In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to talk about why therapy and forgiveness often don’t work.
First a quick update:
“The Oscars, the stars and the Law of Deservedness”
Read the transcript of the interview I gave to Filippo Voltaggio – LIFEChanges with Filippo (LCWF) where I discuss self-sabotage and reveal the 3 types of celebrities: The person who sets out to become a celebrity; the person who becomes famous as a by-product of his art, and; the person that sets out to get attention to try and fill the inner emptiness.
Now, let’s talk about why therapy and forgiveness often don’t work.
What does it mean to forgive someone? What does it take to forgive someone who has wronged you? What does it take to forgive yourself?
Recently, Kristin, a new client, told me that she struggles with forgiveness. “I easily forgive everyone else; probably, I am too forgiving” she says. “But, when it comes to me, I struggle. I find it so difficult to forgive myself. I am just so hard on myself.”
‘How do you know you have forgiven everyone else Kristin?’ I asked.
There was a long pause.
“I don’t know.”
‘So you don’t know if you have truly forgiven them?
What is forgiveness to you?
And do you truly believe it is possible to forgive someone else but not yourself?’ I asked.
“Well, of course. Can’t I forgive them even if I can’t forgive myself?”
‘The first key to happiness is to forgive, love and accept yourself Kristin – and then, you can do it to others’ I explained.
Kristin is a Christian, and so I referred to and referenced her beliefs:
‘Do you understand the significance of the commandment, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ Kristin? The message is to treat other people the way you treat yourself. In other words, be kind to your neighbor the way you are kind to yourself. You can’t be kind to someone else if you are not kind to yourself because you don’t really know kindness. The intention and commandment is to master the quality by expressing it to yourself and then you can express that same quality to someone else – your neighbor.’
So what does it mean to forgive someone?
In my newsletter from May 22, 2008, “The Secret to forgiveness”, I explain that often therapists will instruct their clients to forgive while failing to explain to their clients just how to do that. And the reason that they fail to tell their clients how to do that is because they don’t know what forgiveness really is.
Most people confuse denial and forgiveness.
To ignore or deny an action is not the act of forgiving; to ignore or deny your feelings is not the act of forgiving and; to make excuses for the other person is also not equivalent to forgiving.
So what is forgiveness?
‘Forgiveness’ is to ‘give’ understanding ‘for’ what happened.
But real understanding also involves compassion which, I will explain shortly, and real understanding doesn’t occur at a conscious, logical level.
Yes, that sounds contradictory; how can we understand why someone did what they did without using our logic?
To fully understand the other person involves emotions which, I will also explain in a moment.
But let’s begin with a common teaching by many therapists which, is based on logic and common sense. It is a phrase or motto that is often referred to as the tool or key to help you to forgive someone else or yourself: “Mary did the best she could at the time with the knowledge she had at the time.” One therapist even told her client “tell him that you did the best you could and that you are no longer available to being blamed by him.”
What is wrong with that approach?
It ignores our underlying emotions – our anger, hurt, betrayal, resentment, shame, pain and so forth. We cannot neutralize those emotions with logic. And if we hold guilt or other negative emotions towards ourselves, we cannot simply neutralize them or release them with logic.
Daniela is 32 years old. She is married with two children. Daniela says that her father would do anything for her and she has a pretty good relationship with him now but, when she was a child, he was extremely strict, abusive and intimidating. Daniela found it hard to express herself. She would avoid conflict, confrontation and even communication with her husband and friends. Daniela was afraid to speak up for herself or to tell people what she really felt, and she would wake up daily with a sense of dread. Daniela had turned to drugs to escape; she was an addict.
Daniela’s father was a traditional Italian man who migrated to the US in his twenties. He was raised with a specific concept about the role that the woman should play and thus when Daniela was a teenager, her father would not allow her to date men, be independent, have her own opinions or voice them. Daniela’s father was also an angry man because he had been raised the same way – by abusive parents who didn’t allow him to express himself. Obviously, Daniela’s father was simply repeating what he was taught.
Daniela’s inability to admit her own feelings towards her father or to accept her own pain, were two key factors that drove her to addiction. As Daniela felt safe to express herself, she admitted to herself that she was really angry at her father and although she recognized at a conscious logical level that he would do anything for her, she was also carrying around deep resentment towards him along with various fears.
Explaining to Daniela that her father was raised a certain way and that ‘he did the best he could at the time with the knowledge and understanding he had at the time’ would not have been enough to help her to release her pain, emotions and feelings towards her father.
Using a simple and unique process, I helped Daniela to get a sense of the real pain that her father would have experienced when he was a child growing up; to feel and understand his pain, thus leading her to have compassion for him. This process also helped Daniela to realize that no matter what he did or didn’t do, it wasn’t her fault, there is nothing wrong with her and she is good enough. It also helped her to see the pain that she and her father both shared as children.
However, I also stated earlier in this newsletter that you can’t express love or kindness to another person until you can express it yourself. So, how does that relate to Daniela? How did she come to express forgiveness and have compassion for her father unless she had already done that for and to herself?
In my process with Daniela, I first helped her to acknowledge and accept her own emotions, her own feelings (at a subconscious level): the pain, fear, shame, humiliation, anger, betrayal, sadness and so forth. Once she could accept her own feelings, she could validate herself and her feelings, and also express compassion towards herself for what happened to her. From there, she could release those emotions while also now expressing compassion for her father and for the emotions and pain they both shared in common. From there, I also helped Daniela to now learn a new habit of safely and appropriately expressing and communicating her feelings, opinions and desires. And yes, she is free of the addiction.
If you would like to experience this technique (SRTT), click here.
And if you would like to learn this technique (SRTT), click here.
Of course, there are other elements to forgiveness depending on the specifics – for example, you might forgive the other person but still need to protect yourself and cut off the other person from your life. Accordingly, for more information and insights into forgiveness, read these articles and newsletters:
- “Why did you do this to me?” December 2010
- “Forgive and cut him off” February 2009
- “Forgiving the unforgivable” February 2009
- “The secret to forgiveness” May 22 2008
- “Why we refuse to forgive” May 14 2008
- “Asking for forgiveness” April 2007
- “How to forgive” April 2007
- “Why Forgive?” April 2007
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.