Forgiveness therapy

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

By Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice

You know what I like about the power of forgiving? That it is such a powerful healer. It heals first the person who forgives, and later those who were forgiven.

But I will be the first to admit that to get to that point where you can successfully release and discharge major hurts and grudges can be one of the most difficult things to do. It can be pretty much like climbing Mt. Everest. Few attempt the challenge, and fewer still reach the peak. But those that do are rewarded by a release like no other. There you can breathe in the rarefied, pure air and look around at your world with new eyes.

The opposite of forgiveness — anger — is powerful in itself as well. Anger can take on a life of its own. Once you dwell in anger you can kiss goodbye to any sovereign decisions, perceptions or judgments. It is well known that anger clouds the judgment. It is the cloud that prevents you from seeing anything different, or objectively. You may have been wronged, you may be justified in your anger, you may be full of righteous fury… but, you will not heal.

There are two levels of forgiveness…
First is the superficial. You try and put everything aside. This may include rationalizing, becoming neutral, suppressing the feelings, being outwardly polite, or even forgetting. But the body knows otherwise. When in this mode, the mind will say one thing, but the body language will contradict. This could include stiffening, grimacing, making excuses, avoiding contact, or literally biting back negative feelings or thoughts. All tactics are designed to hold back your true feelings, but in unguarded moments, there can be a flash flood of anger. This type of feigned forgiveness helps nobody, except to help maintain outward decorum and peace. A whole lifetime can pass by holding up your grudges within.

Feel the feeling completely… then let it go…
The second level of forgiveness is the more rewarding kind. This requires two preconditions: a determination to heal, and therefore engage in the act of forgiveness, and honesty. Now the good thing about forgiveness therapy is that it can be undertaken alone if you’d rather not face the person or event in question. Meeting and expressing your feelings after forgiveness with the person would be ideal, but not necessary. This exercise can be undertaken solitarily.

The way to go about it is, first of all, to ensure quiet time alone. Make sure you will not be startled by noise or someone’s presence. Now bring the person or incident you need to forgive in front of your mind’s eye and allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this produces. At this time your mind will likely launch into a barrage of thoughts and stories. Tell your mind to put everything aside and that you will come back to it later. (The mind can be like a petulant child ready to throw attention tantrums and this is a tactic to throw the mind off track.)

The real healing is done with the body. Pay close attention to how you’re feeling, and how this is manifesting itself physically. Is it in the chest, stomach, throat, shoulder, head or where? What does it feel like? Knotty, fiery, cold, lumpy, restricting or what? Keep watching, let the feeling grow and take its course. And once it starts to die out, let it go. Tell yourself, you are ready to forgive completely and absolutely. Open your palm, and imagine you have been carrying a boulder of anger. Let it roll away.

This is the start. If you can do this repeatedly, you will have pulled the thread that will unravel the balls of anger or hurt. And you are now moving forward on a journey of forgiveness. It must be emphasized that forgiveness therapy is like chipping away at a block. It will likely not hack the whole trauma away, unless you are very lucky. (Such an experience is more likely to happen with special techniques and under the guidance of trained healers.)

You might be wondering how this process works? Arthur Janov, an American psychotherapist and creator of the Primal Therapy, suddenly understood the importance of releasing suppressed emotions one fine day when during a therapy session, Janov heard what he describes as, “an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor”. From that insight developed primal therapy in which clients are encouraged to re-live and express what Janov considers repressed feelings. “During a primal, one makes contact with a past memory and the feeling connected with it, and has the experience of descending. A person “goes with” the feeling, lets it expand and become ‘big,’ surrenders to it, and gives in to her body-movements. At the conclusion of a session, the person has the sense of having truly made contact with their feelings — and thereby with their real self. The insights that then emerge are experienced as solid and indisputable.”

Forgiving does not mean saying the other is now ‘right’, nor does it lessen their wrong. Forgiveness only means freeing yourself from your pain. People on a journey of forgiveness have healed themselves of chronic illness, and some therapies also revolve around forgiveness to affect cures.

The journey of forgiveness is not an easy one, nor is it by design, intended to be. But it is a rewarding one. One that could result in greater health, lightness, peace of mind and freedom for the self.


Author Bio:
I am Mira. Although trained in marketing, I ventured into writing and discovered that I enjoy the flow. I am a curious person, always exploring new ideas and concepts. What interests me most is reading, experimenting and experiencing healing foods, therapies and practices that will or can align us back to harmony and balance. So here is my blog to share my experiences, readings and adventures!

Photo © Lisa F. Young