Fibromyalgia and Forgiveness
You may not think that forgiveness (or holding a grudge) would play a role in fibromyalgia, but as with all negative emotions it can play a huge role in the symptoms you experience. Holding a grudge is the opposite of forgiveness. Along with that grudge comes the negative emotions of shame, hurt, and anger – all of which increase stress, which can increase the symptoms of any chronic illness.
While we don’t know the cause, and there are no cures for, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, we do know some of the triggers that can affect these disorders. Stress and anger are negative emotions that can increase symptoms of Fibromyalgia and CFS.
A 2010 study by Toussaint et al examined the implications of fibromyalgia and forgiveness and whether forgiveness could act to help mitigate the effects of anger and stress, and therefore reduce symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
Fibromyalgia and Anger
The researchers point out that anger is a common response to Fibromyalgia. We are angry because we are dismissed, we are angry because we have to put up with pain, we are angry because there doesn’t seem to be adequate treatment. We are angry because we don’t know why we have these disorders.
We are angry at our disorders for all that they have taken away, our lives, our jobs, our friends, and often our family. We are often angry at ourselves, as well as at others, for a variety of reasons. Yet, as normal and as understandable as our anger is, it’s not healthy.
Anger can lead to a variety of other health issues, it raises our blood pressure, can lead to heart disease, digestive disorders, and headaches. Anger leads to increased muscle tension which leads to increased Fibromyalgia pain.
All of those negative effects work to increase the pain and fatigue that are part and parcel of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.#Spoonies we have every right to be angry, but holding that anger may make us feel worse in the long run. Click To Tweet
So, what is the answer? How do we decrease our anger so that the negative emotions don’t increase our physical pain?
Forgiveness is the answer
Forgiveness training has been used to decrease negative emotions, such as anger and stress, in those with chronic hypertension (high blood pressure). Data from these studies suggestions that forgiveness training can have positive benefits for both the mind and the body.
There are a lot of ideas as to why it helps, but what it comes down to is that being pissed off at someone for whatever they did creates stress, stress activates our “flight or fight” system (the sympathetic nervous system), and when that is activated our body’s systems are not focused on anything but mere survival.
One big issue with Fibromyalgia is general hyper-sensitization, basically meaning that our “flight or fight” system is constantly activated and never has a chance to calm down.
There are three primary methods of forgiveness training. I won’t go through the details of each as they can be pretty complicated. I think what is most important from all of them is that eventually you have to realize that you are forgiving someone not for them, but for you.
The other person may never even know you forgave them, and forgiving them doesn’t mean that you allow them the opportunity to hurt you again (definitely not in the same way). Forgiveness is simply about letting go of the hurt and finding a way to stop focusing on it.
Forgiveness isn't about the other person, it's about you. It's about letting go of negative emotions that are holding you back. Click To Tweet
I finally had to realize that I needed to forgive them so that I could move on. I was trapping myself in that moment when they hurt me, doomed to relive it over and over again. Until I finally let it go.
It’s funny how once you finally let those moments go it becomes easy to forget them. They become fuzzy and lose details. It’s because the more we repeat the memory the stronger that memory remains.
I think that that might be why we try to hold onto them. We are afraid that if we forget them we will allow the hurt to be repeated (by the same or another person). But, forgetting the moment and forgiving the hurt doesn’t mean we didn’t learn from it.
We can learn from an event and still forgive. We can retain the memory of what we have learned without holding onto the memories of how we learned it.
Unfortunately, what I find when looking back at the hurts in my life is that what I’ve learned, too often, is not to trust people. That’s been my key to avoiding hurt, because people can’t hurt you if you don’t let them in.
But, that’s no way to live life. If you don’t let people in you not only avoid the hurt, you avoid the love and all the great things that come with allowing others to be part of your life.By refusing to forgive, you trap yourself in that moment of hurt. You relive it continuing to hurt yourself Click To Tweet
I type this as I work to forgive a recent hurt. I’m struggling with it and have been for days. I know eventually I will forgive because I love this person more than I want to hold onto a grudge, and I’m just not willing to let them leave my life.
You can’t keep the person in your life and hold a grudge. It just doesn’t work. You have to choose which you want more. But, again, forgiving doesn’t mean allowing the hurt to be repeated and if the person continues to hurt you you may eventually have to make the choice to both forgive and move on.
Even if you learn that a person won’t change and hurts you repeatedly, there’s just no use in holding a grudge. Forgiveness is a lot less stressful. But, sometimes the best answer is to both forgive and allow that person to be removed from your life.
Make the choices that are healthiest for you. Release the negativity from your life.
- Overcoming the sadness and isolation of chronic illness
- Fibromyalgia and Loneliness
- The Impact of Chronic Illness on Marriage
- Anger increases pain