Forgiveness of Others 2
Chapters 2 through 8
Forgiveness of Others (Long Version)
Flow Chart of the Steps of the Forgiveness of Others Process
The forgiveness process does not all have to be done in one sitting. You can do it over several sessions, enabling you to do each step in greater depth. This can be especially valuable for steps 2, 6, 7, and 8.
The key actions and phrases are in heavy bold type, and the "stage directions" and explanations are in italics. This is for your convenience. As you get to know the process better, you can skip the comments and instructions and simply go with the flow of the steps till they are second nature.
Forgiveness is an act of loving will - of mental and spiritual will. Forgiveness cannot and does not take place on the emotional level , which is the level on which most problems arise.
A simple forgiveness process for one or two incidents can be dealt with in less than an hour once you have understood and mastered the process. To do it thoroughly if more incidents of greater seriousness are involved, allow 2-3 hours. For difficult relationships, several sessions can be needed, especially when you are learning how to do the steps. Different people need different times for each of the steps, depending upon their circumstances. You can, however, do each of the steps in parts on separate occasions, to complete the whole process. You might gain from having a guide to help you, but this process is being set out here for wider distribution in the hope that more people will be able to make use of it than if it is only available via therapists and workshops.
Speak it aloud or write it. To bring it into your body you must make pathways in your nervous system
- If you do have a guide help you, have them sit beside you, not opposite you.
If you are a therapist using this process with clients, or just someone helping
another person, I suggest that you have the forgiver sit beside you, not
opposite you. Problems with transference and counter-transference (projection of
feelings onto each other about people from your past) are less likely in this
position, and the process will go better than if you sit opposite each other (a
fact known to the Aboriginal People of Australia centuries ago!). If you are on
your own, you can make a tape of the instructions in your own voice, so you can
replay this process to yourself, and use the pause button when you need to. Or,
you can write out the process in full. Once you have fully understood the
principles involved, you may find words that work better for you than the words
used here. The process as it stands has been the result of suggestions from many
people. Write to me about any new ideas you have.
NOTE: If there is
difficulty with or resistance to the word "forgiveness", refer to the section on
true and false ideas about forgiveness which you can link to here
Demythologizing forgiveness - truths and untruths
The Purpose of Step Two is to give you a method of making a strong commitment to doing the process, to engage your WILL. You can also use this Values technique to make other choices in your life. You can also use it when you are negotiating with another person - by bringing the deeper values to light which are at stake, much wiser decisions will be arrived at. It is a way of getting First Things First.
This step and Step Three have been described to me by one person as "Tuning in to the WII FM program"- (the "What's In It For Me?" program)
You will be asking yourself - What is really the most important thing to me - my health, or holding on to the resentment, grudge, bitterness etc?
You will have chosen the "problem" (opportunity) to work on (see "Getting your Forgiveness Agenda", and if not, to recapitulate:
1. You may already know who it is you need to forgive
2. Biofeedback from your own body using Muscle Response Testing (MRT) can give you a "print-out" of the people you need to forgive. Check your body for any related areas of pain, tension, or disease. How much are the memory traces affect or weaken you? Do you really want that to continue unhealed? Muscle testing done before and after the process can show you how fully you have completed it.
Reminder: Doing the process physically is more effective than just thinking about it. Speak it aloud or write it, and feel the process as it affects your body. Doing it aloud or in writing "embodies" the healing pattern of forgiveness for you in your nervous system, muscles and glands (just as the original memory was "embodied" in these when you were upset, hurt, angry, humiliated, frightened etc).
At each step, check your willingness - are you willing to take the next step?
Use any inner reactions you may have to become aware of how much you really want to heal yourself of the effects of the resentment, grudge, hurt, etc. Sometimes people have spent a whole session with me working with this step, overcoming their resistances to forgiveness.
As they brought their outer action into line with the deeper, more enduring and wholesome values, their willingness to forgive became stronger and stronger.
Sometimes you may want to go on being "right" rather than to be well... Well, here is some news: Being angry and resentful about what someone did to you does not control them. In fact, the reverse is true - their every move controls you. They have only to come into the same room or even into your thoughts, and your muscles will tense, your blood pressure rise, or some other aspect of your body be harmfully altered.
If you are still
suffering as a result of something that someone did, the question must be asked
of you - "How much longer do you want to go on suffering?" The Forgiveness
Process is a way of freeing yourself from that suffering. In fact, I can tell
you, after working with this process since 1980, that relief is the commonest
side effect of forgiveness I have seen in my clinical practice.
The Purpose of Step Three is to give you another method of making a strong commitment to doing the process, to engage your WILL. You can use this Benefits and Burdens technique to make other choices in your life.
It is as if you are at a cross-roads, and one road is clearly signed to "Benefits", the other is clearly signed to "Burdens". Which one do you want for yourself?
The Purpose of Steps 2- 3 was to maximize your reasons for change. It was to increase the "voltage" or tension in your mind. This gives you the power and ability to replace negative mind-sets and goals with the positive. The Purpose of Step Four is to Affirm your intention and set your goal to forgive and heal yourself firmly in your mind, and the attitude with which you will do this.
In this step you are acknowledging that you are in charge. You are taking back control over your life. You are acknowledging the pain and harm that has happened while at the same time deciding that that pain and harm will no longer continue.
You are also setting in your mind not only the intention to forgive, but also the manner in which you will do the process. You are choosing to do it "comfortably, compassionately, completely and joyfully" rather than "uncomfortably, miserably, incompletely, and seething with resentment"! I have found that including this simple set of four words in the intention to forgive makes a huge difference to the ease with which people can gain the benefits of forgiveness process in their lives.
Are you ready for the
next step? This will be to honor your hurt feelings fully and precisely.
The purpose of this Step is to fully express, in a harmless manner, the deep feelings which you may have felt or suppressed, to acknowledge them and to validate them. Read it right through including the Notes to ensure you understand it fully and then work it through, being very gentle and compassionate to yourself as you do so.
Example: "What happened made me feel angry, bitter, humiliated, frightened, scared, sad, jealous, guilty, falsely guilty....etc". .............
Sometimes you may want to add: "And that reminds me of when my (e.g. mother, father, school teacher....etc) did..x,y,z..."
If you find yourself becoming overcome with emotion and unable to continue, check Steps 2 & 3 again - about values, and benefits and burdens. These will help to keep you motivated to continue on through the process. What are the burdens of continuing in the unhappy, unforgiving state, and taking the punishment for the other's wrongdoing? How much longer do you want to go on doing this to yourself, having bad feelings? What could be the benefits in forgiving and returning to the flow of love?
It is helpful to acknowledge why you need to forgive the person you are forgiving, e.g.:-
If you are still too emotionally charged, you may need to "get the emotion out of the body" (see the CATHARSIS EXERCISE , if you have not already done this fully) , i.e. beat out the anger, scream out the fear, wail out and share the grief, or confess the guilt to an unconditionally loving person or group.
Or, it may be sufficient for you to speak out how you feel as above. Your feelings do need to be fully acknowledged - but they do not have to control you from now on, or you are not a free person.
Or, some people find it helpful to draw, sketch or paint out their feelings. Some people need to act them out, eg. in psychodrama. Some people express their deep feelings in poetry.
Or, others find it helpful to write a letter to the person (you do NOT need to send it to them), expressing their feelings about what happened.
Occasionally someone has "shut down" their feeling nature because of emotional pain experienced in the past, and wants to relearn to feel deeply again. In such a case the words would need to be changed, e.g. to "I need to forgive you because I want to let myself trust enough to feel my feelings again, and to believe that it is safe to do so" etc. Catharsis may be appropriate, but exercises in sensory awakening may be better - e.g. enjoying beauty, fragrances, colour, sunsets, massage from a trustworthy and unconditionally loving therapist in a safe environment, etc. These could all be stepping stones to reawakening the joy life within.
Begin to distinguish between FEELINGS and THOUGHTS. It happens very often that when I ask someone to say how they felt they may say something like: "I felt weak and powerless." "I felt stupid" etc. Please note that these are actually not true feelings, but CONCLUSIONS or BELIEFS that were born in the mind at the time as a result of the bad feelings. These need to be sorted out from the FEELINGS and they will be dealt with in the next Step.
The main feelings are ANGER, FEAR, GRIEF, ADMIRATION (and its negative forms of JEALOUSY and ENVY), GUILT, FALSE GUILT (SHAME), LOVE. All other feelings are really variations on these.
For more about the Emotions, see The Nature of the Emotions
When you feel you have
fully expressed your feelings about what happened, and also no longer want to be
controlled by them, and you feel you are ready to go to the next Step, then go
to Step 6.
Done properly, this step can take some time. It is time well spent. Its Purpose is mental housecleaning, and your mind is more important even than the physical house you live in.
It is important to discover ALL the negative conclusions and beliefs that came into existence at the times of your pain and unmet needs. These can be weeded out of your mind, and then they will no longer control your life. Wiser beliefs can be substituted for them, beliefs that will work better for you and those with whom you live.
Energy follows thought. Everything around you in your room is the result of how someone thought. Before it was thought into existence, it was invisible, intangible. The outer form is a reflection of the thinking that preceded it.
Your behavior is a function of what you believe. But what you believe is not always conscious. Until you recognise what you believe there is little possibility of change, and even resistance to change.
Your life experiences can be seen as feedback of the strengths and weaknesses in your belief system. Recognise this, and you can take appropriate action.
Examples: "What happened made me not only feel angry and humiliated, it also made me conclude that all people of your sex or race could not be trusted, and that I was a weak and unworthy person. It also made me wish you would get ill or have an accident." "What happened made me feel so guilty, I came to believe I was worthless and would be better off dead". Search all these out and be honest with yourself. Be vigilant for the times when the pain turned to thoughts of revenge, illness or death wishes. Notice how easily this can happen when a person is very distressed.
Thoughts produce results. Virtually everything around you is the effect of thought. Positive thought tend to produce positive results. Negative thoughts produce negative results, immediately or later.
It is important to find out what negative thoughts, conclusions and beliefs you formed in the past, so you can heal them before they do (more) damage.
GUIDE, Read the negative beliefs discovered back to the forgiver, so the forgiver can see the whole pattern and become conscious of the effect of this belief system in their lives.
Reinforce your understanding and
motivation to forgive by saying, as if to the one you are forgiving:
Are you ready for the
next step? If so, go now to Step 7.
Steps 7 & 8 can be done concurrently or in sequence. I believe they are usually done best concurrently, but sometimes it is good to focus on the preferences first, and then go back to discover the underlying values.
IF THERE IS A GUIDE, GUIDE, HELP THE FORGIVER MAKE THEIR "PREFERENCE MOVIE".
Forgiver, whether you have a helper or not, persist until clear preferences emerge that would have met your needs fully and eliminated all negative feelings and beliefs.
The forgiver is to learn to experience the physical differences that using (a) complaining or gossip language, (b) vague unspecified preferences, and (c) clear preferences make to him/her.
Guide and/or forgiver, pay attention gently to the fact if the forgiver uses sentences that are other than clear preferences, the forgiveness will not be complete until they are made absolutely clear, clear enough for a third person to know when the preference had been fulfilled.
In Step Seven the forgiver learns to make the preferences so clear that a third person could see them happening and know when they were done. This skill can be transferred to daily living, quite apart from its use here, for the ability to make clear preference statements about your needs is a very important communication skill for all human relationships.
Step Eight enables you to become much clearer about what are the important values in life and how to bring them into the foreground in any discussion. This is of value in family life, at work and in committees.
Forgiver, imagine the person you need to forgive is in front of you. You may wish to place a chair in front of you to do this, with a cushion or pillow to represent the person you are forgiving.
Forgiver, you are to state precisely and completely what behaviors would have made things right for you, and write these down or have the guide do so, improving them as you get them more specific. You are "making a movie" in your mind.
Forgiver, you must direct the "actor" (the one you are forgiving) by describing exactly what he or she could have said or done which would have completely eliminated your bad feelings, negative beliefs and conclusions - that is, which would have met your needs adequately.
For some people, symbolic drawings, miming, dancing, or dramatizing these stages are effective here, especially if they have difficulty with reading or writing words because of educational trauma in the past.
Under each preference statement, be sure to add the value(s) important to you which were ignored.
1. Use no negatives (not's and no's) , comparatives (more, less, or words ending with -er), nor any vague, unspecified words in your preference statements. Look carefully at any preference which has these in it, and change it into one which is entirely in the positive, saying what would have been right for you, which you wanted, and not what would you did not want.
2. Describe the behavior in such a way that a third person could know if the behavior had been carried out.
You will need to use your mind SKILLFULLY.
How NOT to do it:
"I would have preferred that you had not told Jim the contents of my letter" This is not a good preference statement , because all it does in effect is tell what happened again and replay the bad feelings. It does not say what would have been acceptable. It is still just a complaint.
"I would have preferred you had been nicer to me and understood my feelings" This is not a good preference statement because (a) it has not been made clear what the person would have to say or do that would be what you understand by "being nicer", and (b) so that you would know that he or she "understood your feelings". You have "held on" to information and this can lead to incomplete forgiveness.
These are unsatisfactory because third person could have no way of knowing when the preferences in Examples 1 & 2 had been fulfilled.
How TO do it:
"I would have preferred that you had kept the contents of the letter I wrote to you completely to yourself. I would have preferred that you had also burned it after you had read it. I would have preferred that you had called me and told me you cared about what happened to me and offered to help. Then I would have known you understood my feelings. I hold this preference because I believe in the values of confidentiality and trust, of caring sensitively for others, and offering to help those in need, which I seek to express in my life".
A third person could be certain when the actions in Example 3 had been done, therefore this preference statement will work.
Beware of "pruning back" preferences:
Take enough time to grapple with what would have met your needs (or would now, if is an ongoing situation).
Be full in your description. Some people try to prune back their preferences by making intellectual allowances for the other person.
Example (how not to do it):
"I know you were busy, but if only we could have made love just once a year, that would have been just fine by me." - especially if this is said in a whiny voice. This might actually mean:
Example (how to do it):
"I would have preferred we had made love seven times a week, tenderly, gently, and with you asking me how I felt and what I would like, and telling me what you would like, so that we made sure we gave priority to our relationship this way." In its original form and tone it holds on to resentment, does it not? It is really a complaint. In the second form it is more full, precise and verifiable.
How to clarify vague preferences further:
The words "By which I mean......" can be magic in clarifying preferences. If you notice you are using vague words, go on to specify what exactly you mean.
"I would have preferred you had been more loving - by which I mean that you would always have listened to me without interrupting, you would have read me stories at night and hugged me once a day".
Only you can know what would have met your needs enough that the bad feelings and negative beliefs would not have come into existence.
Going through the List of Basic Needs (see after the section on Makikh) will also help you to understand how your disappointment with this person arose. You may not have made your needs clear to them. Or, they may not have been able to understand or meet them because of events in their own past. Maybe they were never able to learn how to do what you wanted of them or develop sound values.
It is the "loss" or lack of fulfillment of the conscious, (or more often, unconscious) demand that the preference be met , and the consequent shutting down of the flow of love, that caused the pain.
Stating your preferences and values lifts you out of the emotional level into the mental level. Include all the incidents where you would have preferred the person to have said or done differently. Some may come to your memory after you have done the process for the first time. If so, process them as well.
Go over your list again - is there anything else?
Are you sure you have included the desire you have that they should apologize to you, or admit they were wrong and you were right?
Are the preferences clear enough that a third person could know when they have been fulfilled.?
Step 8 - Cont. Summarizing Your Values
Go through your list and speak out again all the value(s) which you stand by, which were ignored by the other person in each of the interactions.
For example: "I believe in Trust, Honesty, Respect for others, Parental Love for children, that adults caring for children should be Trustworthy, that lovers should be Loyal ...... and I seek to express these values in my own life".
Speak each one aloud and make sure they have been recorded (i.e. that you or your guide has recorded them) in the spaces between the preference statements.
Guide, You might ask the forgiver "How does it feel to connect with your deepest values like this?"
The effects of this can be twofold:
(i) You may feel a surge of strength and pride in yourself as you acknowledge that these values are really important to you, and really make you "tick". I always feel I have got to know someone at a deeper level when they have shared this stage with me - it is about what is really important to them, about who they really are.
(ii) Not only this, but
these values may well have got stronger in spite of what the other person did.
This can be the hidden gift you received from the one who offended you.
Sometimes people choose their life's work because of deep values that were
strengthened in childhood traumas.
Continue to next section: Part II - Forgiveness of Others - Forgiveness 3
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