Let's get kandid about Toxic Forgiveness!!
On this episode, I was privileged to engage in a critical discussion about toxic forgiveness with the remarkable Michelle Agopsowicz. Michelle is a Counselor, Reiki Master, and the founder of Illuminated Pat...
Let's get kandid about Toxic Forgiveness!!
On this episode, I was privileged to engage in a critical discussion about toxic forgiveness with the remarkable Michelle Agopsowicz. Michelle is a Counselor, Reiki Master, and the founder of Illuminated Path Counseling.
In a recent poll conducted in the Kandidly Speaking Facebook group, participants were asked if they felt pressured to forgive someone before they were emotionally ready. The results showed that 67% answered "Yes," 32% answered "No, I only forgive when I am ready," and 1% responded, "Maybe, not sure what that means."
For those working to overcome toxic forgiveness, focus on grounding yourself, reclaiming your energy through breathing, and setting boundaries in a gentle and empathetic manner. If you're trying to help someone, reflect on why you may seek toxic forgiveness from others, as it may come from your discomfort. If your goal is to assist, offer support by creating a safe space for the person and acknowledging their pain without trying to solve it.
Guest Contact information:
Michelle Agopsowicz holds a Master's degree in Social Work and a Bachelor's in Disability Studies, in addition to being a Reiki Master. Her counseling services and educational programs adopt a holistic and trauma-informed approach to wellness and balance. Michelle combines traditional counseling techniques with mindfulness practices, honed through her personal experience with autoimmune conditions, trauma, and anxiety.
She provides guidance to live a more fulfilling and genuine life with self-compassion. Michelle is a firm believer that trauma is a universal human experience that impacts the body, mind, and spirit. She believes that confronting our suffering leads to a journey that can be beautiful, and difficult, and ultimately transforms our understanding of compassion, humanity, and our place in the world.
Intro Music: "Welcome To The Kandid Shop by: Anthony Nelson aka BUSS
Forgiveness is a Choice_ A Kandid Chat on Toxic ForgivenessREADY
Kandidly Kristin: All our podcast nation, it is your girl, Kandidly Kristin, and this is The Kandid Shop, your number one destination for Kandid conversations.
Toxic forgiveness is a hot topic right now, so today I am sitting down for a Kandid chat about it with Counselor, Reiki Master and founder of Illuminated Path Counseling, Michelle Agopsowicz, I hope I said that right.
Welcome, welcome, welcome Michelle.
Michelle Agopsowicz: You said it perfectly.
Kandidly Kristin: I have it spelt out phonetically on my notes so I didn't mess it up. Woo... I am super excited to be having this chat since I first heard the term toxic forgiveness, which was coined by Nedra Glover Tawwab she defines toxic forgiveness as the unhealthy way people pretend to be unharmed over it or forgetful of an offence to keep the peace or to avoid being labelled bitter, scorned, or someone who holds a grudge, I have been chomping at the bit to have this chat.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. Yeah. And I would add to that definition maybe a little bit because trauma's sort of my jam as strange as it is to say that but I think it's a bit of a trauma reaction as well. That we don't want to be too much.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: When we don't want anyone to see our woundedness and so we kind of bypass the whole experience and I think as a society we somehow feel this is a prerequisite that we have to forgive someone.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes, yes! And stuff down how we think. Because all our lives we hear, you know, forgiveness is for you, it's not for the other person and not forgiving is just holding on to pain and anger. But I think that we generally as a society are being pressured, manipulated, bullied, whatever you want to call it, into, and I'm doing air quotes, forgiving somebody before we're really, really ready, if ever.
So, I have a Facebook group called Kandidly Speaking, that's tied to the podcast, and I do polls in there a lot. So, I did a poll and the question was, have you ever felt pressure to forgive someone before you were ready? And of the people who responded overwhelmingly, 67% said yes, 32% said Nope, I forgive when I'm ready, and 1% said, maybe not sure what is it.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. I feel like forgiveness is this, it's both organic; it just unfolds and happens and we have to work on it. But just from this poll that you're saying, what strikes me about this is that there's some shame about not forgiving; like somehow we're not a good person if we can't get there.
Kandidly Kristin: Right, right, right!
Michelle Agopsowicz: and then we need to be the bigger person, and I totally agree that yes, forgiveness is for us, but in our own time. And some things are unforgivable. There are nasty parts of humanity that we don't have to forgive.
Kandidly Kristin: Thank you, thank you! That was my next question and you kind of answered it. Do you think personally that forgiveness is always necessary to move forward?
Michelle Agopsowicz: No, and I was struck by this idea that I think these things intersect in a way that we can have sacred anger. Sacred anger to me is the thing we should be mad about in life. So, we should be mad about racism. We should be mad about misogyny. We should be mad about war, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. These things under no circumstance are okay. And so we should have some sacred anger about those. There are situations where this is so wounding for us that there's absolutely no way we have to forgive. If we wanna forgive and if we come to forgiveness, then that's a beautiful place to be.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes, yes!
Michelle Agopsowicz: But we're not less of a person if we don't get there. We're not less spiritual. If we don't get there, we're not less good. We're not going to finish this lifetime and somehow you're going to have to come back and do it again because you didn't forgive.
Kandidly Kristin: Right? Yep. I agree.
So how do you believe that toxic forgiveness and relationships and all relationships, romantic, familial, professional, how do they intersect?
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. I think it comes up to this place where most families and society and professionally most of us really don't like conflict and even if we're okay with conflict, we don't like the hard emotions and we don't like to see somebody that we love and care about suffering. So, I think we force people into this toxic forgiveness out of our manipulation of the situation and need to not watch someone else suffer.
Kandidly Kristin: Got it.
Michelle Agopsowicz: So in a really strange way, it's not about the person that's been impacted by what you're being asked to forgive. It's all the people surrounding them that say, that's so hard to watch, I would like them to forgive. So that I don't have to watch this other person suffer anymore.
Kandidly Kristin: Right, right! I don't necessarily think that not forgiving somebody is and I'm making general statements always detrimental to the person who's being asked to forgive. Like, you know, the whole notion that if you don't forgive, you're just giving them control and, and holding on to the pain and the anger. But I don't believe that's always necessarily true.
Michelle Agopsowicz: I don't think so either. I think it's such a personalized thing and yet in our discomfort, we do make these statements and the same with anything. Like when someone's grieving, we make these blanket statements. When someone's going through a divorce, we make these sorts of platitudes we give. And I think around forgiveness, the platitudes are exactly what you just said. Like, set yourself free, don't give your power away. But I think it's entirely possible to not give your power and to also say, I don't forgive that person. I also think it's okay to say I don't forgive them, and I'm also at a place where I'm fairly neutral around it.
Kandidly Kristin: Right. Okay, that's interesting. So toxic forgiveness or appeasement; which do you think is more accurate in our conversation? Like when somebody is kind of pressured into forgiving and they're like, okay, I forgive you. Is that forgiveness? Because that to me just feels more like appeasement.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Oh yeah. I think it's appeasement and I think it's people pleasing and I think it's like, I'll just tell you what I want you to hear so that you'll go away and leave me alone.
Kandidly Kristin: Yeah, yeah!
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, yeah! Absolutely.
Kandidly Kristin: So do you think that more people are pushed into forgiveness by the offender or by their circle?
Michelle Agopsowicz: I think probably it depends on the situation. Of course, I don't wanna make blanket statements. Like if it's within a family and you're seeing this person all the time then I think there's both. You're getting a lot of pressure to forgive the family member, but you're also getting pressure from the culture of the family. That says we want our equilibrium back. We don't want this conflict within the family.
Kandidly Kristin: We don't want this too messy.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So let's just calm this down. So, but if it's sort of somebody outside of someone that you see all the time, then I think the pressure comes potentially from the social network that you are relying on to process what this is and in their discomfort, they are offering solutions and advice and trying to fix it. We're all guilty of this, myself included, being a counsellor. I think rather than being able to hold space and just witness to the suffering and just bear witness to that suffering, it's so much harder than trying to fix it and offer solace, advice and solutions. Because that's what we're sort of pattern to do too, is we'll have you tried this and if you tried this. Have you just forgiven? And I think, I think it's the same as anything.
You talk to people who are depressed, they often hear people's people say, well, you know, just decide to be happy. Yeah. . And it's like, you think I hadn't thought of that. Right. So I think it's the same thing with talks of forgiveness that often in our very well-meaning suggestions to help people. We say, well, you know, have you decided, have you thought about forgiveness? And I think as the person who receives that, it's a bit of an eye roll for me. Cause I'm like, well, yeah, of course. If it was that easy, of course, I would've just done this. And I think forgiveness is this very organic, moving in and out because we can come close to touching forgiveness and then the person might do the thing that triggered us again.
Kandidly Kristin: Mm-hmm. or something real close to it.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. And so then we move away from forgiveness again. Right. So I don't think it's, it's an end state either. I don't think it's something that we just arrive at as this epiphany. And forgiveness is just now a thing. Okay. So, you know, I can get to the place of forgiveness because it's best for me and all of these other things until that person does the thing again.
Kandidly Kristin: Right? And then it's like, seriously?
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, because it's hard to forgive if they haven't done their part in learning the lesson as to why it hurt you in the first place.
Kandidly Kristin: Absolutely. Changed behavior is.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah.
Kandidly Kristin: So how, how do you define forgiveness, not toxic forgiveness, but just forgiveness in its general sense?
Michelle Agopsowicz: I've often said around forgiveness that I don't think there's a very good English word that embodies what this is because I think forgiveness is just in the tense and the usage of the word does seem like it is something you'll just decide to do when you arrive there and then everything looks fine. I think it's the same as we use the word healed. We're not ever healed, we're always healing. So we have this you know, it's one of these things where we say, I don't want to be an adult right now because part of being right an adult is that you're constantly unpacking your stuff, looking at it, putting it away, then it comes out again because we get triggered and we look at it again. Like forgiveness is not a one-and-done thing.
Kandidly Kristin: Yeah, I agree.
Michelle Agopsowicz: It's something that we're always working at and another circumstance might come up in our lives and we're like, oh, you know, I thought I'd forgiven and I need to look at it again.
Kandidly Kristin: Yeah, right. Yeah. And I think that's okay.
Michelle Agopsowicz: I think that's okay. But I think we create more suffering when we think it's a one-and-done thing as well; because then we introduce shame again, thinking, well, what's wrong with me? That somehow it's back again.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes! I must not have done the forgiveness thing. Right?
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. . Yeah. And it plays along with all of the toxic positivity, any of the uncomfortable emotions that we have in our life we want to bypass them and societally, we're encouraged to do that, and we're praised for doing that.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes. Yeah.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Because nobody wants to admit that we are all manipulative, that we're all resentful sometimes, that we're all angry sometimes. That we're all anxious, and sometimes we don't want to go there.
Kandidly Kristin: Right, right. I agree. So, talk to me about, you're a counselor, you deal with people regularly. Talk to me about what you see as some of the mental, and emotional signs of toxic forgiveness when it happens when somebody has been pushed, pulled, bullied, or whatever. Into forgiving someone before they were ready.
Michelle Agopsowicz: So I think it shows up as a denial of self and however that comes up for you because you're being silenced. So, for some people, it shows up as depression. They're like, I'm just gonna retreat from everybody. I don't wanna do this. I need to go inward. For some people, it shows up as anxiety around every function, where you're gonna be with these people where you're expected to pretend. For other people, it's gonna show up as anger and resentment and bitterness, as we said, which is why everyone tries to get you to forgive, but it makes you more bitter.
So, in the statement of saying, well stop being so bitter and get over it. We make people more resentful there. But then I also think it physically shows up for a lot of people. So it also shows up for people in like stomach aches and headaches and that kind of physical manifestation because they're starting to dread going into any of these situations where this might be expected of them. It also shows up socially so people start to isolate themselves. It also shows up mentally in terms of just our thought patterns.
So when we're expected to go to this toxic forgiveness, the opposite actually happens. So we end up thinking about the situation more, ruminating about the situation, more thinking about it. We're going over and over and over again. Yep. Our brain's trying to do what it's meant to do, but it's scanning saying, why can't I?
The solution for this is to just get over it. But the issue is, and why it's ruminating in your mind in that way is because you're being forced into something you're not ready to do.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep. I agree. That was interesting. So Michelle, what does healthy forgiveness look like for you? Say, I'm your client, and I'm in there and I'm like, you know, my mom and all these people, and something happened and I was, I felt pressured into forgiving that person and trying to make a way forward. What would you tell them is a healthy version of forgiveness?
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. Well, I think now we lead into boundaries. So also then being able to say, you know, this is where I'm at in my forgiveness journey and I'm not there yet. But I'm working on it. so I think sometimes we need to let people know too like it isn't that I'm not working.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: I guess I'll give myself as a situation here, so I have a history of sexual abuse. I went from childhood sexual abuse and within my family, I had the gift of being believed that this had happened. So that was one good resiliency factor. But my family is incredibly conflict-averse. And so it was very much, okay, but let's not tell anyone. Let's not create any waves. Let's not get to any of these places. Let's just, you know, we're gonna continue. We're not gonna have to go to these family functions, see these people and you know, it's okay. And that was the wounding part for me, that I had to know that people believed me, but I had to continue. That I should probably move forward. So the most wounding part for me was, okay, so now we have to pretend that it's okay and that you've forgiven it, that everybody's okay and we just need to go forward.
Kandidly Kristin: Right? Right. And that's tough.
Michelle Agopsowicz: As an adult, when I was doing my therapy around this, I realized I was doing eye movement therapy around sexual abuse and I burst out laughing in the middle of this therapy session. This was my moment of forgiveness. So 30 years later, I discovered my forgiveness right on my own terms. I burst out laughing cuz I realized the sexual abuse had nothing to do with me.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: I was just there and available. And it was strangely hilarious to me because I had spent 35 years of my life thinking this was all my fault and then I had to forgive it and then my family expected it and that we weren't gonna talk about it, all these sorts of things. And I realized it had nothing to do with me. And that was my moment of forgiveness because I realized it wasn't my shame.
Kandidly Kristin: Oh, that's awesome. That is awesome.
Michelle Agopsowicz: But I mean, it happened to me when I was about 11 or so. I wasn't ready until 35. And at 42 I can talk to other people and I'm like, oh, okay but I don't forgive that aspect of it. Because it's still not okay.
Kandidly Kristin: Right. . not.
Michelle Agopsowicz: So I can forgive and set myself free as we say. But it's not ever gonna be okay And I'm not ever gonna forget, and it isn't ever not gonna have had an impact in shaping who I am in good, bad, and ugly ways.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes, yes. I agree. Right. So Nedra Tawwab, the person who first coined this phrase, Toxic forgiveness, is what she says a healthy version of forgiveness looks like. It looks like acceptance of the event. Learning to let go of some of the anger and feel less consumed by it. Just because we don't forgive a person, we can still be kind and pleasant.
We and I are guessing she means society believes that unforgiveness is being mean to people. But you can be kind and not like people.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yes. And I think this is where truly healthy forgiveness comes in, is this neutrality. So it's like, it's not that, it's not. . Okay. But I can sit in a room with this person and coexist with them and be kind and be compassionate. Maybe even understand why their nastiness caused something that needed to be forgiven. Because of course, their woundedness is what causes hurt. Hurt people, hurt people. But I think it is this neutrality to say exactly what it's like but I don't have to like it and I don't have to like you, but I can still sit here in a neutral place with my boundaries and talents.
Kandidly Kristin: Right? Yeah. And, and I'm not a mean person because I won't forgive you or don't. Feel that that is what I need. So it ultimately is about what the person who suffered the offence needs, and if forgiveness is not what they need to move forward, then people should stop pushing them to that.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. It's not a prerequisite. It's not. No, it's not at all. And you, you know, it comes down to all of these things too, where it's the offended person and we don't have to forgive something. That's right. We don't. And, and, but it doesn't mean that it has to continue to destroy our lives. But I think there's a societal idea, that if we don't forgive, somehow it is.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And I think for women especially, oh yes, we have this good girl thing. So, being a good girl, we've gotta be nice. We've gotta be kind. Being nice and kind though doesn't mean we can't have a boundary. And not forgiving doesn't mean we're a raging bitch. And that we're somehow wounded and we need to do what makes us socialized to make things okay for other people, right? Like, oh, you know Uncle Bobby, he makes you uncomfortable, but go hug him anyways. So we also really teach women to cross, like as little girls, we teach them to cross their boundaries all the time. All the time to be kind. Right.
Kandidly Kristin: I agree. I agree.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And as a white woman, I'm not gonna speak to this, but I'm curious about this for you, Kristen. When it comes to being a person of color; how often are you asked to forgive something to make general society feel better for their racism and internalized oppression and things like that?
Kandidly Kristin: All the time. Microaggressions happen continually, and we are always as, Pot person expected to be bigger. To, you know, let it go and, why? If they didn't mean it. Well, their intentions and the effect of whatever they said or did are two entirely different things.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. Yeah. And this is a really good example again of how you're expected to forgive because you're supposed to make the offender in society, and I air quotes here for me, white people feel better.
Kandidly Kristin: Right, right, right. Yeah, that's a very good example. And the contrast because, colour aside, women, in general, have to do this, particularly African American women because God forbid we be the angry black woman in the room. Do you know what I mean? And everybody seemed to forget that this person just reached out and ran their fingers through my locks and didn't ask. Do you know what I mean? It shows up in a lot of ways like that for people of color.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. And as women, as you say, we are socialized to sort of stand there and take it to some degree. So that we're not being rude. Not that men don't have toxic forgiveness as well, but I think that when men assert their boundaries, Around this they're seen as assertive. We're seen as angry, bitchy, and aggressive. And then what happens is I can feel it, like it rises, that sacred anger rises from my belly and I'm like, oh no, I'm not forgiving now.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep. Yep. Yep. Your face gets hot and it's like, okay, okay. Yeah, yeah. And then the offended person feels the need to, you know, push down that anger, that sacred anger. And I love that term, by the way. I'm gonna start using it. To just push it down so that we don't come across as bitter, angry, bitchy and I think that that is not an effective way to manage any offence that has occurred or any kind of forgiveness that may or may not happen.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. which I think is so different, if I can segue for a minute around the apology, which I think is also such an integral part of forgiveness or toxic forgiveness. I think we're also not taught to genuinely have critical thought and reflect on our peace in why we might need to apologize to someone and how we can actually make a genuine apology and then follow up with our behavior.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes. Thank you. Yes.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Versus, well, I'm Canadian, so I'm gonna say we're classically known for just wandering around saying thank you and sorry for every single thing.
Kandidly Kristin: You're the fourth Canadian person that had said that, I'm like? Is it a real thing like that?
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. It's a real cultural thing. It's like we apologize for our existence. I don't know. We wander around and somebody looks at you, you're like, oh, I'm sorry. And you get a little close to me. You're like, oh, I'm sorry. Like, thank you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm, thank you. And, eventually, it loses, and I've heard in my travels, Other countries have said, you know, I don't know if I can trust you guys cause you are apologizing for something that, you know, we're not sure that you did.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And, so I think then the apology also becomes this empty gesture. Yes. to just make the conflict go away versus you can tell when someone is genuinely like, oh my God, I am so sorry. That's not what I meant. Yes, you can tell when it's genuine and you can tell when it's trying to just shine the spotlight off them and move back into toxic forgiveness.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep. Yep. Yeah. I agree with that 100%. The best apology to me is to change my behavior. If somebody really doesn't understand why it wasn't okay for you to touch my hair, and they apologize, but then they follow up with questions and to try to get an understanding about why that was inappropriate; that means so much to me if I'm the person that's offended because it kind of shows that you were genuinely sorry, uninformed, whatever it was and that, but you're seeking to not be that going forward.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yes. Versus the apology that says, I'm sorry, but yeah, Yeah. And then they go on to defend something that isn't defendable.
Kandidly Kristin: Defendable. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So, listen, I wanna segue a little bit, and I want you to talk to me about Illuminated Path counseling. Tell me the why the what and the how of what it is you do.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. I think as a counselor, probably the same as you, Kristin. Our purpose in life often comes from our own experiences. And so my private practice came out of my being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition as a result of some of my sexual abuse. Okay. And my healing process that came out of that, of realizing I needed to find some semblance of self-love. And so the name Illuminated Path comes from this idea of my night of the soul. So the darkness, depths of the moments of my life where I didn't know if I would go on. There was always this path that just illuminated a little bit further ahead of me, a little bit.
And so I'm incredibly passionate about sharing the many things that I have done in my darkest moments. To help other people. So within our profession of counseling, we're often discouraged from having social media, that kind of thing. But I started thinking about this idea that I wanted a YouTube channel and social media where I could share little tidbits of mental health for free. Because it's not always accessible to people either. . Yeah. So I wanted to give people strategies. I wanted to give my client strategies. And then what came out of that is I started developing a trauma recovery course and mindfulness through the census course because I wanted to share with people what I had learned, not only professionally from many years of school but also personally what I discovered worked for me, which of course might not work for someone else. Right, right. Which is fine. But it's really in many ways, and this might sound very dramatic, it's kind of a love song, love poem to myself, to my younger self. And the unfolding of the change that I wanna see in the world, because as a social worker as well,
Kandidly Kristin: right?
Michelle Agopsowicz: You know, social workers don't just look at the individual aspect of it too. I'm also really passionate about, okay, so trauma is the root of what causes racism and sexism and just nastiness in the world. It also is what causes us to be okay with destroying our planet and destroying each other and blowing each other up and doing all of these other real things.
If we can heal and be comfortable with ourselves and love ourselves, then we do not need to go out and destroy other people.
Kandidly Kristin: Right. Yeah. Oh, interesting. So, you know, I was poking around your site and I thought, oh, this is nice. I love the name Illuminated Path and now that I know the backstory, I love it even more.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Hmm. , you're so sweet.
Kandidly Kristin: So if you could give me your last thoughts and speak directly to the listeners about toxic forgiveness specifically to the person who has been offended and then give your thoughts to the people around them who may unwittingly be pushing them to forgive before they're ready. Yeah.
Michelle Agopsowicz: So the first thing I would say to the person who's being asked to engage in toxic forgiveness is to just take a breath and come back to your body. Call yourself home. Because what happens when we're asked to do these things is suddenly, this is gonna be a stance from a bit of a reiki master perspective as well here, is that we start to give our energy and little fragments out, yes. To this person and this person and this person, and then suddenly we're not sure where we stand in our body. So come back home to yourself. We can do this through the breath. We can do this through A nice thing that I like to do is I like to tap underneath my collarbones, which stimulates the vagus nerve.
And I say out loud, I am Michelle Agopsowicz and only Michelle Agopsowicz and I call all of my energy back. And I send everyone else's energy and agenda back with love.
Kandidly Kristin: Nice.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And I'll say that three times so that I can come back into my center, my heart space, my gut reaction so that I am doing what's best for me and not what's best for everybody else.
Kandidly Kristin: That's awesome.
Michelle Agopsowicz: You know, just the way we are wired as humans, we need to do that over and over and over. I do it constantly throughout the day. I come back to myself, who am I? What is my opinion? What do I need? Not what everybody else needs. And then once we learn how to do that, the next step that's a little bit less comfortable is being able to, in a kind and compassionate way, set our boundaries. So this might sound something like, you know, I appreciate your perspective on that, but I'm not ready to forgive yet, and that's okay because I'm working on it.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And it doesn't change anything. You know, it's not gonna change anything for me to rush through the process that I'm needing to go through. So, I would almost come up with a little mantra, a little phrase that I would practice ahead of time about what is my boundary statement. Okay. So something like, thank you for your perspective on that. I'm not ready to do it. Or whatever that might be short, easy to remember so that it becomes a bit of a muscle memory to say, this is my boundary statement around this.
Kandidly Kristin: Right.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And you're saying, I've heard you and I respect you. And I need you to respect me, and then if we turn that to the people who are asking for toxic forgiveness from someone.
Kandidly Kristin: Mm-hmm. . Yes.
Michelle Agopsowicz: I would ask everyone listening, where do you, as much as you don't like it, where do you also do it to other people? Because we probably all do. And what is the agenda in that? Are you feeling uncomfortable yourself with the intensity of the feeling or the conflict or, you know, whatever's happening in that and, so you're asking this of somebody else because of your discomfort, because that's usually what it is.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep.
Michelle Agopsowicz: if it's a genuine need to help, then it's about being able to hold space and bear witness to that pain without trying to fix it. And if you do, as we all do, stumble in and say, well, have you tried this? Have you forgiven yet? ? Because we'll all do it. It's fine. You know, then also catch yourself in that apology and say, oh, you know, I am so sorry. I just offered a solution, and I'm aware that that's probably not what you're looking for right now. And it just backs it up and neutralizes it again, because we have to be able to just sit and not have to rush people through it.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep. We love to do and not just see, sometimes you just need to be and let other people be at their pace. Because it's their pace. It was their offence. So they were the one that was harmed.
Michelle Agopsowicz: So, yeah. So I'm just loving this conversation cause this is something I haven't thought about before.
So what if holding space is the ultimate act of radical nonviolence? Because what we're doing when we're asking someone else to forgive before they're ready, or we're offering advice or solutions before they're wanting to hear that advice or solutions, is basically we're saying the way you're doing it is wrong, and I have all the answers for you, and I don't know about you, but anyone else who's ever come in and tried to do my work for me didn't get me further along in the process.
Kandidly Kristin: No. No.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And any time I've gone to somebody I love very much and tried to show them the pattern and error of their ways, I am robbing them of the experience and opportunity to heal that themselves
Kandidly Kristin: and to learn whatever lesson is in there. Yes, yes, yes. I agree.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And so, is it a radical act of nonviolence to not offer solutions because you're no longer stealing someone else's opportunity to heal or not heal?
Kandidly Kristin: Yes. And that's the thing we just want, when you love somebody, you want 'em to be okay. And when you see them to you, to the observer, you're like, oh, if they will just forgive, they would feel better. But you don't know that, that may be true for you, but we're talking about them, so let them have their process, whatever that looks like.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. Which is completely different from how we're socialized. We're socialized to wander around and offer people advice but if we stay in our lane, yes. You know, it's like, no, actually that's more kind.
Kandidly Kristin: It is.
Michelle Agopsowicz: But it feels powerless. Because we're like, oh, I'm not doing anything to help this person.
Kandidly Kristin: And cause you don't know how to hold space for people. We don't know when people are grieving. Same thing. We gotta come in there and, you know, offer ways so they can speed up their process or whatever. And instead of just showing up and shutting up.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's okay if a process takes six months, three days or 10 years or a lifetime, it's fine.
Kandidly Kristin: Yep. Yep. I love that. That last part is about the radical act of nonviolence, just holding space. That's what we should be learning.
Michelle Agopsowicz: We should be learning that in school family, we should be learning this should be parenting 1 0 1, right? But we are all taught to fix and take away the pain. Which doesn't take any pain away.
Kandidly Kristin: Nop, because stuffing down your feelings is never a healthy thing ever.
Michelle Agopsowicz: No. No. And it pops up in weird and wild and mysterious ways.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes, indeed. Yes, it does. Oh my gosh, Michelle, this has been amazing.
I knew it would be tough. I knew it would be. So before we wrap up, I just want you to tell my listeners how they can connect with you in Illuminated Path Counseling. If they would like to.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, so probably the easiest way is on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/illuminatedpathcounselling/
I'm at Illuminated Path Counseling. I, you can also jump onto my website, https://www.illuminatedpathcounselling.com/ and here are the links to all of my social media as well as my online courses.
Kandidly Kristin: Awesome.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And I would love to have you come check me out.
Kandidly Kristin: Yes. Yes. And guys, you know that all of Michelle and Illuminated Path's contact info will be in the show notes with clickable links that'll take you where you wanna go and the course that she's doing. Tell me about the course.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah, so I've got two at the moment. I'm hoping to get a whole bunch more out this year. So the first one is the trauma recovery method. It's about rediscovering resiliency through mindfulness. So it's looking at the patterns of coping that you have in your life as a result of what's come out of trauma. And I'll make a little plug here about trauma. Most people think trauma is these horrible, horrific things that happen to us, which do. Trauma is essentially anything that overwhelms our system. So that can be microaggressions, that can be bullying, that can be divorce and grief and loss. It could be a car accident. It could be just feeling like you don't belong in the world. All your nervous system reacts as if that's traumatizing. So what the course looks at is your patterns of coping strategies, your family of origin, and how to come back to your body and heal some of that trauma through your nervous system.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Yeah. And then I've got mindfulness through the senses, which is just a 10-day meditation challenge to come back to your body and integrate through the senses in grounding and things like that.
Kandidly Kristin: So Nice. Nice. I'm a big believer in grounding.
Yeah. Huge relief
Michelle Agopsowicz: over and over and over again.
Kandidly Kristin: Over and over. Yes. Yep. Oh my gosh. Michelle Agopsowicz and I had to look that up. So I said your name right again, I can't thank you enough for this conversation. This has been so much more than I thought it would be.
You brought so many new and interesting perspectives into the topic of toxic forgiveness, cuz I've researched it but hearing some of the things you said, I'm like, okay, I love that they're all gonna be in the show notes too.
Michelle Agopsowicz: And thank you, Kristin, for just being a beautiful, gracious host for just being a change in the world of just having these amazing conversations.
Kandidly Kristin: Thank you. Thank you. It is what I am called to do. And so I'm answering that call. So guys, again, Michelle and Illuminated Path Counseling, social media and website links will be in the show notes along with some key takeaways. I'm not gonna put everything in there because I want you to listen to the whole conversation.
And don't forget to check out my channel, www.thekandidshop.com. Kandid with a K on all social. We are @thekandidshoppodcast again, Kandid with 'K'
Thank you again, Michelle, so very much for giving me this little bit of your day. You could have been doing anything else, and you're here with me and my listeners, so I thank you again.
Michelle Agopsowicz: Thank you, Kristin.
Kandidly Kristin: All right, guys until next time, I want you all to keep it safe, keep it healthy and keep it Kandid.
Counsellor and Reiki Master
Michelle Agopsowicz has a Masters in Social Work, a Bachelors in Disability Studies and is a Reiki Master. Michelle offers counselling and education opportunities from a holistic, trauma informed perspective. She aims to create wellness and balance through the integration of traditional counselling and mindfulness techniques. This approach has developed through her own journey of having an autoimmune condition, trauma, and anxiety.
She offers practices and discussions that can guide us to live a more fulfilled and authentic experience with self compassion. She believes strongly that trauma is a universal human experience that affects the body, mind, and spirit. She believes that addressing our suffering leads to a journey that is beautiful, painful and ultimately reconstructs our fundamental meaning of compassion, humanity and our place in the world.
Check out the latest episodes!