The loss may be an option we wanted to preserve, a dream we once had, a vision for a life that didn’t play out as we expected. It could be an expectation, a sense of control or agency. Or it could be material: the physical things we need to give up to move forward.
No matter what the situation, there is a loss. We often don’t consider the loss because loss is painful and we are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
May it be beautiful behind me. — Navajo saying
To move forward in life, we must clear the path from the past. Clearing the path from the past clears the way for the future.
Acknowledging the loss is the first step to releasing the negative energy that traps us. Once we acknowledge the loss, we can move on to the next two steps: feeling the emotions and forgiveness.
Feel the Emotions
The reason our culture avoids topics of death and destruction is because we are uncomfortable with the “negative” emotions that ensue from loss. But suppressing the undesired feelings keeps us stuck.
Part of creating space for your best work is to clear the emotional and energetic space for what you want to produce.
You can only heal what you are willing to feel.
To move forward unencumbdred by the negative energy, we must feel what is there.
We may instinctively blame others. People who didn’t listen to us or teach us properly. People who got in our way or forced us to do something a certain way. We may blame circumstances: the market, the lack of resources, ineffective support.
Ultimately, we will turn the emotions toward ourselves. Self-judgment, self-blame, self-aversion. Eventually we land at the door of shame.
“Kondo” Your Emotions
Whatever we feel, it’s important to feel it in its entirety.
Name what’s there. Write it down. Speak it out loud.
Put everything on the table. Everything you wish you had done. Every mistake. Every judgment you hold about yourself. This is the Kondo’ing of your emotions: you’ve got to put it all in the middle of the room so you can see it.
Allow the voice inside you that feels the pain to be heard.
The problem with the blame game is that when we blame others, we reinforce a victim mindset in ourselves. When we blame ourselves, we feel incompetent. Either way, we lose.
Judgments separate us from compassion and understanding of ourselves and others.
To clear the path, we must forgive.
What is Forgiveness?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes that
Forgiveness is the pause between anger and vengance, between action and reaction.
Our culture teaches us that forgiveness is the response to an apology:
Someone apologizes, and we forgive them.
We apologize, and ask for forgiveness.
This is a very transactional way to approach forgiveness.
Here is a different way to think about forgiveness:
Forgiveness is simply the act of releasing the anger, resentment, blame and other negative emotions.
Forgiveness has no prerequisites. It does not require an apology or amends, repentance or restitution.
Forgiveness does not require an announcement or notice to anyone.
Forgiveness is a one-player activity. And that player is you.
You get to choose to release the negative emotions and the judgments that go with them.
Where blame victimizes or disempowers, forgiveness empowers. Forgiveness clears the path behind you and frees you to move forward.
If you want to truly clear the path, forgiveness is essential.
It starts with forgiving yourself.