Forgiveness is a huge part of recovery. The Big Book tells us that a life with resentment leads to futility and unhappiness. Step 5 is impossible without forgiveness, and the concept creeps back into Step 9 as well.
But the thing about forgiveness, says Teesie Vallero, is that all of your life—especially in recovery—you’re told to forgive yourself and others but no one tells you how. Vallero is a forgiveness counselor and workshop facilitator and serves as a reiki practitioner at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center at Hazelden.
“Forgiveness is an attitude, an experience, a tool and a miracle. Forgiveness is to cancel any expectation, condition or demand that I am attached to that prevents the natural expression of unconditional love between me and another person. You can imagine how many situations that simple definition encompasses,” she says.
Vallero suggests working on forgiving others before you start the work of forgiving yourself. “We are harder on ourselves than we are anyone else. Starting with others exercises the spiritual muscle and gets you into the space where you can begin forgiving yourself,” she says.
While forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight and is a process you may need to revisit often throughout your life, the good news is that there are steps you can follow. In her workshops and in her own life, Vallero works an eight-step process to forgive others.
- State your will tochange attitude to move on. Say I will forgive [blank] (could be a person, an institution or even God).
- Express your emotions about what happened.
Cancel the expectation(s) you are holding in your mind.
- Shift expectation to positive preference, for example: I would have preferred this person acted like this.
- Acknowledge reality.
- Re-state your will to move on.
- Release the expectation with words and inner letting go. In workshops, Vallero encourages people to envision this letting go like a melting icicle.
- Open up to the universe to get your needs met in a new way. Acknowledge that you have all you need, regardless of any conflict.
- Sort out boundaries, give others responsibility for their actions, take responsibility for yours. Visualize your aura filling your personal space.
- Receive healing energy and unconditional love from your higher power.
- Send unconditional love to the person or situation.
- Acknowledge the good.
During the next few days, pay attention to how you feel and notice if relationships change. “Many people find that even though the individual being forgiven is unaware of any of this, that person reaches out or experiences a shift,” Vallero says.
Once you start the work of learning to forgive, look inward and take these five steps to self-forgiveness.
- Start preparing yourself.Start speaking to your higher self, the part of you that is wisdom, compassion and unconditional love. Sit and picture your higher self above you, listening compassionately and waiting to grant the relief of self-forgiveness.
- Talk out your problem in detail with your higher self and ask for help. There isn’t anything you can say or do that is unforgiveable.
- Lift yourself to your higher self’s level of consciousness. Get up from the chair and get physically above your emotional level by seeing the good in yourself. Turn to face the personality in the chair from above as you continue to fully resonate with the qualities of your higher power.
- Forgive yourself from this higher level.When you feel you are in a higher state, look down and picture yourself receiving help. Extend your hands in blessing to the personality in the chair and imagine that there’s healing energy and light flowing from you. When you feel complete, say, “I release you from your shame” or “I forgive you completely.”
- Give thanks for the forgiveness. Come back to the chair slowly and integrate the higher self and the personality. Say a quiet prayer of thanks.
These tools, Vallero says, can support recovery for a lifetime. “Forgiveness is the ultimate preventative medicine as well as the greatest healer. I truly believe I celebrated 21 years of sobriety last August because I found these tools,” she says. “Forgiveness allows me to keep my heart free of resentments so I have space for joy and love and willingness. It’s a gift to be able to share this with other people.”
For more information, visit www.forgivenesstraining.com