Often we want to forgive others or ourselves, but we don’t know how to let it go. We spend a lot of time and energy ruminating over what went wrong, how we have been harmed or betrayed by someone or how we ourselves have let other people down and hurt them. Keeping the hurtful memories alive, sometimes for many years is disruptive and have an impact on our physical and mental health. Often, anxiety, anger, depression, chronic pain and relationship problems are grounded in resentment, guilt and shame. Forgiveness is the process of how we can move past the anger, hurt or regret that is tied to these past events. Forgiveness therapy with a psychologist is a way to gain peace and healing, so you can feel liberated and empowered.
Psychologists define forgiveness as a decision to let go of feelings of anger, resentment or vengeance toward a person, a group or yourself, where you feel you have been harmed or you have harmed someone else.
Just as important as it is to define what forgiveness is, it is also important to define what it is not. Forgiveness does not mean that you do ignore or deny the seriousness of an offence against you or someone else. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning, excusing or justifying the offences. It is possible that forgiveness may help to repair a damaged relationship with someone else but it doesn’t mean that now you have to reconcile with the person who harmed you, resume the relationship, or release them from legal accountability.
When we are ready and willing, when it is appropriate, forgiveness is very healing but there are also times when forgiveness will not be helpful or may even be dangerous. Forgiveness will be very healing and liberating if the situation related to the offence is no longer present in your life. However, if the situation is still currently impacting your life, forgiveness could even be harmful to you. For example, if a woman is experiencing domestic violence, to forgive and let go of the anger, may mean that she will want to return to the abuser, perceiving the abuser’s action as less malicious. In this situation, it is more important to establish safe boundaries. Therefore, if the anger is still serving a purpose in keeping you safe then forgiveness is not appropriate and would be misguided.
• you are willing to explore the hurtful situation
• the anger is no longer serving a purpose
• you wish more peace so you can spend this energy on more positive pursuits in your life.
We begin to choose to forgive when we realize that we no longer want to carry this hurt or pain. Forgiveness can help us to transform our attitudes, beliefs and energy when we release the toxic emotions. It involves looking at our resentment and grudge and gradually finding a way to let it go, replacing it with mindful awareness and compassion for ourselves and others.
There is growing evidence that the act of forgiveness is both physically and mentally empowering and healing. Research suggests that forgiveness reduced stress, lowered the risk of heart disease, strengthened relationships, helped lessen pain and instances of chronic illness, and led to greater happiness. Studies have shown that forgiveness improves our ability to cope and adapt while reducing negative feelings which then creates a better quality of life.
You are ready to explore forgiveness for others and yourselves, when:
This event/person is in the past and is no longer impacting your current life.
You spend a significant amount of mental and emotional energy rehashing the offences
The resentment is still getting in the way of your present life
You no longer still want to feel the anger and the pain?
Forgiving the self:
You experience a great deal of remorse
You spend a great deal of time ruminating over your wrong-doing and mistakes
You wish to make it right, to amend, to correct your ways.
You want to move on, to let go of the regret, the guilt or shame
Forgiveness is a teachable skill that requires intention, motivation, focus and practice. It has been broken down into steps where you gradually find a state of mind that is more understanding and peaceful.
Letting go of resentment or regrets means that:
• you don’t wish the other person any ill will or no longer wish to punish yourself,
• you are thinking of this person/situation less and less
• this person/situation is no longer impacting you
• you feel more peace and joy of living
• you have more energy to focus on what is important in your life
We can connect to our common humanities that we have all been hurt. We are all trying to figure out how to let go of that pain to avoid being the victim, so we can learn and find strength in what we have encountered. Forgiveness, compassion, self-compassion, all work and support each other.
If you believe that anger, resentment and bitterness is an issue for you: that it is causing psychological distress, affecting your mental and physical health, you may wish to explore forgiveness with our psychologist. We would recommend that you contact your GP to discuss this matter for a possible referral (Mental Health Care Plan) or that you contact our psychologist directly.
During the initial session, our psychologist will first listen to your concerns and help you to assess if forgiveness or self-forgiveness is right for you. If it is right for you then at your own pace, we can explore what is behind the hurt and pain with self-compassion. The aim will be to explore perspectives and resolves that resonate with you so that in time you can let it go to find more peace and joy in life.
If you wish for more information or to make an appointment face to face at our office in the Gold Coast or Online anywhere in Australia,
you can ring our psychologist on 0427795721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast, Qld 4220