We often become our toughest critic to avoid repeating disappointing scenarios. While self-accountability is important in growing from challenging circumstances; if unchecked with self-forgiveness, it can create unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior.
Whether it is in your work, in your relationships, or maybe as a parent… The lack of self-forgiveness can compound creating an unhelpful thought cycle of self-directed anger. This can cause your mind to spin with sadness, regret, shame, and anger which can then lead to self-destructive behaviors and mental health issues. It’s important to remember that self-directed anger is not “a plan.” This cycle can cause us to feel stuck and prevent us from growth, happiness, and fulfilling relationships in life.
Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves when we can find the empathy to show forgiveness to others? Many of us don’t have loving, trusting relationships with ourselves. We are more critical of ourselves than we are of others. We’ll give others the benefit of the doubt; however, fail to direct this compassion within ourselves. Matt James, Ph.D. writes in his article How to Forgive Yourself, “When we’re dealing with a person we don’t trust or like, most often we can choose to forgive, release the hurt, and simply create boundaries with that person. With ourselves, this is not an option. We cannot quit, divorce, or walk away from ourselves”. This can often be one of the most triggering parts: The fact that we cannot get away from ourselves. So, what does self-forgiveness look like?
“Forgive and forget” is something that is often stated to avoid the difficult feelings that come with making a mistake (e.g., shame and guilt). However, this type of thinking exposes the risk of lacking accountability and repeating the same destructive behavior. It is important to find the balance between the two. Rather than forgetting… discovering self-acceptance. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), there is a framework called, “The Wise Mind.” In this framework, your mind has three states: The reasonable mind, the emotional mind, and the wise mind. Everyone possesses each of these states, but most people gravitate toward a specific one most of the time. A person uses their reasonable mind when they approach a situation intellectually and don’t consider feelings or emotion. The emotional mind is used when feelings control a person’s thoughts and behavior, and logic is not taken into consideration. It is problematic when we are polarized in either the emotional mind or the reasonable mind. The wise mind refers to a balance between the reasonable and emotional halves. The wise mind recognizes and respects feelings, while responding to them in a rational manner; it is the bridge between the two halves.
Self-acceptance is the balance between forgiveness and accountability. It takes into consideration both the emotions and facts, and then helps us to move forward with a plan that changes behavior. This balanced state of mind helps us to analyze an action or behavior, accept the thoughts and feelings attached, forgive, care for ourselves, and then move forward with a plan.
If you can relate to these concepts but are still struggling to find the right balance, I encourage you to reach out and schedule an appointment. Let’s work together to provide you support in creating this critical balance to your life.