What Is Meant By Forgiveness In The Context Of Forgiveness Therapy?
Forgiveness in the context of forgiveness therapy does not mean condoning what another person has done to one but is a process that involves letting go of anger, bitterness, resentment and feelings of wanting revenge by choice and of, instead, developing compassion for the person who has harmed one. This, in turn, creates a desirable and beneficial alteration of one’s own internal mental state.
It does NOT, however, mean believing that what was done to one was acceptable or justifiable, excusing the behaviour of the offending person, forgetting how one was wronged, dropping legal action, or establishing a rapprochement with the wrongdoer.
The Process Of Forgiveness And The Four-Phase Model:
As alluded to above, forgiveness is a process and this process can be divided into 4 phases which are as follows:
- The Uncovering Phase
- The Decision Phase
- The Work Phase
- The Deepening Phase
Let’s look at each of these 4 phases in turn:
The Uncovering Phase:
- understanding the wrong that has been done to one and how it has affected one’s life
The Decision Phase:
- understand what is meant by forgiveness and to decide whether or not one wishes to forgive
The Work Phase:
- start to understand the person who hurt one and view them with compassion and developing more positive feelings towards oneself
The Deepening Phase:
- in this phase, negative feelings associated with what has happened are diminished further and ways the wrongdoing could ultimately feed into posttraumatic growth are considered
Why Is Forgiveness Beneficial For Our Health And Prospects Of Recovery?
If we have suffered childhood trauma as a result of our parents’ abusive behaviour or neglect, we may grow up feeling angry and resentful towards them. Furthermore, as a result of our childhood experiences, our own behaviour in the past may have been dysfunctional and self-destructive and we may feel angry with ourselves about this.
Feeling angry towards our parents and/or ourselves, though, can act as a very major impediment to our recovery from the effects of our childhood trauma – so this is one vitally important reason why forgiving ourselves and our parents can be an extremely positive and helpful thing to do; after all, feeling constantly bitter, angry and resentful is an exhausting and painful frame of mind to endure (in most cases simply harming ourselves rather than anybody else; this idea is pithily encapsulated by the well-known aphorism that (to paraphrase) being filled with anger, vengefulness and resentment is akin to drinking poison and expecting our enemy to die.
In short, being preoccupied with feelings of resentment keeps us trapped in the past and prevents us living in, and enjoying, the present.
Physical Benefits Of Forgiveness :
Also, the act of forgiveness, assuming it is freely chosen and authentic rather than something we have reluctantly forced ourselves to do, is most important for our physical health and I briefly explain why below :
- being constantly angry locks our nervous systems into the ‘fight or flight’ state; this results in various physiological changes in our bodies which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to heart disease/attacks; it follows, therefore, that letting go of our anger and practising forgiveness will make us less likely to experience such heart problems
- chronic anger also increases our risk of diabetes
- chronic anger increases the risk of high blood pressure
- improve sleep
- lower levels of cholesterol
Forgiving ourselves and others are acts of compassion and research shows that developing compassion can help us to overcome the adverse effects of childhood trauma.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).