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Midlife Reinvention – The Forgiveness Factor

February '13

In these middle years, as you ponder how to manifest a more rewarding future, have you found yourself examining your past? Sorting through your life in this way enables you to make decisions about what you want to keep and what you want to throw away going forward. Whenever I hear a client describe time spent clearing out files or closets, I silently applaud, because I know she’s beginning to create space to bring in something new.

In addition to throwing out items that no longer serve you in the world around you, you can also extricate negative feelings and personal regrets from your inner world. Who wants to bring that unwanted baggage into your new life? Forgiveness is a great way to clear out inner space, so something new can emerge. I was recently reminded of this opportunity when I listened to a public radio show where Professor Frederic Luskin was speaking about forgiveness, which has been the subject of his lifelong research.

One way he recommends for letting go of resentments and hurts that pile up over time is to change your narrative. He suggests that you tell yourself a different story by shifting your role from victim to hero. While I have not yet read his book on the topic, I can see how reacting to a past hurt as the hero of your story instead of its victim would require a different perspective and shift your usual emotional response. I suspect Luskin’s technique may work by interrupting the neural triggers that pondering certain incidents can evoke.

Professor Luskin also noted that forgiveness does not mean denying your hurt, or condoning inexcusable behavior, or reconciling with the offender, or giving up your feelings. If you would like to learn more about his work on forgiveness, you can check out his book, Forgive for Good.

Meanwhile, why not clear out some space in your inner world by moving into the hero’s role instead of the victim’s, if any feelings of resentment or hurt arise in the week ahead? Remember, this does not mean giving up your feelings, or any of the other options Luskin listed.

If you decide experiment with this approach, I’d love to hear about your experience with it. Perhaps this technique will even empower you to follow Nora Ephron’s advice to, “Above all, be a heroine of your own life, not the victim!”

Only 22 days until Spring!

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  1. Roberta Taylor said on February 27, 2013:

    Bonnie – this is a wonderful way to unburden yourself. It is much easier to forgive if you stop being a victim. I LOVE the idea of making yourself a heroine in the picture.

    I recently had a situation in which I decided to be the heroine instead of the victim and it worked like a charm. Only I didn’t think of myself as a heroine at the time. I just wanted to get the person off my back.

    Thanks for a new, wonderful way to forgive others.

    You didn’t talk about forgiving yourself. Perhaps you can talk about that next month.

    Love, Roberta

  2. Bonnie said on February 27, 2013:

    Hi Roberta!
    Sounds like you had a great experience with a satisfying outcome of getting that person off your back!

    With regard to the topic of forgiving yourself, you must be a mind reader! I just started writing a book, tentatively called, “Midlife Magic: Seven Days of Self Care,” which definitely includes self-forgiveness. If I don’t write about this topic in next month’s newsletter, I will in the future.

    Thanks so much for sharing,

  3. Helga said on February 27, 2013:

    Hello Roberta:

    I loved your article. Being a beyond midlife coach, and 80 years old, I am very much aware of this forgiveness or not business. It is amazing how much easier all this becomes with age. This is the wonderful process after mid-life – more of Self-discovery.

    Thank you for writing. Helga

  4. Bonnie said on February 27, 2013:

    Hi Helga!

    Wisdom really does accumulate with age as your comment so nicely demonstrates!

    Thanks for sharing,

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