“Forgiveness” has become a concept and action that many therapists, self-help gurus, life coaches and similar professionals who perform various forms of counseling are cashing in on. It has become like a “panacea” for any and all issues a person has in his or her life. It’s like “you need to forgive your ex-best friend, you ex-husband, your mother,… and all your problems will automatically be resolved”. But how does “forgiveness” really works? And WHO do you actually forgive? And is it really possible to forgive a person who may have ruined your life? There is no simple answer to these questions, but I want to express my own opinion based on personal, as well as professional, experience.
In my opinion, what needs to be forgiven is the part of the Self that has been hurt. And I can repeat that a thousand times over again: what needs to be forgiven and healed is a part of our Self that has been hurt! The question that always follows is: “What about the other person?” Well, “the other person” should be of least concern to you. The importance of forgiveness is not to forgive the other person, but to forgive, and as a result, to heal, that part of yourself that has been hurt.
The very important point (that many people forget) is to understand that forgiveness doesn’t “nullify” what the other person did to you or change the fact that harm was done. Forgiveness isn’t a magic eraser that will erase what has been done to you. But what it will do is allow you to accept the situation as is without changing its meaning. Forgiveness isn’t a way to escape the reality of the pain caused by the other person. Forgiveness is to accept that pain as a real fact and move on with your life. The moment you understand that will be the moment when true healing will begin. You will accept that harm was done, that one or more parts of your life are damaged and may never be restored, moments of pain will never be replaced, BUT that you, regardless of anything else, you’re still here – living and breathing. This is the way of personal responsibility, not for the damage that has been done to you, but to restore yourself and your life.
Years before I academically engaged myself in clinical psychology, I took classes on integral psychology taught by Ken Wilber. It was during one of those classes that I was first introduced to the “3-2-1 Shadow Process”, a modified version of which I currently use in my practice. The Shadow Process is a method to integrate our own suppressed/rejected parts, which we have projected onto others (you can search for “Ken Wilber 3-2-1 process” for more information). During one of his lectures, Ken Wilber said something like: “Even though we understand our shadow and have fully integrated it – it doesn’t mean that the other person isn’t an as***le, and it doesn’t mean that because you integrated your shadow, he will stop being an as***le. Most likely he won’t. But what will happen is – you will not react to his actions and/or he might completely disappear from your life.”
His words can be perfectly applied to the question about the “other person” in the process of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an internal process that will help you to accept the pain caused by another person and accept the fact that the imprint of what happened will actually remain within the fabric of your life. And that’s what will help you to move on with your life.
I fully understand that what I wrote is not something that most positive -thinking, self-help gurus advise – to sit in meditations and countlessly affirm that you now forgive someone who hurt you or allowed others to do so.
The true forgiveness is what will allow you to prioritize and heal yourself above all else.
© Rita Digilova, 2015