Doctor Neha: Hi and welcome. Today we have a special guest, Christin. Christin, you’re an RN, right?
Christin: No, I’m not. I work in administration. I am the regional director for difference, diversity and inclusion.
Doctor Neha: Diversity, inclusion…okay. Well, all of you who are doing this class Self-care in Health Care, I put everybody from all disciplines together. I find you incredibly compassionate and connected. And so my natural assumption was that you were an RN. So thank you for that.
Christin is a brave soul willing to ask her communication questions so that all of you can learn. First, I want to say, welcome, and then I want to know what you are thinking about. What’s on your mind?
Christin: Let’s just dive in—it’s been great to work with you. So my first question that we can talk about today is how do you forgive when you’re just not ready to, when something is holding you back? And it’s not necessarily on the other person’s part of accountability, but you just feel like, I’m not quite ready to make that move yet.
Doctor Neha: Well, forgiveness is actually not for the other person. It’s actually for you. The two ways that people get confused is 1) they think if they forgive someone who’s passed on, then they won’t be able to stay connected to that person or 2) if the person is still here, it’s about actually letting go of the connection to the person. Even though there’s something that has hurt us, there have also been good times and some amazing experiences, so sometimes through not letting go and still holding onto our anger, we can stay connected to that person on a daily or hourly basis. So one of the first things I would ask you is, are you ready to really let go of this person or is there some part of the memory with this person that you want to hold onto still?
Christin: I think you may have hit the bull’s eye. I agree with you that the memories are what floods my mind and come to remembrance. But at the same time, I am willing to let go of the friendship because I feel as though I wasn’t always able to be my 100% authentic self in the relationship. So for those reasons, I am okay with letting go or being willing to redefine the relationship.
Doctor Neha: So what you’ve done is you’ve outgrown this relationship in the current format—is it romantic or friendship?
Doctor Neha: Uh huh. When you invest in your own growth and learning, sometimes you find out that you’ve outgrown a friendship in the way that it currently exists. And it’s really painful because there was so much about that friendship that you learned and you grew—so it feels painful to let it go. Now the forgiveness means that there’s also been some hurt in the relationship, maybe betrayal, maybe misunderstandings that are unresolved. Before you can forgive someone, you really want to get clear about what needs to happen. Like if you haven’t had a conversation—the one that where you say what you mean instead of acting like everything’s okay. Have you had the conversations with this person that you need to have to clean up and let them know the impact on you?
Christin: No. It wasn’t necessarily painful on that part because I have accountability in it as well. But, no, I have not had that clear-the-air conversation.
Doctor Neha: So your body, your mind and your heart are not going to let go of something that’s incomplete. One thing is that your body is smart. Your body never lies. And it when you have these experiences where you want to do something but your stomach is in knots and your heart chest feels tight, it’s because your body is trying to communicate something to you. As we’re talking about this, are there any physical sensations happening in your body?
Christin: Oh yes. There’s tightening in my shoulders. I can feel knotting up in my stomach. All of the above. Everything that you mentioned. I’m constantly breathing through my release, even now, thinking about that conversation because it’s been easier in the past to just walk away.
Doctor Neha: Okay. There are a few ways to resolve conflict. It depends on what your goal is. If you want to avoid conflict, you walk away. And instead of resolving the conflict—let’s say it’s between me and you—between me and you, which is where it lives, you are walking away without saying anything to me. So you are swallowing it and now the conflict is within you, not between us. So it didn’t get resolved; it just changed where the conflict was located. Does that make sense?
Christin: It makes absolute sense, but it also sounds like it’s a heavier burden when it shifts to being all on me.
Doctor Neha: Yes, and the other thing is you’ll start to feel resentful. You’ll start to feel upset and you’ll think it’s about the other person, but it’s really a feeling about yourself for not speaking up, for not having the courage and confidence to be able to articulate what you’re feeling. Another way that people try to get around conflict is to say, “Can I just forgive someone? Tell me how to forgive him, and I’ll just forgive him.” But that’s called spiritual bypass—you just want to make harmony, but you don’t actually want to have the real conversation and solve the problem. You just want it to go away. For those people, when they’re forgiving, they have to forgive again and again and again—which sometimes we all have to do to work through different deeper layers that arise—but the truth is that if you don’t first resolve what the tight shoulders and what the knotted stomach are trying to tell you, then you can’t go to forgiveness because you’re not done.
The first step to forgiving someone is: are you ready to give up all hope of a better past? Think about that question for a moment because a lot of times people are really wishing for a different past: “I should’ve said that. I wish she would’ve done that. I wish he could’ve been like that…if only he didn’t drink…and if only that didn’t happen.” They’re trying to rewrite the past—and you can’t. You’re not ready to forgive someone or a situation or yourself when you keep trying to rewrite history. And when your body is talking to you, it means something is unresolved.
So your job, instead of wanting these tight shoulders to go away or getting another latte in hopes of calming down, let’s just do something a little different. Are you willing to do something a little different?
Christin: Let’s do it.
Doctor Neha: All right. Close your eyes and allow yourself to breathe in and out and just feel your shoulders. We’re going to call them TS. Instead of resisting it or trying to make it go away, tune into that area of your body. And as you breathe in fresh oxygen, let your oxygen move toward your shoulders like it’s helping them kind of relax and dissolve the tension. And as you partner with this part of your body and the message coming from your body, allow it to give you the message that it needs to give you. So it’d be like having a little dialogue with this part of your body, like you would a child or a colleague with whom you had some conflict. Instead of trying to make it go away, you’re curious about it. So imagine yourself sitting in a really comfortable space. And imagine tight shoulders across from you. “Hi.” TS is sitting in a comfortable space in a chair across from you. What do you want to know about this experience of forgiveness with your friend?
Doctor Neha: What do you want to know from this message coming from your body? Pay attention to the signal in your body. Ask it why it’s here. Ask what it’s come to teach you. What do you need to learn? Whatever comes to you…
Christin: Would you want me to answer you now?
Doctor Neha: Sure.
Christin: The question to my tight shoulders is, “Are you here out of fear or anger or pain?”
Doctor Neha: Close your eyes and let it answer you. The answer will come to you. What are you coming from Tight Shoulders? From fear, from pain, from anger, from love—what are you coming from?
Doctor Neha: What rings most true to you?
Doctor Neha: Ohhh, misunderstanding. What else do you want to ask Tight Shoulders?
Christin: How can I release you?
Doctor Neha: How can I release you? Does anything come to you on that?
Christin: Let go.
Doctor Neha: Let go. And what is it that I’m holding on to Tight Shoulders?
Christin: What you thought you had
Doctor Neha: And what did you think I had?
Christin: Unconditional love.
Doctor Neha: Hmm. You thought you had that from someone outside of yourself. So where am I going to find that Tight Shoulders?
Christin: The only thing I can hear is “in you.”
Doctor Neha: Well, that’s a pretty incredible place, Tight Shoulders, to find it. You feel yourself a little tearful? I can feel the energy of your emotion. The most important thing about forgiveness, Christin, is that when our bodies speak to us, we first listen to the wisdom of our bodies instead of pushing it away. The tight shoulders that get tighter or getting a massage to get it out or a glass of wine or three—what if instead of trying to make it go away, you just breathe into it and then had a dialogue with the symptom? Your job is to also do that with your stomach and see what it gives you. Do you feel confident that you’ll be able to do that?
Christin: Oh yes. My shoulders feel better already. So what you came up with, I would’ve taken that line of questioning probably to the point of the second question of how do you release it? But you took it a step further. I appreciate that.
Doctor Neha: Yes because when you said you want to release it, the next question is “What am I holding on to?” Because what is “it”? If you knew what “it” was, you would have let go of it. Right?
Doctor Neha: So trust yourself, trust your body and trust the answers that you get because the wisdom is inside you. And if you can’t forgive someone, it’s not because you’re not able to; it’s because it’s not time yet. You haven’t gotten all the lessons you needed to get yet. Once you get those, it becomes easy to let something go.
Doctor Neha: For any of you out there who know that there’s something you’ve been wanting to let go of and you just haven’t figured out how to do it, start by tuning into your body, noticing the physical signals that come to you as you breathe slowly and deeply to expand right where there was tightness. There’s usually contraction and tightness around something you’re holding on onto. So figuring out where that is in your body means you need to close your eyes and breathe in and out. Imagine that part of your body—I called it TS— and give it a little nickname and imagine it across from you. And then as you breathe, slowly and deeply, begin asking it questions, whatever you want to know—because it’s here to give you a message. And if you’re not getting the message, all you have to do is ask and then listen.
Thank you, Christin.
Christin: Thank you, Neha.
Awareness Prescription Dialogue with a Symptom
Close your eyes, and breathe slowly and deeply.
Focus your breath toward the area of your body where it feels tight, constricted or tense.
Give that area a nickname (such as TC for a tight chest or HH for a heavy heart).
Imagine your nick-named symptom sitting across from you in a big comfy chair and allow yourself to have an open dialogue with it.
Start with the question: “Why are you here?” and then allow the answer to come to you. Anything that arises is correct.
Then ask a follow-up question: “What do I need to learn?” Or “What will make you go away?” You can ask anything, until there are no more questions. You can do this in your mind, or you may want to write it on paper. Either way, allow your body’s wisdom to speak to you.