What is Forgiveness Therapy?
Most of us have been taught about the importance of forgiveness. However, like many paths to healing, it is easier said than done. We have all been in situations or have had to deal with people who have wronged or hurt us in some way in the past or present. When wronged, we typically find ourselves harboring feelings of betrayal, anger, or the need to seek vengeance in order to return to a sense of normalcy.
There is a perspective of forgiveness that might surprise some people: Forgiveness is not a selfless act, that is in the sole benefit of the person that has wronged you. Instead, it is about self-healing, empowerment, and liberation. If we don’t find it within ourselves to forgive, we spend a lot of our energy thinking about the negative aspects of our lives. We get ourselves sick about it, we have flashbacks, and we waste our time thinking of memories of the past that hurt us in the present. A lot of people hold on to hurtful memories for years.
Therapists can help their clients move past their anger and pain that is tied to events of the past. Looking into the helpful role that forgiveness can play in the process of healing.
Forgiveness is all about knowing that you have been hurt, accepting that pain as your own, then allowing yourself to continue with your day to day life. You do this by coming to terms with the hurtful situation so that it doesn’t become a burden to you daily. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse anyone’s bad behavior and it certainly doesn’t make it okay that you have been wronged. It does not mean that you forget, it means that you have resolved the conflict, seen it as part of your life and are able to move forward without allowing it to interfere with your current relationships.
So why does forgiveness matter? And how do you know when it’s time to forgive? If you are seeking solace in substances such as drugs and alcohol or engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as self-mutilation or harm, risky sexual behavior, are depressed, stressed and/or anxious. It might be time to try to forgive, even what seems unforgivable. The mental health benefits of forgiveness are well established in the therapy community and as such it’s often important for those who feel victimized to learn to forgive in order to feel better.
Some people can forgive easily while others take a lot longer. The act of forgiving is one of realizing that holding onto anger and resentment carries a heavy weight on us. When we forgive, instead of only seeing our pain and suffering, we can begin to see the situation with full acceptance, as it is.
Although there are a variety of definitions of forgiveness, research has suggested they all have 3 common components:
- Gaining a more balanced view of the offender and the event
- Decreasing negative feelings towards the offender and potentially increasing compassion
- Giving up the right to punish the offender further or to demand restitution
Research has suggested that a roadblock people often face with forgiveness is the idea of being viewed as “weak” and having the idea that forgiveness gives the offender a “free pass.” However, in many ways, it takes a lot more strength to forgive. It isn’t easy to let go, find peace and move forward when you feel violated.
Why Hire a Therapist?
If you have trouble with the ability to forgive on your own, it’s time to seek help. We often need help from a neutral party that will allow us to recognize harmful patterns, areas that require change and to navigate ourselves through the tough times.
Getting your feelings out in the open, having someone to listen to you and to help you formulate a plan to regain your life back to some sense of normalcy and contentment. Placing your trust in a therapist will help you forgive and heal after being wronged. In essence, it’s your job to be as honest and open as possible. Then your therapist will be able to truly listen, remain neutral, and plot a course to help you overcome your struggles on your own terms.
What to Look for in a Therapist
Some people struggle with finding a therapist that is the right fit for them. It’s important to look at reviews, cost, listen to referrals, and that you make a connection. Most therapists are going to be able to help you with forgiveness therapy, but the right therapist is always going to be the one you feel most comfortable sharing intimate details with. Being able to form a tight bond and feel connected to your therapist allows you to trust their advice, and know that they have your best interest in mind.
- Lindsey Phillips (2017, April 26). The selfish act of forgiving. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://ct.counseling.org/2017/04/self%E2%80%8Aish-act-forgiving/
- Rubin Khoddam, Ph.D. (2014, Sep 16). The Psychology of Forgiveness – A how-to guide on the science behind learning to forgive. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-addiction-connection/201409/the-psychology-forgiveness
- Tipping, Colin (2010). Radical Forgiveness: A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, and Find Peace in Any Situation. Boulder, CO.