I want to share with you something I have really been thinking a lot about today. Many people don’t have a good understanding of how much our emotional state can damage our mental and physical health. They don’t connect the health problems they have today with the time when someone in their past caused them emotional pain. There is a lot in the literature about how the mind affects the body, but instead of quoting from studies today I want to tell you about my personal experiences and how I was able to heal from them.
Many years ago, as a new nursing graduate , I started work at a small hospital where I was placed on a team with four other people. The senior nurse on the team took a dislike to me from the moment I met her. I never could figure out why. Maybe I carried a bit of a know-it-all attitude with me since I had trained at large hospitals and this was a very, very small hospital. Maybe it’s because I was a happy sort of person, and she seemed to be a miserable sort of person. Whatever it was, she gave me an awful time. Everything I did was wrong, and she made sure all the others on the team knew it. She would smirk, and roll her eyes and make sarcastic remarks about every action I took.
Well, the more she found fault with me, the more nervous I became. The more nervous I got, the more mistakes I made. The more mistakes I made…well, you get the picture. Soon it got to a point where I doubted myself and started doing everything very slowly and carefully, checking and double checking each task. Then I was too slow and got into trouble about that.
Every shift I would hope she would call in sick. Unfortunately, she had extraordinary good health and always reported in on time. My anxiety increased daily. I had trouble sleeping at night. I wasn’t eating properly. My self-esteem plummeted and I became depressed.
I didn’t know how to tell her to stop bullying me and I didn’t want to “tattle” to management. Finally there was a rotation change, and I was moved off of her team. When that change happened my confidence grew and so did my skill level. I stopped feeling so anxious and enjoyed my work more.
When I reached a point where I was able to forgive that nurse, my anxiety went away. I still don’t understand why she treated me the way she did, but I can think about it with much less pain now. I stopped giving her the power to hurt me.
Fast forward a few decades to my separation and divorce. We had been married for twelve years, and like most people who go through the ending of a marriage, I felt angry and betrayed. (You know when a relationship ends it is always the other person’s fault, right?) I totally blamed him for the situation we had ended up in.
I developed jaw pain soon after we split, a jaw pain that wouldn’t clear up. I saw a dentist and a dental specialist. Tests were done, medical recommendations were made.
One day I made the decision to forgive my husband. I didn’t really want too, since continuing to nurse the grievances I had against him made me feel like I had “won” some sort of battle. By forgiving him I thought it would trivialize the pain I felt, somehow excuse his actions. I still went ahead and forgave him. Guess what? My feelings about him and our situation didn’t go away. Our fractured relationship didn’t miraculously knit itself back together. Nothing really changed between us.
But something did change within me. My jaw pain disappeared and never come back.
These two episodes really brought home to me how much emotional health is tied to physical health. When I feel hurt by someone and I replay that hurt over and over in my mind, when I don’t want to forgive them, the pain and hurt is really inflicted on me. When I can forgive that person, it doesn’t suddenly make everything “right”, it doesn’t usually change the situation, but the hold they have on my emotions is loosened, I can start to heal and I can move forward in my life.
So, I am speaking from these experiences when I ask to check your own emotional temperature . Is there anyone in your life that has hurt you at some point in the past, and you are still hanging on to that experience? If you want to release the hold you are giving them over your mental or physical health, forgive them.
Forgiveness will release that hold on you. It will not remove the feelings you still have for them, or take away the memories, or diminish the harm they have done you. It may not change your relationship with them. What it will do is free you to start to heal the mental or physical illness you have developed as a result of that hurt. Remember, forgiveness is a conscious act, something you decide to do, not a “feeling”. It is something you can decide to do, regardless of how you feel toward that person. Check your emotional temperature today. If you are registering “hot”, the remedy is forgiveness.