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Psychotherapy and Forgiveness. A liberating process

One of the most profound topics that i worked with in psychotherapy is to help others iniciate a process of forgiveness. Is important to understand the complexity of it, because is a common word that we sometimes use and hear from many different people and we can easily tend to oversimplified his true meaning. My idea here is to share with you some reflections about it based on my personal and professional experience.

First of all, forgiveness is a process. Is not a simple action that i do by only saying it. It requires certain disposition to reflect about what happened and to allow ourselves to feel our emotions related to the event, in order to enter into a series of steps necessary to elaborate in time the forgiven process.

Another common and wrong thought is to relate forgiveness with oblivion. To forgive allows us to think, feel and act towards what happened from another standpoint, is not necessarily to forget what happened at all. In fact, sometimes is even wiser and healthy not to forget. In the same way, any forgiving process is unique, and sometimes is not possible to forgive at 100%. What is most important is to reflect on the damage and wellbeing that we can achieve in any given forgiving process to ourself.

We also tend to think that the the person who receives the forgiveness is the most benefited from the process. In my own experience as a psychotherapist, i found that the person who forgives is the one who benefits the most in that he/she is freed from his grudge, manages to deeply heal his/her wounds and is strengthened as a human being.

I found useful to think in a series of known steps in research of clinical psychology that we need to work with in order to achieve an honest and personal process of forgiveness:

  1. Express our emotions: The first task is to identify, express and validate the emotions that we feel as a result of what happened.

  2. Understanding of oneself and the other: A profound but sometimes difficult step, to reflect on how this event has affected me and possibly change myself is crucial. In the same way, it helps to understand the reasons and motivations of the other, not to minimize what happened, but to be able to have a broader vision of it. Is important to consider that sometimes there is no logical reasons, and to persist trying to find this reasons can be unhealthy. The key here is acceptance, through reflection and compassion for oneself and others.

  3. Rebuild security and self confidence: Once i manage to deeply understand my wounds, is important to reestablish an important amount of self protection and security, empowering and taking care of myself in order to prevent this will not happen again. This step connects me with the image of the Phoenix, a mythical bird of Greek mythology, which is consumed by the action of fire every 500 years, but then rose again from its own ashes.

  4. Let go: The final and liberating result of an honest and healing process of forgiving is to let go the resentment that poisons the soul. It is a decision, sometimes very difficult, but fundamental for our own mental and emotional health. To understand that this resentment keep us in pain and imprisoned, leading us to mental and even sometimes physical diseases, helps to make a liberating decision, to forgive.

Did you forgive others?

Did you forgive yourself?

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