How to forgive someone and let go of anger

Betrayal is part of life, but Dr Frederic Luskin is helping us learn to forgive and move on in this Braincare episode.

After years of personal struggle with an unforgiving heart, Dr Frederic Luskin knew something had to change. Today, he serves as the Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, and author of several books on forgiveness. He speaks nationally on the importance of emotional intelligence and the need to manage pressure.

On this Braincare podcast episode, he shared his insight on forgiving ourselves, others, and how moving on can improve your life.

The benefits of forgiveness

Easier said than done, forgiveness has been shown to benefit both mental and physical health; reducing anger, tension and worries, leading to greater feelings of optimism, compassion, and self-confidence.

If you don't forgive those who have wronged you, you’ll continue living in the past and be stuck in a reality that’s internal, but no longer relevant externally. The inability to forgive creates suffering, dysregulation, and tortures relationships.

Without forgiveness there is no future.

Defining forgiveness

Technically, forgiveness is defined as taking offense less personally. You're supposed to depersonalise it and take responsibility for your attitude regarding the given offense by calming down, overcoming resentment, and changing the narrative.

However, according to Dr Frederic Luskin forgiveness means making peace with the word 'no'.

You may be upset because something in life didn’t work out the way you thought it would. You may not be able to forgive that reality is different from the picture you had in your head of where you should be in life. You want one thing, but you got another. Instead of resenting yourself, make peace with 'no'.

Struggling with self-forgiveness?

Self-forgiveness is a big issue. Some people tend to be harder on themselves than they might be towards others. This means taking more responsibility in a relationship, taking the blame for things that go wrong, and having a hard time being your own friend.

Taking accountability for your mistakes is at the core of self-forgiveness– own up to your wrongdoings. Individuals are often too forgiving of their own bad behavior. This means not taking responsibility for your actions, blaming others for things that go wrong, and giving yourself passes for unacceptable behaviour while too often holding other people accountable for what they do.

3 things you need to do before forgiving yourself

  1. Apologize where you can

  2. Make amends where you can

  3. Do what you can to avoid repeating the behavior

Stop telling the grieving story, and start telling a healing story.

Biggest concerns around forgiveness

Don't forgive right away– you need to go through the motions and acknowledge the hurt first. In order to move on, you need to have something to let go of. The crucial steps of sitting with your suffering, grieving, and contemplating revenge are needed to process and grow from it.

Dr Fred's tips for you

  1. Look in the mirror and remind yourself that you’re as imperfect as everybody else is.

  2. As you go through life, you’re going to do things that hurt other people in the same way that other people are going to do things that hurt you. Therefore, you have to be willing to absolve people of their wrongdoings and absolve yourself of your own imperfections.

  3. Give yourself and everyone around you some slack. Figuring out how to be a human being is difficult, and the roadmaps are imperfect.

Podcast episode takeaways

In this first episode with Dr Frederic Luskin we will cover:

  • The effect of forgiveness on your body and brain

  • How to forgive yourself

  • How to forgive others

  • Tips to stop living in the past and focus on living in the present

Listen to the full episode here —and subscribe to The Braincare Podcast to get more bitesize interviews with the world's leading scientists and experts.

Want to explore the benefits of compassion? Check out our previous episode with Dr James Doty on The Science of Compassion and Brain Health.


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