In a previous post, I shared a tip for coping with difficult emotions: Invite them to Dinner.
In this post, I’ll share another; one that I’ve found very useful in the past couple of years: Follow The Wonderful Wizard of IS.
Who’s The Wonderful Wizard of IS? He’s one of my favorite “uppy” cartoons, and he has a potent message.
|Let’s look at the kinds of situations where The Wonderful Wizard of Is is particularly useful.
Something happens that’s outrageously unfair. Perhaps someone accuses you of something you didn’t do. Perhaps someone, or a group of people, assailed your very character. Even worse, it may have happened publically – at work or online – making the experience even more devastating and humiliating.
- An internet troll slams you about your weight. “This so-called nutrition expert needs to drop 15 pounds before she advises us how to eat.”
- You fire an assistant because he isn’t showing up to work on time and often calls in sick. In retaliation, he files a complaint of racial discrimination.
- Your boss fires you, siting vague deficiencies that’s she’s never mentioned before nor given you an opportunity to address.
Please note that I’m not talking here about something like a cancer diagnosis or a destructive act of nature (hurricane, fire, earthquake). There are other, better methods of coping with these kinds of challenging situations.
The Wonderful Wizard of Is works best when a negative emotion is triggered by another person, or persons, who attack you personally.
People don’t normally talk about forgiving cancer or a hurricane. But they do recommend forgiving other people. The problem is that, unless the offending person apologizes and owns his part in what happened (“every drop contributes to a flood”), he hasn’t earned your forgiveness.
And you know what? You’re not obligated to forgive him!
Here’s the thing. If you have the power to do so, defend yourself and set the record straight. (Internet trolls are an exception here; it’s best to just ignore them. Without fuel, they’ll go elsewhere.)
You may not be able to sway your offender(s) opinion or redress the wrong, but you’ll have said your peace and your truth, and that’s a very strong and self-loving thing to do.
|But you may not have this ability, either because of a power differential that you can’t shift (e.g. a young woman being sexually harassed by the owner of the company where she works) or because you feel too overwhelmed by strong emotions to speak up for yourself. That’s a very difficult place to be, and the anger may simmer within your for years, causing you great psychological harm if you don’t find a way to let it go.
So how do you move on?
The Wonderful Wizard of IS offers a suggestion:
Redefine the word “forgiveness.”
I drew The Wonderful Wizard of IS after I was accused of things I didn’t do by colleagues I’d worked with for years and believed were trustworthy friends. As a result of their lies, I was summarily demoted by my boss, even though she never investigated to see if any of it was true. I was so devastated and humiliated by the experience that I couldn’t defend myself at the time. The experience triggered “You’re no good” messages from my childhood. I was overwhelmed and lost.
I sat on my anger and depression, not knowing what else to do. I tried everything, but I couldn’t seem to get past the event. I wasn’t making much progress. Every time I went to work, I felt a tight band of pain around my belly, and I refused to look certain people in the eye.
I was stuck for many months until I stumbled on a definition of forgiveness that changed my life:
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” – Lily Tomlin
Think about it.
This definition doesn’t require that we let our attacker(s) off the hook. We don’t have to condone how they acted. Their actions weren’t okay, pure and simple! Rather, this definition suggests that we embrace the fact that what’s done is done. It suggests that cutting our ties (and inner chatter) with “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” is the best and kindest thing we can do for ourselves.
At some point, it becomes impossible (or at least inadvisable) to pour our energy into creating/maintaining a fantasy past that will never be.
Instead, how about redirecting our love and life-energy to the future?
Life is not fair. People’s behavior can be shameful. Good, well-meaning, people are caught in the crosshairs of other people’s psychological and political nastiness every day.
Frank Sinatra once said: “The best revenge is massive success.”
The Wonderful Wizard of IS (with the help of Lily Tomlin) shows us how to redefine forgiveness so we can get there.