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How to reconcile? -Stages of Reconciliation

Reconciliation is first and foremost an inner feeling that does not follow a specific step-by-step programme, but can only occur individually in the course of the personal process and in connection with one’s own forgiveness. This development sometimes takes a lot of time and can drag on for years in the case of serious conflicts.

There are different aspects that are part of the path to reconciliation and are passed through in their own time in order to arrive at the feeling of honest and authentic reconciliation. The following stages do not build on each other linearly, but are mutually dependent. They sometimes proceed in small steps and sometimes in quantum leaps.

Step 1: Engage with the feelings – time for retreat and inner reflection

A first essential step is to admit one’s own feelings and give oneself permission to perceive what is there. Usually this is a mix of feelings of anger or rage, behind which sadness and disappointment are hidden at a deeper level. But fears, feelings of guilt or shame, doubts and insecurities also accompany the reconciliation process.

The first step is to accept and embrace every feeling. Allowing disappointment, anger and sadness to be there first. Taking time to feel them and then consciously distancing yourself from the feeling again. In order not to remain in negative feelings, it is important to focus on something positive and to surround yourself with people or pursue activities that are good for you.

Step 2: What am I really about?

What behaviours of the other person specifically triggered these feelings? What prevented setting appropriate boundaries at an early stage, asserting oneself in an appropriate way or distancing oneself?
Usually it is not one specific event, but a constellation of hurts and slights as well as misunderstandings and mistakes made.

The roots of associated emotions usually lie further in the past. The personal evaluation of events is often related to old personal imprints, one’s own expectations and inner concepts. Becoming aware of one’s own negative beliefs and recognising and working through their causes is important at this point.

The answering of these questions and the sustainable healing of old injuries is complex and cannot be achieved through intellectual understanding alone. Methods that work not only with the rational level but primarily with the subconscious and thus directly on the emotional level provide support here.

Step 3: Change the perspective

Why did the other person act in a certain way? What background might have caused his or her behaviour? To be able to answer these questions, a healthy degree of empathy and sensitivity is needed.

Some people find it difficult to change perspective and to slip into the other person’s shoes to some extent. This is why they sometimes have great difficulty in emotionally and cognitively grasping and relating separations, disputes or contact breakdowns.

In arguments and disputes, the history of each individual plays a not insignificant role.  We all act out of automated and entrenched patterns of feeling and behaviour.

Understanding defence mechanisms

If we feel threatened in our self-worth due to triggers of which we are not always aware, we react with individual defence strategies. They serve to avoid our own negative feelings and to avoid dealing with our personal shadow sides. Often it is these defensive measures that cause the injuries and offenses of the other person.

Gaining some clarity about possible backgrounds allows compassion (not pity) for the other person to emerge.  Everyone can only take responsibility for this by being willing to deal with him/herself and by giving him/herself the time to heal personal wounds.

Urgent advice, wanting things to be different, discussing or inappropriate support from outside stem from feelings of one’s own over-responsibility. On a deeper level, they usually serve to place themselves above the other („I know your problems, but you don’t.“) and to make contact with the other „safe“ („If you change in my direction, I can’t be hurt anymore and then it’s more comfortable for me.“) and to keep the other in the connection („I help you, so you´ll stay with me.“).

Ultimately, it’s about letting the other person be who they are. And then to decide how you define the relationship and how close the contact can be at the moment. In some cases, it is necessary to end the relationship definitively, leaving as little scorched earth as possible.

Step 3: Recognising one’s own contribution

There is not the perpetrator on one side and the victim on the other. Emotions and behaviours are mutually dependent. Thus we are alternately „victim“ in one situation and „perpetrator“ in another. Duality is found in every action and so every conflict always has two sides. For more information, read the spiral of grievance and injury in partnerships.

There is no blame in this happening. There are mistakes and there are misunderstandings. All this serves to make us question ourselves and our reactions. In the best case, we grow together with the other.

People who persist in their victim role do not see themselves as capable of acting and pass on responsibility to others. They avoid honest reflection on their own feelings, thoughts and behaviour. For reconciliation and especially for themselves, the victim status is counterproductive in the long run and thus inhibits their own development.

It is necessary to recognise and admit to oneself what one’s own contribution to the conflicts has been, because problems always exist on both sides.
In most cases, our counterpart is a mirror that reveals to us feelings and actions that we repress, devalue and do not want to accept in ourselves. In every form of criticism there is also a spark of truth, which is sometimes distorted and inappropriately expressed through the lens of the other person, but which in essence can point us to our own important areas of improvement.

Step 4: Forgive and let go

Forgiving and letting go means no longer making any expressed or unspoken expectations or demands – not even for reparations – on the other person from the heart. Things were just the way they were.

Forgiveness is not just a choice that is made. One can choose to forgive someone, but resentment, anger and sadness still keep paving their way. This is a sign that certain inner conflicts have not yet been resolved and that certain personal expectations and demands have not yet been let go.

Letting go does not mean throwing away, replacing someone or forgetting. It means no longer holding on to the old. Many relationships have their time and are important and coherent at certain stages of life. And then it can be necessary for all involved to let go so that everyone can continue unhindered on their personal path. This is also a feeling that only comes with time and no longer contains any demands or silent wishes for the other person.

Forgiveness also includes being honestly grateful for the time together, for the experiences, developments and teachings that one was allowed to experience through the connection. And to preserve these luminous aspects of the relationship.

Forgiveness does not mean admitting that past hurts „weren’t so bad after all“. It does not mean condoning or forgetting what happened. Reconciliation work does not mean acquittal of wrongdoing, nor does it mean that the relationship with the other person must be continued or resumed.

At the same time, they contain the chance to reform the relationship if both parties can meet on one level. Then the one who is more advanced in the reconciliation process should take the first step because she/he is able to do so.

It takes maturity and integrity in one’s personality and in dealing with personal emotions. When true forgiveness happens, all of the above come together and a sense of lasting inner peace and reconciliation about an issue or person returns.

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