Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I’m Dr. Doug Weiss and our eighth topic is going to be “Forgive Yourself.” This can be a life-changing topic. If you read this post and do what I ask you to do, you will actually feel different from this day forward. This is a post you will want to share.
So many people are stuck in unforgiveness towards themselves. So many people are keeping record of the things they’ve done wrong, holding the energy of regret that blocks them from being creative and powerful in the present.
I want you to be able to enjoy a life free from self-condemnation, self-hatred, and self-regret. All of us have made mistakes. I’m a psychologist. I’ve been counseling people in various formats in psych hospitals and private practice for over thirty years. I have heard some of the worst mistakes you could ever think of. They are all made by these precious beings, called humans. Human beings make human mistakes. Some are bigger than others.
Some are financial. You wish you had saved instead of spent. You wish you had invested in this. Those are usually minor. The bigger mistakes are in relationships: things you said, things you’ve done, people you’ve abandoned, people you said really unkind and ugly things to, people you’ve done some ugly things to. Maybe you’ve hurt some people’s lives. Maybe you’ve hurt their reputation. Maybe you lied about them. Maybe you lied in general and you feel bad about that.
There are all kinds of mistakes human beings make, and we’re going to even talk about some of the sexual mistakes you’ve made. Some of us are not proud of our sexual mistakes, or one-night stands, or abortions, or actually using somebody sexually while they were intoxicated, or damaging people sexually, exposing them to things they wouldn’t have been exposed to.
Maybe you made mistakes like these as a child, experimenting or doing stuff. Maybe you made mistakes as a teenager, thinking you had more sense and judgment than you did. Some of these mistakes are made as adults, even in marriage. Maybe you’ve done and said things to your spouse or ex-spouse. Maybe you’ve had an affair, you’ve acted out with others, or you have a secret life of pornography or social media no one knows about and you have a dark side you’re not proud of.
You’re a human being and you’ve made mistakes. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to pile them up? Are you going to remember them and commiserate about them, and use them as a reason why you don’t succeed, as a reason you don’t try? Are you going to keep the anxiety of someone finding out? That will definitely hurt you. If you made a bunch of mistakes you might want to read our post about shame. If you have shame, which is not, “I did something bad” but, “I am something bad,” definitely read that post, “Shed Your Shame Today.”
Today we’re going to take this in a different direction. We’re going to go into the place of forgiveness. In my office at Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, we do three to five day intensives and we see people’s lives dramatically change. I can tell you even in the last weeks, I’ve had several people do this exercise. This is a very normal thing to do because some of us are more jacked up about what we’ve done than what’s been done to us.
You’re going to have to take some time on this post. You’re going to have to do the exercise I’m going to give you because you are going to want to forgive yourself. You’re worthy of a second chance. You’re worthy of a third chance. You’re worthy of believing of yourself. You’re worthy of breaking these chains so you don’t have to keep suffocating from your memories of what you’ve done to keep you from what you can do.
I’ve had an amazing life. I’ve been on “Dr. Phil” and “Oprah.” We’ve had our own T.V. show. We’ve had a documentary made on us and a movie made about our practice. We’ve had some incredible adventures that would not have happened, I guarantee you, if I did not forgive myself early on in my recovery. Most of you know my story by now—a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, caffeine addict, sugar addict.
I have had many things I had to recover from. It’s been a journey, but I guarantee you, I would not have thought I was worthy of freedom, and sobriety, and healing, and recovery if I didn’t forgive myself, if I didn’t look at myself and say, “Doug, I forgive you. I know more than anybody what you’ve done. I was there when you did it. I was there and I know what you felt afterwards, that hurt, and that pain, that self regret, and that disgust with yourself. I was there when you promised you said you wouldn’t do it again, and you did it again and again.”
If you have addictions you might need to forgive yourself. You might have pain about that. I understand that, so today we want to get past the pain. We’re going to move into you forgiving yourself. Like in our last post about forgiving others, you’re going to need two chairs facing each other. You’re going to need a little time to do this exercise. Do it today. We call it “Love and Sex Today” because today is the day you have.
Your past, you can’t rearrange that. Your future, you can’t predict it, but today you can make a change in your life. You can improve your love life, your sex life, your relationships. We can help you, but today is the day you have to take another step. So, get your two chairs, face them to each other. You definitely want to be alone in this exercise because you may be saying some things you don’t want anybody else to hear. Make sure your cell phone is off in another room. Take precautions.
The first chair is going to be A, second chair is going to be B. If you read our post “Forgiving Others,” this is going to sound familiar but it’s going to have a different impact. It is different altogether because this only has to do with you. In the first chair, A, you’re going to be yourself. So if I was sitting in chair A, I would role-play being Doug. In chair B sitting right in front of me, is Imaginary Doug. So I’m sitting in chair A and I’m talking to Imaginary Doug. I’m talking to myself.
Now this may sound crazy to you as you read it, but I can tell you, no one who’s done this has regretted it. Anyone who said, “Well that sounds stupid. I’m not going to do it,” are probably still walking around with self-condemnation and unforgiveness towards themselves. People who actually do the work get the results, so if you want the results you’re going to have to do the work.
For example, I would be saying, “Doug, I need you to forgive me for …” and go through the list of the history of the things you have done that you need to forgive yourself for. Maybe you need you to forgive yourself for the years of looking at pornography, or cheating on this person, or lying about this, or stealing this when you were in tenth grade.
You want to be brutally honest. If there’s a name and you can remember it, say their name, “What I did to Sally.” Be specific in what you did and go through that list. It’s almost like if you were Catholic going through confession. Just go through the list. This may take you anywhere from five to fifty minutes. I’m not kidding. I’ve had people go through an entire hour, and that’s okay, because they either had really good memory or they had a lot of things they weren’t proud of. You may only have a few things you’re not proud of, but those few things can hold you back from having an incredible life.
Sit down in the chair, ask for forgiveness of yourself, then stand up and go sit in chair B. Now you’re yourself, and you can respond to yourself. In my case, I would stand up from sitting in chair A, sit in chair B, and respond to Doug. You get to respond to you. This is not a situation where you want to be fake or perform. You want to be authentic, real, and if you’re still mad at yourself, that’s okay. Forgiveness is a conversation. You’re starting the dialogue.
Maybe you’re able to forgive some things, but some things you’re still stuck on. Okay, get rid of as much plaque as you can. Go through it, say, “I forgive you for this, I forgive you for this,” and then, “Well maybe this thing I’m still stuck with.” Now you’re down to one thing, so when you come back and do this next month, you only have that one thing to work on. You don’t have to do all twenty-five of them, but you want to get this cleaned up.
Maybe you’re in a situation where you’re really wanting to forgive yourself. You want to move on. You don’t want to be stuck anymore, not for one more minute. You don’t want to carry the burden of your own mistakes, so you sit in that chair and you say, “You know what, Doug, I was there. Yes, you did hurt me. Yes, you did hurt some of the people I really cared about, and your anger, your whatever, caused pain. You hurt me, you hurt them, and I’m forgiving you today. Right now in this chair, I forgive you. You don’t owe me anything anymore. I’m not going to keep going over this. I forgive you. We’re done with this. I love you. We’re going to walk together now and this is clean. You and I, we’re done with this. We’re going to bury it right now. I want to promise you I’m not going to keep hurting you. I’m not going to try to keep hurting people you love. If I do something again, I’m going to come back and ask for forgiveness. I don’t want to have anything between us anymore. I very much love you and I want us to grow strong.”
I can tell you, forgiving yourself is the hardest person you’ll forgive. I’ve had people who’ve been raped, abused, beaten by their dads, abandoned, and who have never met their parents. This exercise allowed them to forgive themselves a lot quicker and easier, with a lot less energy. This may be the most important thing you do for a long time.
You’re not finished. If you forgive yourself, go back to chair A. Now if you haven’t forgiven yourself, make an appointment with yourself about a month out, maybe a few weeks out, to sit back and go over what you need to go over until you forgive yourself. It is your job to forgive yourself. No one else can make that happen. No one else can make that transaction occur. Only you can.
So now, back in chair A, I’m Doug who asks for forgiveness. I heard Doug forgive me, and now I’m responding, usually with some version of thank you, “Thank you Doug for forgiving me. That meant a lot. I left it in my heart. I just needed that. I needed to hear you say that. I needed to be free from that. Thank you for breaking that off of me. I love you too. Let’s walk together. Let’s have a good time with life.” It’s usually light like that and you can literally feel the shift in the person’s heart. The countenance is higher.
I can’t tell you how many thousands have said, “That’s the hardest one, Dr. Weiss. I’ve done a lot of these other ones this week, but this was the hardest one.” I go, “Yeah, I know. I had to do it myself. I forgave myself many decades ago, and I understand it’s hard, but if you’re going to have a great life, great love today, great sex today, you’re going to have to forgive yourself. I encourage you to do that and if you need to go back to that chair two or three times, go at it. Don’t give up on yourself. Keep pushing.
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