Circumstances of all kinds cause reactions in people and decisions about how to react to them is what shapes people. A lot of self-help literature today promotes the emotional and physical benefits of forgiveness. Most world religions too include teachings and guidance for the practice of forgiveness. It's the hurtful circumstances we face that cause us to grapple with the notion of forgiveness, perhaps reacting one way at first and then making a decision later to forgive or not to forgive someone, something, or ourselves.
Why is it important to understand the bodymind relationship and how does it affect one’s choice to act with forgiveness? Forgiveness is both a thoughtful choice and a deliberate action based on our emotions and feelings. It is our thoughts and feelings that drive our actions and outcomes. Forgiveness is a decisive act of relinquishing negative emotions that left unfettered can become internalized affecting one's health and wellness, here's how:
Understanding The Bodymind Relationship
Being hurt by something or betrayed by someone, whether physically or emotionally, causes feelings to occur in the Bodymind--The term is an approach to understanding the relationship between the human body and the mind. Research in the field of neuroscience illustrates the interplay between the body's physical and psycho-emotional structures:
Emotions are the body’s physical response to external stimuli.
- Emotions prompt thoughts and reactions. It is our emotions that cause physical states--conditions and symptoms in the body.
- Here are examples of seven basic emotions: Fear (danger lurks); Sadness (impending loss); Anger (urgent pleas for justice and action); Joy (impending gain); Surprise (unexpected event); Disgust (contamination, toxic contact); Contempt (substandard behavior or being).
- Feelings reside in the mind as the brain reacts to interpret emotions, physical conditions (pain), and other symptoms of our body. Feelings are triggered by our thoughts and memories causing mental states (experiences and symptoms in the mind). The brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body as It controls and coordinates our emotions, reactions, thoughts and memories--all of which give us our feelings.
Emotions and Feelings > Feelings and Emotions
When asked what is the difference between the mind and the brain? William B. Salt II., MD gives this response at sharecare.com: "Brain and mind are not the same. Your brain is part of the visible, tangible world of the body. Your mind is part of the invisible, transcendent world of thought, feeling, attitude, belief and imagination. The brain is the physical organ most associated with mind and consciousness, but the mind is not confined to the brain. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells. Your mind has tremendous power over all bodily systems."
The body and mind work together continually to produce symptoms in our beings which include physical, mental, and spiritual states. For this reason, we are souls that don't have one without the other--emotions (physical) and feelings (mental). We feel our emotions--natural instinctive states of mind deriving from one's circumstances. Feeling is having awareness through sensitivity and touch, but also through perception and discernment of our emotions. This plays an integral part in our physical and mental states at all times.
Let’s now consider The Principle of Causation.
Our health and welfare are results of this interplay in the Bodymind which is continually effected by the cause and effect world we live in. The Principle of Causation states: Everything that happens has a cause. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And, this principle definitely comes into play within the Bodymind. Consequences are results of causation. Consequences materialize from our reactions that precede our actions. Based on this universal principle of causation, it is plausible to recognize that emotions do cause feelings and many of our feelings are reactions to our emotions. Our actions in turn, along with their effects on our Bodyminds, are continually based on the interplay between these two physical and psycho-emotional structures that influence the overall health.
Let's now consider The Act of Forgiving.
- When you consider that forgiving is an action (action meaning: the fact or process of doing something typically to achieve an aim), then like all other actions we take, the purpose and aim of why we choose to forgive will possess its own consequences. Every action, has an equal and opposite reaction.
- The equal reaction of forgiving (forgiveness) can cause healing inside our bodily systems. And, the opposite reaction of not forgiving (unforgiveness) can cause harm inside our bodily systems. Forgiveness is every bit an action taken solely by choice that can relinquish negative emotions risen within one’s self, that left unfettered will cause harm to the body’s cells and therefore an individual’s physical and mental health.
Relinquishing negative emotions through the personal action of forgiveness serves to retain one's equilibrium (balance) within their own bodymind. Negative emotions can be described as any feeling which causes a person to be miserable and sad—e.g. anger, frustration, guilt, nervousness, fear, etc. When we live with our negative emotions and refuse to release them: "What you live with you learn, what you learn you practice, what you practice you become, what you become has consequences."
In other words, the action of forgiveness is something we do for our own physical wellness and peace of mind more so than for someone else--although we can do it for someone else's benefit too. However, giving someone your forgiveness may or may not help them--e.g. It wouldn't help them at all if they're not sorry for hurting you in some way. So, to me, the act of forgiving is first and foremost a form of self-care and it's healthy!
The graphic below illustrates the integral interplay between the body and mind and how this principle of cause and effect ties our emotions and feelings together—there is not one without the other:Brain and mind are not the same. Your brain is part of the visible, tangible world of the body. Your mind is part of the invisible, transcendent world of thought, feeling, attitude, belief and imagination. The brain is the physical organ most associated with mind and consciousness, but the mind is not confined to the brain. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells. Your mind has tremendous power over all bodily systems.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. -Louis B. Smedes
Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives.
True forgiveness is not an action after the fact it is an attitude with which you enter each moment.
To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it. -Confucius
One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. -Rita Mae Brown
It's not your circumstances that shape you, it's how you react to your circumstances. -Ann Ortlund
It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. -Maya Angelou
Forgiving doesn't mean you excuse or accept the bad behavior of someone else towards you, or the circumstances behind something that's hurt you--although it's your prerogative if you do choose to excuse it. Forgiving is a self-care action you can choose in order to relinquish harmful negative emotions that can lead to negative reactions and feelings in your body. If allowed to persist or become subconscious memories not dealt with, these negative emotions often develop into illness or disease that follows.
Forgiveness is a natural tool you can use for your own health and wellness whenever you wish, it always lies within your sole power and control. Nobody can take the right to use this tool away from you. -Judith Garner
By Judith Garner, Certified Health Coach
Helping people stay healthy inside & out!