I have had a very interesting year...to say the least. Thankfully, I managed to stay afloat throughout my crazy year. I was privileged enough to witness and experience some very “bad” human behavior. It may seem odd to hear someone say they were privileged to encounter bad behavior; but I’m odd, so it really can’t seem too odd coming from me!
There is a lot we can learn from observing the bad behavior of others; and there’s even more we can learn when people treat us badly. Learning is the most important part of being human; and that’s why it’s a privilege to witness and experience bad behavior: we learn a lot.
Although I witnessed a great deal of bad behavior over this last year, I didn’t suffer too badly. Hardly at all, considering. I didn’t suffer too badly because I’ve become more detached as I’ve moved along this thing called life; but also because I’m mastering something. I’m not mastering this something because I'm a master, I’m not that special. I’ve just had plenty of challenges, and chose to take them on as they came. The biggest difference you can make in your life is by choosing to face challenges.
This something I am mastering isn’t one of my main life lessons this "go around". That’s probably why it’s been a bit easier for me to face than it is for others. Because it’s not a specific challenge I set up for myself in this life, it doesn't trigger me the way it may trigger others. Vulnerability is one of my life lessons; and I can, and likely will, write all about how hard that was for me. It was like having teeth pulled while riding a bicycle through fire hoops; but I digress....
I've had an opportunity to master this something because of all the "bad" behavior I have witnessed. I've had so much practice. I was BLESSED with SO MUCH PRACTICE. Some of that practice was the karmic result of me being a doormat, some from just witnessing "bad" behavior, and some from being wronged. Can anyone guess what lesson I am mastering?
Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is often harder to go through than the actual act we are trying to forgive. Regardless of how spiritual, grounded, or rational one may be- it seems nearly impossible to maintain a benevolent attitude when someone hurts us. Have you noticed that? That one moment we can be skipping down the road, throwing glitter over our heads, smiling, singing, “Everything is Beautiful” until someone reaches out to trip us. Our narrative changes pretty rapidly, doesn’t it!?
“How dare they trip me?! What type of person DOES that? What kind of world do we live in?!”
Adrenaline, what are you going to do?
Any time a human being’s brain believes it is in danger, it releases adrenaline. It’s a neurochemical magic trick we have up our sleeves that helps us escape bears, and protect ourselves from harm if we need too. Here’s the problem with that: there’s not a lot of bears around anymore, nor is our westernized species in actual real danger on a regular basis anymore. Do you agree? Our brain hasn’t really evolved past the “being chased by bears” days, and it doses us with adrenaline in situations we don’t really need it. But wait, it gets better…
"In a scientific paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience, QBI's Dr Louise Faber and her colleagues have demonstrated how noradrenaline, the brain's equivalent of adrenaline, affects the amygdala by controlling chemical and electrical pathways in the brain responsible for memory formation.
“This is a new way of understanding how neurons form long term memories in the amygdala,” Dr Faber said.
“Our strongest and most vivid human memories are usually associated with strong emotional events such as those associated with extreme fear, love and rage.” (Read full article here)
An adrenaline dump in your brain immediately starts storing the information you are receiving as memory. This is also a neurochemical magic trick; and it’s mostly great! For instance, if you try to cross the road without looking both ways, and you almost get hit by a car, you’re going to remember that. Not only are you going to remember, that memory will be powerfully SEARED into your brain. Great! You learned to not walk in front of a car. Fabulous.
How this magic trick works against us is that this magic trick happens in non-dangerous situations, makes us believe we are in danger, AND makes us remember non-dangerous things forever as dangerous!
If someone makes fun of you, really gets your goat, you’re likely going to get an adrenaline dump. Now you believe the person who teased you is dangerous. Your reptilian brain says, "This person is dangerous, avoid this person forever, fear this person." At no point does your brain say, "Oh, hey, Johnny was probably having a bad day, you should forgive him." The brain doesn’t work like that. Once again, the brain doesn’t work like that. Realistically, maybe it can’t for our own safety, just in case bears become an issue again.
Of course, there are also people who hurt people who are dangerous. Perhaps there is someone who hurt you (or someone you love) so profoundly they destroyed a life. I do not take that lightly; and I do not want anyone to think I am diminishing incidents of true danger with regards to forgiveness, because I am not. As a cumulative whole, we get lucky in that most of our trangressors aren't murderers, rapists, abusers, etc.; but not everyone has gotten lucky. For those of you who have been affected in this way, you have my empathy; and there is a light at the tunnel for you too. The science behind adrenaline and adrenaline memory storage is vital in treating trauma and PTSD.
I wanted to offer you an actual physical reason why forgiveness is so hard. Forgiveness is hard because our brain is still stuck in the dark ages. Any time someone hurts us, scares us, or pisses us off, a neurochemical chain reaction occurs within our brain which flags that person as a threat. As a bear. That flag becomes a fixture in our brain, a memory. To forgive someone who hurt you, is quite literally choosing to be in direct opposition to your brain. Not easy! The brain, the CNS, controls our body….ummmm, kind of hard to oppose that right?
Guess what? We all own something that controls the brain. The brain controls our body, our psychology, our emotions… so what do we have that can control the brain? We all have one. We got it for free! Anyone wanna take a guess?
The mind. You can control your brain with your mind. Do we usually do that? No, we almost always do that. Yes, you read that correctly, we are almost always controlling our brain with our mind. Sure the brain has some autonomic functions we don’t have to worry about, very handy; but we still use our minds to control our brain often...unconsciously. We have to take a big step into consciousness, take control of our mind, and tell our mind to say, "Hey brain, there’s no bears, you need to chill out. We need to let go of this fear, because it's killing us."
There’s a lot of fluffy, flowery, inspirational messages about forgiveness out there.
Forgiveness is for you, not them!
Forgiveness will lighten your burden!
Forgive from the heart!
Most of the fluffy stuff is true. Forgiveness does more for the victim than the villain; and forgiveness will release burdens: fear, anger, distrust, anxiety, depression…. However, please do not try to forgive someone from the heart. You’re likely going to fail. Perhaps "forgive from the heart" is why so many of us are failing at forgiveness! The perspective that forgiveness is a heart centered act is a bit flawed.
Forgiveness is mind control. All the painful memories you have are not in your heart. They are seared into your brain as a result of a biological function which is present to help us survive….bears. The reason you can’t forgive your transgressors is because your brain doesn’t want you to! Your brain wants you to survive, and your brain has deemed those transgressors as a threat to your survival.
However, the brain is black and white, and we live in a very colorful world. That’s why we have evolved to having this wonderful thing called “a mind”, so we can evolve to control it. Mind control is human evolution. Forgiveness is evolutionary.
I won’t encourage you to forgive people because it will lighten your burden, or make you feel better; but I will encourage you to forgive people for your own personal spiritual evolution. That’s what we’re here for, right? To evolve. To learn, have experiences, and evolve towards perfection. Sluuuuuurp, to merge with the universe. Yes, learning to control your mind makes you feel better, gives you a better sense of direction, and allows you to attract what you want in life. Yes. That’s great. Yes, learning and practicing forgiveness will help release your negative emotions, and it will clear your vibration of some disharmony. Yes. That’s great. But more importantly, learning to control your mind and practicing forgiveness will help you evolve! This is why we are here.
I apologize for not writing a fluffy, Hallmark style blog about forgiveness; but let’s be honest, we’ve all had our fill on fluffy, Hallmark forgiveness stuff. Perhaps it was time to switch off to the science stuff to help us understand why it's so difficult to forgive. Maybe this time around, science stuff can be the superhero; and fluffy, Hallmark stuff can take the back seat.
Ps. I have nothing against bears. They are majestic, beautiful creatures; and I adore them.