Why Is Forgiveness Beneficial For Our Health And Prospects Of Recovery?
If we have suffered childhood trauma as a result of our parents’ abusive behavior or neglect, we may grow up feeling angry and resentful towards them. Furthermore, as a result of our childhood experiences, our own behavior 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 practicing 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
Also, according to research carried out by The John Hopkins Hospital, practicing forgiveness can:
- help to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety
- 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; in relation to this, you may wish to read my article on compassion focused therapy.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).