When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:
- Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
- Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.
Neither is great.
If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.
If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.
A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?
- When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
- There are in-breaths and out-breaths. To stay alive, you need both. A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.
First Breath ~ THE STORY
Feel entitled. Say “Listen to me!” Let your story out. Tell your partner what is going on for you and why you are so upset. Give as many details as you can to help the accused see things from your point of view.
“I’m never ever going to an office party with you again! You abandon me the moment we get there, you schmooze with everyone and don’t introduce me to half of them. And then, at dinner, you sit next to that new woman and spend the whole night in quiet conversation leaving me across from you between two crashing bores whom I didn’t even know!”
ADVANTAGES? In any reconciliation process, the person who has experienced something painful needs to tell their story. It’s a bit like rounding up the all the loose edges of a tumour in surgery. If you leave tendrils of cancer behind, the cells will re-grow. Telling your story as fully and honestly as you possibly can will allow you to eventually let it go.
Face your accuser. Breathe deeply. Give this issue your full attention. Do not, under any circumstances, explain, justify, defend or deny. Zip it and listen. If your mind is busy doing anything other than listening, you’ll miss too much.
ADVANTAGES? This step is the key to your success. As long as someone is feeling hurt they will have no interest in hearing anything from you: no whys, excuses, justifications or pleas for forgiveness will trump their need to just spit out the pain. All the things we usually do actually make things worse. This is not about you. This is about the impact something you have done (or not done, or said) has had on someone else. Sure, you may feel they have over-reacted or might not feel so dreadful if they only understood things from your point of view. Maybe. However, given that “ultimate reality” is up for grabs in any given situation, what I’m advocating for here is “what is most helpful in this situation right now?” This step is the most helpful thing you can do.
This is Part 1 of 5.
Check back tomorrow for Second Breath of Apology ~ FEELINGS