Is There Someone You Just Can't Forgive? Should You Even Have to Try?
Affirmations and exercises for forgiving yourself and those who have hurt you immensely, from Dr. Philip Friedman, author of "The Forgiveness Solution." Learn how forgiveness can be at the root of deep emotional healing.
Is it possible to forgive those who have hurt and betrayed us? How can we forgive a spouse or someone else close to us who let us down? Philip H. Friedman, Ph.D, author of The Forgiveness Solution: The Whole Body Rx for Finding True Happiness, Abundant Love and Inner Peace says that forgiveness is the key to happiness and peace. He shares the five steps that can help a person forgive abuse and injustices they experienced as a child, and tips on how to release " the psychological soot and grime (darkness) that has built up that blocks us from experiencing the inner light that is always there."
Commitment: Why is forgiving so important? Isn't it human nature to hold a grudge if someone hurts us?
Philip H. Friedman, Ph.D: Forgiveness is the key to happiness and peace. It is the "ego's" nature to hold grudges, grievances and attack thoughts. This is one path we can travel in life. It is littered with these forms of unforgiveness which generate anger, hurt, guilt, shame, sadness etc.. This path separates us from our true Self.
There is, however, another path we can travel. Forgiveness bring us to this path; the path of Happiness, Peace, Joy, Truth, Love and our Higher Self. Forgiveness is important because it is the bridge to the path of our own true Self and true happiness.
Commitment: Is it possible to forgive if someone has hurt us immensely? If so, what within us enables us to forgive even terrible wrongs done to us?
Dr. Friedman: Yes, it is always possible to forgive someone who has done something we experience as very hurtful. In fact, it is a form of re-empowerment. First, however, we need to have a little willingness. Then we need to set the goal which is peace of mind. We can in fact change all thoughts that hurt, especially self-attack thoughts. We can learn to shift the negative energy that keeps hurt feelings stuck.
It is good that we can because holding on to hurt feelings and self-attack thoughts can generate not only emotional problems but also health problems, relationship problems, alcohol and even drug problems.
Commitment: You wrote that underneath all emotional and psychological problems, the core problem is forgiveness. Does forgiveness impact us that dramatically? If so, how is it the basis of all other emotional and psychological problems, like low self-esteem, self-hatred, anger issues, and other problems?
Dr. Friedman: Actually I said that underneath all emotional and psychological problems (or at least most of them) is unforgiveness, the holding on to judgments, grievances, grudges and attack thoughts. Yes unforgiveness does impact us that dramatically.
When we engage, consciously or subconsciously, in self-attack thoughts and therefore self-judgments, it leads to low self-esteem, self-hatred, guilt and often health problems.
When we engage in judgments, grievances and attack thoughts to others it generates anger and relationship problems. In both cases the attack thoughts cover up fear and fear is a call for love.
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Commitment: What does forgiving another person mean?
Dr. Friedman: Remember that there is self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others.
1. Letting go of the negative emotions such as anger, hurt, guilt, shame, sadness etc.
2. Shifting one's perceptions and perspective so that we see that anger (from another or our self) covers up fear and fear is a call for help and for love.
3. Changing one's attitudes, e.g. the attitude that says we are right and the other person is wrong which implies we are better than the other person in some way: basically we can choose between being right or being happy.
4. Changing the story about what happened from a victim story to an empowerment, responsibility or preferential story.
5. Being willing to see things from the others' perspective and optimally empathize with their point of view.
6. Shifting the negative energy to positive energy
7. Choosing and deciding to forgive.
8. Seeing that the essence of the other person beyond their behavior is innocence and love
and therefore seeing the inner light within both yourself and others.
9. Seeing positive qualities in the other person and often love and compassion.
10. Realizing that whatever happened was for your personal, relationship and spiritual growth.
Commitment: How and why did you become an expert in the field of forgiveness?
Dr. Friedman: I was really interested in personal, relationship and especially spiritual growth in the mid 1970's when I came across A Course In Miracles (ACIM) . It was the 50 Principles of Miracles that caught my attention originally. However, I was experiencing some personal, relationship and professional struggles at the time and the key idea in ACIM was forgiveness so I started practicing it personally. Then I started using it with the couples and families I was seeing clinically in my therapy practice. Then I ran attitudinal healing and well-being workshops for many years which had forgiveness as a major component.
Finally I conducted a number of research studies on forgiveness and gratitude in my clinical psychotherapy practice and published those studies in professional journals along with a colleague of mine, Loren Toussaint, Ph.D, currently an associate professor in Iowa.
Forgiveness, though, is an ongoing practice, personally, relationally and spiritually. The universe presents many opportunities to practice it and over time I found myself getting better and better at it. Along the way I learned many forgiveness techniques, improved on them, improvised and developed new ones.
Commitment: What advice do you have for married persons who hold anger and cannot forgive their spouses for things they have done through the years?
Dr. Friedman: The best advice really is to read my book, The Forgiveness Solution, and do the exercises there. Everybody though can learn to forgive. First, however, you need to have a little willingness. Without that there is no progress. Then realize that anger covers up hurt, disappointment and eventually fear and as previously mentioned fear is a call for help and love.
For many people invoking the presence of a higher power or force is very helpful.
The book contains a wealth of tools: affirmations, afformations, psychological uplifters, positive pressure point techniques, gratitudes, letter writing and roleplaying exercises, teaching stories, forgiveness worksheets and forgiveness imagery exercises that are very powerful and useful. Working with them consistently and persistently over time can make a huge difference in how one experiences life.
Commitment: What clues can reveal that a person has issues with forgiveness, although they may not realize they have people they need to forgive?
Dr. Friedman: Almost anytime you are upset or in emotional pain there is usually an unforgiveness lurking behind it.
Certainly when you have relationship problems or professional struggles or are just not happy or at peace you probably could benefit from forgiving yourself, another, circumstances or sometimes even God.
You can bring them to surface by writing down who or what grudges, grievances, judgments or attack thoughts you still hold toward people in your life from the past or present or what hurt, anger, disappointments you hold toward these people.
Commitment: What are five steps a person can take who perhaps grew up in an abusive situation, and was treated with great injustice as a child?
1. Get clear on what you want rather than what you don't want (positive vs negative vibrations; peace vs conflict; love vs fear; joy vs sadness; happiness vs unhappiness)
2. Be willing to let go of judgments, grievances, grudges and attack thoughts and distressing feelings (anger, guilt, hurt, sadness, fear, shame, etc)
3. Be willing to choose to see things differently; to shift your perception and perspective
4. Practice the Psychological Uplifter and one or more of the forgiveness exercises in my book: (affirmations, afformations, positive pressure point techniques (PPPT), forgiveness imagery, structured letter writing; roleplaying; forgiveness worksheets etc)
5. Ask a higher power or force to help you to forgive yourself or someone else.
Commitment: Is forgiving ourselves also important? If so, how do we do this?
Dr. Friedman: You can use the same techniques (the Psychological Uplifter; affirmations, afformations, positive pressure point techniques (PPPT), forgiveness imagery, structured letter writing; roleplaying; forgiveness worksheets etc) to heal self-criticisms, self-judgments and unforgiveness against yourself and to eliminate guilt)
Commitment: You wrote that forgiveness is about "seeing the inner light or goodness in yourself and in other people." How can we do this, if perhaps we see inner darkness, rather than inner light?
Dr. Friedman: We have to release the psychological soot and grime (darkness) that has built up that blocks us from experiencing the inner light that is always there. This psychological soot and grime exists in the form of negative beliefs and attitudes (grievances, judgments, attack thoughts) that prevent us from seeing the inner positive essence or goodness within us and each others.
Remember that every communication is either a communication of love or a call for love.
Use these same techniques (the Psychological Uplifter; affirmations, afformations, positive pressure point techniques (PPPT), forgiveness imagery, structured letter writing; roleplaying; forgiveness worksheets etc) to heal self-criticisms, self-judgments and unforgiveness against yourself and to eliminate guilt)
Commitment: Can you share with us a few affirmations that can help us forgive?
“Inherent in every diﬃculty or challenge is the seed of an
equal or greater beneﬁt. I will look for that seed and nurture
“Inherent in every grievance, judgment, and attack thought is the seed of the opportunity for practicing forgiveness. I will look for that seed and nurture it.”
“I can elect to change all thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and negative energies that hurt.”
“I can elect to change all thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and negative energies that cause emotional distress.”
“I can escape from the emotional distress I experience by giving up grievances and attack thoughts.”
“I am determined to see and experience things diﬀerently.”
“I can learn to see that attack and anger cover up fear, and fear is a call for help and for love.”
Commitment: Can you also share one or two exercises that can help us release anger and move toward forgiveness?
There are 2 Psychological Uplifters: Here is the first one
Psychological Uplifter 1
1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, such as a bed-room, ofﬁce, bathroom, or car. Go there.
2. Now, choose three to four words that apply to your situation (for example, fear, anxiety, sadness, frustration, anger, guilt, shame, marital problems, etc.) and circle them.
3. Put one hand on your heart while repeating out loud Psychological Uplifter 1. Within reasonable limits, the louder you say it, the better. If you absolutely aren’t able to say it out loud because of the limitations of your surroundings, say it to yourself with high intention.
4 . Now say, “Even though I have this problem or negative emotion (name the emotion; e.g., fear, anxiety, hurt, anger, depression, sadness, frustration, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, or marital, family, relationship, or work problems, etc.), I accept myself deeply and profoundly, and I am a good and magniﬁcent person.” Repeat this three times.
5. Then say, “I love and forgive myself unconditionally despite my problems, limitations, and challenges” (repeat three times).
6. Then say, “I am entitled to miracles” (repeat three times). If at all possible, say this louder and with more conviction each time.
Try to do this exercise ten to twenty times per day or as often as you can, until you feel relief. Be kind to yourself. If you miss a day or two or if, on some days, you do the Psychological Uplifter less often, don’t judge yourself.
Copy down Psychological Uplifter 1 on a separate sheet of paper or a 3 x 5 card so that it will be easier for you to remember. and practice it as often as you can, until you feel relief.
Be kind to yourself. If you miss a day or two or if, on some days, you do the Psychological Uplifter less often, don’t judge yourself.
Commitment: If we have been so hurt in our life by others, to the point that we have changed somehow from their betrayals and abuse, can we really return to our core self, that is full of peace, love, joy and strength?
Dr. Friedman: All of the exercises mentioned previously will bring you to a place of peace, love, joy and strength if you practice them consistently over time with positive intentions.
For some people it will be beneficial to do this with a therapist, coach or group. Our core self never changes. The inner light, peace, joy, love, truth is always there but covered over with painful feelings. When you learn to release these painful emotions the inner core reveals itself. It is like chipping away at the soot and grime to reveal the light within that is always there
To purchase "The Forgiveness Solution: The Whole-Body RX For Finding True Happiness, Abundant Love, and Inner Peace" click here.
About the Author: Philip Friedman, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. He has been practicing psychotherapy and healing for 30-plus years in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Dr. Friedman is on the Adjunct Faculty of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, a Diplomate in Comprehensive Energy Psychology as well as the executive director of the Foundation for Well-Being.
He is the author of the books The Forgiveness Solution: The Whole Body Rx for Finding True Happiness, Abundant Love and Inner Peace (Conari Press, 2009) and "Creating Well Being: The Healing Path to Love, Peace, Self-Esteem and Happiness" (R and E Publishers, 1989).
Dr. Friedman is one of the founders of Integrative Psychotherapy and Integrative Healing. He has published original research on forgiveness, gratitude and well-being in a clinical population showing that dramatic changes are possible in a relatively short period of time.
Dr. Friedman has also developed the Friedman Assessment Scales on Well-Being, Beliefs, Quality of Life, Affect and Personal/Spiritual Growth.
He is trained in cognitive-behavior therapy, multi-modal therapy, marital and family systems therapy and many alternative energy and spiritual therapeutic or healing techniques.
Some of the strongest influences on his work have been his early training in the work of Attitudinal Healing developed by Gerald Jampolsky and A Course in Miracles.
He is also the founder of the Positive Pressure Point Techniques or PPPT.
His websites are: http://www.forgivenesssolution.com and http://www.philipfriedman.com
He can be contacted at email@example.com or connect with him at: Facebook: www.facebook.com/philipfriedman