity for healing in ways we can’t even imagine.  Including forgiving the impossible.

About Candice Thomas

Candice Thomas is the author of the book The Success Sense: Intuition for Entrepreneurs and Professionals. She teaches leaders how to use their own intuition to create tangible positive results in the world. Using her signature programs, her clients have achieved life-changing results and learned how to be spiritually connected and complete.   Candice has been featured on the Mind Love podcast, Elephant Journal, Thrive Global, Bustle, Brit+Co and other media. For more information visit

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The post What to Do If You Can’t Forgive appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

How I Overcame My Anger to Be Better for My Family

“Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.” ~Eckhart Tolle

As a special-needs parent, it feels that I am in constant anger and fight mode.

I am fighting with my children on the home front.

I am fighting for their right to get access to services.

I am fighting for their acceptance.

I am fighting for my children to help them make progress.

To be in constant fight mode can be overwhelming and exhausting.

In my weakness, I let my emotions get the best of me.

I lose my temper with my loved ones.

The One Thing I Regret Saying to My Daughter

A particular incident that took place many years ago stands out in my mind to this date.

The principal of my daughter’s school told me she was causing lots of problems there. Her behavior was disturbing her classmates, and many parents had complaints about it.

“We feel that this school is not suitable for her and it would be best to find her another school,” said the principal.

I fought with the school to let her stay. This was the third school we had to fight for her acceptance.

I felt that I was coming to another dead end.

After that meeting, I headed home and was greeted with an onslaught of screaming and shouting children.

Adding to that chaos, my daughter with autism poured out the contents of every toiletry bottle she could find into the bathtub. It is incredible how much children can do given one minute unsupervised.

At that very moment, I snapped and yelled.

“What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?”

“Why are you always wrecking the house?”

“Why can’t I have a moment of peace without you causing any trouble?”

“I did not sign up for this!” 

“I don’t want you!”

My daughter with little communication skills stood frozen. I saw fear in her eyes. She felt every ounce of anger I had in me then.

Why Yelling Further Delays a Child’s Development

When children misbehave, yelling at them seems like a natural response. We feel that when we yell at them, we get their attention, we are disciplining them.

None of us likes to be yelled at. When we yell at our children, they are more likely to shut down instead of listening. That is not a good way to communicate.

For children on the spectrum, yelling can be particularly detrimental, as it may result in them retreating into their own world and not engaging with other people even more.

The more we connect and engage with them, the more they can thrive and grow. Hence, yelling can never be a means to “discipline” them regardless of how stressful and frustrated we may feel at that moment.

Not Yelling—Easier Said Than Done

Trust me. No one understands this more than I do. When you are stressed and frustrated, releasing all that pent-up emotion seems like the only solution.

I struggle at managing my anger. There are so many times I find myself regretting the way I spoke and raised my voice to my loved ones.

With each angry word exchanged, I see my daughter retreating into her own world, and it pains me so much. Her mother caused all of that.

The truth is, I am not angry with my daughter for the silly things she has done.

It is not her fault.

My beautiful daughter is not making life difficult for me, she is having a difficult time.

For her sake, I’ve I had to find a positive way to deal with my anger issues.

I’ve needed to help myself so that I could help her.

Anger Is Just a Mask for Another Emotion

Anger is often a secondary emotion. It is a mask that covers a deeper feeling that I am unwilling to address.

Behind my anger are my fears, frustration, and insecurities.

More than often, my anger stems from my inability to control what is outside of myself.

I am unable to change the school’s decision not to accept her.

My daughter is unable to receive decent therapy support in our home country.

Instead, I have had to be my daughter’s therapist, and I felt insecure about my abilities to help her then.

All these overwhelming feelings of being frustrated, being unfairly treated, not being respected, triggered the anger inside of me. Unfortunately, my poor daughter had to bear the angry burns of her hot-headed mother.

How I Address the Real Meaning of My Anger

In order to manage my anger, I’ve needed to:

1. Acknowledge the emotion I am feeling.

What am I feeling now?

 I am feeling angry.

Telling myself that I am angry helps me to calm down.

It’s important to recognize and feel the anger in these situations. By addressing it, I am acknowledging that I matter, and it prompts me to take a deeper look at what is going on behind the scenes.

2. Identify the emotion behind the anger.

What am I feeling besides anger?

I am feeling rejected by what the school has done, and I am also feeling anxious about having the time to find another school for my daughter, or if I even can.

My anger is always trying to tell me something. Once I listen to it, I’m in a better place to understand the situation and move forward toward the healing process.

The more clarity I get about why I am angry and the more I acknowledge those emotions, the less my anger impacts me. By gaining more clarity, I can also find productive solutions to solve my problems.

How I Manage My Anger

1. Replace negative thoughts with more constructive ones.

I realize that my attitude affects how I interpret my circumstances. It impacts my thoughts, energy, and above all, the actions I take.

Much of my anger and frustration can be better managed when I practice reframing.

Instead of saying, “My child is a brat who doesn’t listen and is out to make my life miserable,” I try to say, “My child doesn’t quite understand what I’m trying to tell her. I need to demonstrate to her what she is required to do.”

By reframing my thought process and how I describe my children and my problems, I am able to see things with acceptance, compassion, and empathy.

2. Identify common anger triggers.

Identifying my common triggers helps me mentally prepare myself prior to the event.

I start by visualizing a typical situation and ask myself how I can respond to it wisely. The more I practice this visualization, the more I can react to such situations more appropriately.

It also helps to journal down what times and moments cause these triggers.

3. Practice some relaxation/calming exercises.

Using simple relaxation and calming strategies helps me soothe those angry feelings.

Some examples of common relaxation exercises:

  • Having a cup of tea
  • Using breathing techniques
  • Practicing yoga and meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Exercising
  • Using stress-relief tools (e.g. stress ball)

Since I’ve been practicing these exercises, homework and therapy times at home have been more pleasant for me and the children. Meditating for five minutes before homework takes away any lingering frustrations and stress.

4. Focus on the solution, not the problem.

All too often, when a problem occurs, I focus on the negative situation, and this puts me in a bad mood. I resolve more things when I focus more on the solution instead.

To start, I take the time to fully analyze the problem and make a list of possible solutions.

When I do this, I know I am taking proactive steps to improve our lives. I am focusing on what I can control instead of mindlessly reacting to my circumstances.

5. Find humor in the situation.

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

Finding humor in a situation, even amid the most trying times, can be both relieving and empowering.

I was in the car when my daughter started screaming and crying suddenly. I stopped the car and asked her what the matter was; no amount of coaxing, hugs, and bribes {sweets} was able to calm her down.

I was feeling stressed with the situation, so in desperation, I made funny faces and fart noises at her. and she laughed hysterically. After a good laugh, my daughter explained that she was angry with me because I promised her earlier that I would bring her to the shop, but instead was driving toward home.

If I had responded in anger then, I would not have been in a position of empathy to help her, and the mystery to her emotional outburst would remain unsolved.

6. Take a time-out.

When I sense a wave of anger coming up, I try to excuse myself from the situation. Taking a time-out prevents me from saying things that I may later regret.

Finding a quiet area to cool down and practicing some of the relaxation exercises mentioned above has saved me on many occasions.

When the anger has subsided, I find it helps to think of what I may say before returning to the scene.

7. Practice forgiveness.

It’s difficult to find peace when we’re bottled up in anger and pain. Constant internal hostility saps away our energy both physically and mentally.

It helps me minimize the hostility within to see everyone like my daughter—not giving me a hard time, but having a hard time. It’s much easier to forgive when I consider that everyone else is struggling, trying their best, and sometimes falling short.

By forgiving, I accept the events for the way they are. I am letting go of any negative attachments.

By forgiving, I am taking control of my life by saying that this act no longer defines me, it no longer controls me.

By forgiving, I can finally find peace and move on with my life.

Learning How to Own My Anger

I have seen first-hand how my anger affects my family. It doesn’t serve them at all. Out of love and necessity, I will do whatever I can to be a better person for them.

Hence, every day in every way, I am making a conscious effort to control my anger before it controls me.

There will be days when I still mess up. We are all human and we will never be perfect.

I recognize my mistakes and acknowledge what needs to be done to improve.

Slowly but surely, I am getting there. I am, and will always be, a constant work in progress.

Is your anger controlling your life? What strategies have helped you work through and let go of your anger?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Weiderstrand helps parents raising children on the autism spectrum how to awaken their children’s gifts. She has a daughter with autism and ADHD and two other children with other learning challenges. She believes that the right connection and environment will bring out the best out of our special-needs children. If you have a loved one on the autism spectrum, sign up for Stephane’s FREE 7-day email course AWAKEN THE GIFTS OF YOUR CHILD.

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The post How I Overcame My Anger to Be Better for My Family appeared first on Tiny Buddha.