Today I want to talk about a huge KEY in unsticking emotion, moving on, and creating that beautiful life you’ve always imagined for yourself.
Just about every client gets to a point where forgiveness – either of others or of themselves – is needed. No matter WHAT brought them to see me originally, at some point in our work finding FORGIVENESS becomes a turning point, a huge KEY to unsticking emotion and healing whatever they came in for.
Many people come into my office and say something like this: “There is no way I could possibly forgive that person or those people. How could I? The damage was too great. I’m still suffering because of what he, she or they did.”
Some people say, “There is no way I could possibly forgive myself. How could I ever forgive myself for all the horrible things I’ve done?”
I understand these feelings. I’ve had them too. Now, however, I think when people say these things they don’t fully understand what forgiveness is and what it is not.
Forgiveness is NOT:
- Glossing over, denying or forgetting what happened
- Condoning or excusing bad behavior
- Allowing anybody to “get away with” anything
Although forgiveness may involve reconciling with the other person, it does not necessarily have to.
- Freeing your heart and mind from toxic feelings of anger, resentment, shame, humiliation, or other negative feelings
- Making a conscious choice to put down a heavy burden, so YOU can be free
- Deciding YOU no longer wish to suffer for bad behavior of the past (whether it was someone else’s bad behavior or your own)
It has been said that unforgiveness is like gripping a burning coal in your hand and thinking it’s hurting the other person. Forgiveness is releasing this burning coal – even if that means loosening your grip one finger at a time – SO YOU CAN BE FREE. Ultimately, forgiveness is NOT about the other person. It is an act of self-healing and self-love.
So if forgiveness is about self-healing and self-love, why is it so hard to do??
I think it goes back to the way our brains have evolved.
There’s a primitive part of our brain called the limbic system that has the job of keeping us safe. Back in cavemen days this was a really important job because our ancestors often met wild beasts and found themselves in life-threatening situations. Most of you have probably heard of the fight or flight response. The minute our limbic system detects a threat in our environment, it initiates this response and moves our bodies into a protective stance. Our ancestors needed a part of their brain to be on ready alert, so they could have the best chance of either fighting a smaller threat or escaping a larger one in a moment’s notice.
Over millions of years of evolution, a new part of the human brain developed called the neocortex. Now the neocortex is responsible for all that we think of as being uniquely human. This is where logic, reason, and higher order thinking reside and what makes possible the learning of languages and countless other skills that we can learn but our animal friends cannot.
The primitive limbic system, however, also controls emotions, the encoding of emotions and the long-term storage of emotional events. Emotions such as anger or fear originated to protect us as they drive us to set boundaries and move into action. Holding onto these emotions long after the danger is past is not logical. But it is something our primitive, non-verbal, non-logical limbic system does. When our emotions get triggered, and we feel unsafe in any way, this primitive part of our brain – the limbic system – springs into action and often overrides our more evolved neocortex.
Therefore, I believe unforgiveness is our primitive limbic system’s misguided attempt at keeping us safe.
If you want to forgive, but don’t know how or somehow feel stuck in unforgiveness, you need a way to communicate with your limbic system.
Remember that the limbic system pre-dates language and logic by millions of years! This means it doesn’t understand English, Spanish, Japanese, Swahili or any other human language. Although you may have told yourself many times that you want to forgive yourself or another person, the part of the brain controlling the emotional switches may not be getting the message.
It may be like those old Charlie Brown cartoons. Remember when the teacher spoke, all the kids heard was wah, wah, wah…? This is what I imagine the limbic system understands when we try to have a conversation with it in English!
This is where EFT/Tapping comes into play!
While the limbic system cannot understand language or logic, Tapping is a form of communication the limbic system can both receive and respond to. What it receives are signals of calm and peace, and how it responds is by de-activating this high alert fight-or-flight response.
EFT practitioners have been observing and experiencing this for decades, but, for those of us who like proof, we now have scientific research to confirm it. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have been studying the effects of acupoint stimulation on midbrain arousal. What they have found — and have used MRI and PET scans to document — is that when certain acupoints are stimulated, the activity in the limbic system associated with stress and fear go way down.[i]
In a 2012 study, Dawson Church, Ph.D. and a team of researchers studied a different aspect of fight or flight: cortisol levels. This study showed EFT to reduce cortisol levels at an unprecedented rate.[ii]
In short, scientific studies have confirmed that EFT reduces the physical symptoms of stress by communicating with the primitive, non-verbal limbic system and directing it to call off the fight or flight response.
EFT is also known for greatly diminishing emotional intensity around past traumatic events. In fact, Tapping is perhaps most famous for its tremendous success with PTSD, which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Up until recently PTSD was an extremely difficult condition to treat, but EFT is one modality that has proven to be very effective because of this ability to reduce emotional intensity around events in the past.
When you recall an event in the past that has not been processed, stressful emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, guilt or shame will surface. As you hold the event in mind and tap on the meridian points you again send signals of calm and peace to the limbic system. As you keep holding the focus and tapping, the limbic system eventually gets the message that this event is no longer happening. It actually recategorizes the event and moves it out of the active trauma storage compartment into a more neutral compartment. When this happens, clients generally report that the event that had seemed so charged just moments before, now feels like a story that happened. The emotional intensity becomes much less.
You can imagine how much easier it is to forgive someone or something when the emotional intensity is reduced so dramatically. The limbic system feels safer and can let down its guard. Then the more advanced neocortex can resume its role and realize that forgiving is a good thing, a healthy thing, and the ONLY way to FULLY move on.
If you would like to experience Tapping for yourself and be guided and coached in a small group, please send me a message and I will put you on the list for the next low-cost group workshop. If you would like individual attention right away, please schedule a FREE Heart Restoration Call and we will discuss how Tapping and other mind-body techniques can benefit you and your situation.
Click here to schedule a call or inquire about the next class.
[i] Hui, K.K., et al. (2000), ‘Acupuncture modulates the limbic system and subcortical gray structures of the human brain: evidence from fMRI studies in normal subjects,’ Human Brain Mapping, Vol. 9, no.1, pp. 13-25; Fang, I. et al. (2009), ‘The salient characteristics of the central effects of acupuncture needling: limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network modulation’, Human Brain Mapping, Vol. 30, no 4, pp. 1, 196-206.
[ii] Church, D., Yount, G. & Brooks, A. (2012). ‘The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Control Trial.’ Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, pp. 189-896.