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… every time I indulged my anger toward my husband, or the situation we found ourselves in, I was changing the way my brain worked—making it more receptive to the frustrated, hurt, offended and resentful thoughts I was feeding it.
I’ve often referred to Everett Worthington, Forgiveness Researcher, Expert and Author here at MM. Click here to read more posts about his work. His book, Forgiving and Reconciling has largely impacted my counseling practice, not to mention, life.
Everett not only knows his stuff … he’s lived it as well. His mother was murdered in a burglary gone wrong many years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee. Amazingly, Everett did not wait to let his anger settle down or the pain to lessen before he decided to forgive. He immediately began to implement the strategies that would basically “rewire” his brain.
One of the first strategies he implemented was empathizing with the young boys who killed his mother by trying to imagine their feelings and decisions that led up to the horrific event.
Yeah, I know! Tell me about it! How could he do that?
I think it’s because he knew that if he didn’t, he would have a much harder time forgiving the offender down the road. And remember … forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the offender. In many ways, forgiveness helps you more than it does your offender.
Here’s what he said about this process in his book,
“Trauma seems to cause the emotional centers of the brain to become extremely active and charge emotional experience strongly. By immediately imagining a traumatic scene and pairing it with the emotion of compassion, I probably reprogrammed my emotions of rage and fear more quickly and more powerfully than if I had tried to imagine the scene a week or month later.”*
Ultimately, his ability to forgive and find healing were enhanced and sped up because he didn’t let the anger linger. I have learned this truth as well. It has helped my attitude toward my husband and others tremendously … but I’m still a work in progress.
The point I’m trying to make is that we can easily become consumed with anger toward our spouses not only because they continually do things that hurt us, but because we retrace that hurt over and over in our brains—making a pathway that is hard to erase.
If you are struggling with anger toward your spouse, or your kids, or people in general, then let this be your wake up call! It will not get any better. In fact, it will only get worse as you ruminate over and over, forming that well-worn path of bitterness. And this “path” won’t just affect that particular relationship, but all of your relationships in time. So make the choice today to forgive and walk along with me on a new, forgiving path.
* p. 92, Forgiving and Reconciling by Everett Worthington
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