Tagged: “break free from the past”

You recently asked me how power can help me overcome the anger within.  Well, I will tell you. If I can get back at the one who was ridiculous to me, then I get rid of the anger.  You as a psychologist should know this.  The name of this cleansing is called catharsis, right?

Catharsis or “letting it all out” will not necessarily cleanse your anger in the long run.  Yes, you may feel empowered for a short time, but if the injustice against you is deep, then the internal effects on you can last for many years.  For example, we have worked in a hospice situation in which some of the participants in our forgiveness intervention had been carrying anger within them for over 40 years.  Nothing they had tried cleansed that anger until, 40 years later, they made the choice to forgive.

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Power makes me a man.  Forgiveness makes me a wimp.  Hey, I like those 2 sentences.  Maybe you can use them in your forgiveness talks.  Really now, don’t you think that humans are made for power……you know, the survival of the fittest.

There is a big difference between power **over** others and power **for** others.  The former leads to domination, which might lead you eventually to have to forgive yourself for treating people as pawns in your quest for domination over them.  On the other hand, power **for** others means that you use what influence or skills you have to make a better world for others.  This can require strength of character, patience, altruism, and even suffering for those others.  So, which form of power are you discussing: power **over** or power **for**?  This distinction makes all the difference.

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You just made a distinction between power **over** and power **for.** I will take power **over** all the time because this power **for** others usually results in my being taken advantage of.  No thank you. I am better off being the one in charge.

Your trust seems to be damaged.  If so, this idea of power **over** others may be a defense mechanism to aid you in not being hurt again.  Am I correct about this?  If so, then your quest for power **over** others will not heal your inner wounds caused by others.  Of course, I could be wrong about this, but please introspect for a while to see if you have unresolved inner wounds in need of healing.  Please write back if you have new insights.

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Forgiveness and Finding Meaning in Sacrifice

〈This is an excerpt from my book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.〉

When you sacrifice for others, you are doing a lot more than acting in service to them. They may be bleeding emotionally inside, and you then bleed inside to help them stop bleeding inside.   For example, Brian’s mother, Yolanda, was overly-controlling toward him and his partner, Simone. Instead of distancing himself from Yolanda, he spent time gently giving her examples of her not letting him, in her own mind, develop independence in adulthood. This took energy, a checking of his anger so it did not spill out to her, and some suffering on his part to help her to understand.

Of course, we have to exercise temperance here too. Sacrifice does not mean that you do damage to yourself. The paradox is that as you sacrifice for others, you experience emotional healing.

Dr. Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, provides a remarkable case study of the kind of meaning one can find in sacrificing for others. His example is not in the context of forgiveness.  I relate it to you so that you can see how sacrifice works and becomes an aid to the one who is doing the sacrificing. An elderly physician came to see Dr. Frankl because of the loss of his wife 2 years earlier. Dr. Frankl saw that he was psychologically depressed. His question to the physician was this: “What would have happened to your wife if you were the one to go first?” With that question a bigger picture opened for the physician. Had he gone first, then it would have been his beloved wife who would be visiting Dr. Frankl for her depression. By her going first, she was spared years of grief. The physician then understood that he could willingly take on the suffering on behalf of his wife……….

Can you see how a sacrificial attitude, within reason, could aid you in forgiving and in overcoming resentment? I say within reason because you do not want to overdo this either. If a person refuses to hear what you have to say, or refuses to accept your sacrificial gestures and begins to use you, then it is time to reexamine the approach. None of these approaches is foolproof. If you see benefit in the sacrificial attitude and related behaviors, then what is your particular plan? What will you do that is hard for you to do in service to the other? How long will you give this undertaking? Do you see even a glimmer of evidence……that the other is open to even small change? Be sure to monitor your coping level during this exercise so that the sacrifice does not lead to an even greater resentment. If that begins to happen over a period of time, then it is time to reevaluate this particular approach in your case. If, on the other hand, it seems to be working, then stay at it as long as you can and as long as the other is willing to work with you in changing behaviors.

Reflect on the possibility that without your forgiveness, that person may never learn to live well. You may be playing a part in helping him or her grow deeply as a person. How might that be? He or she is being given a chance to see what genuine love is and to see it in action. Your sacrificial approach may even be playing a part in the very survival of this person. Of course, you do not want to go so far with this sacrifice that you do damage to yourself. Instead, the point here is that as you give of yourself, within reason, this giving might prove to be emotionally healing for you. When you are ready, write down your answer to the question of how you may be aiding the other’s healing.

Dr. Frankl then gives the reader an insight that is worth remembering: Sacrifice changes as soon as it is linked to a sound meaning that underlies it. The physician now had a meaning for going on, and his willing acceptance of outliving his wife was a sign that he loved her and wanted her safe.

Robert

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