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A Self-Forgiveness Process

Blog: Articles, Tips and Tools for Conflict Resolution and Couples Communication

Articles, inspirations and explorations to support personal growth, healing, and conflict transformation in relationships. 

A Self-Forgiveness Process

Stuart Watson

Even if we are a minor instigator of a disconnect or strife in a relationship, there is often some part of the interactions for which we have regrets.  The decision and intention to forgive ourselves is potent by itself, but how do we actually do it?  In lieu of self-blame/judgment and feeling guilt or shame for some “mistake”, we can cultivate self-forgiveness with the following process:

1. Grieving – What needs of yours were not met by the choices you made or the impacts of those choices? Instead of feeling at fault or bad about yourself, tune into and invest some time to feel your sadness, regret and grief about those needs not being met.  If helpful, consult a list of needs/values.  Deepen your experience by humming, moving around or drawing/coloring how it feels.

2. Empathizing with the “Chooser” – Develop compassion for the part of you that chose to say or do what you did. What needs were motivating you at the time? Freedom? Emotiional Safety?  Clarity?  Relief of Anxiety?  For each of your motivating needs/values, provide some acceptance to that well-intending part of yourself, which was trying to take care of yourself, and not aware of the consequences or couldn’t see another option at the time.

3. Learning for the Future – Bring to mind both the needs that were not met by our actions (#1) and the needs the “Chooser” was trying to meet (#2), allowing them to coincide in your awareness and naturally collaborate with each other. How might you have responded differently, which may have fulfilled both these sets of needs? What will help you remember this when you are facing a similar situation in the future?

Consider if there is something about this you'd like to communicate with the other person. I've found that whether or not we do, processing and clearing our own regrets and forgiving ourselves for our part creates space for the other person to begin taking accountability and ownership of their own contributions to the relationship difficulty.

*This process was adapted from the teachings of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg and Nonviolent Communication.