Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
As a therapist, I worked with many people who remained preoccupied with the abuses and injustices committed by parents during their childhood and adolescence. Among other negatives, this preoccupation resulted in feelings of extreme stress and depression. It is a well established fact that stress and depression have a negative impact on physical health.
On the other hand, forgiveness can result in a release from a past filled with unhappiness. Remaining focused on parents who caused harm the means never escaping from their clutches. The purpose of forgiveness, as envisioned in this blog, is to be able to move on with one’s life wile no longer being hobbled by what happened long ago. It really has to do with achieving real individuation and autonomy.
One patient told me that she was leaving her grocery bag of resentments in my office so that she no longer had to carry it around. In her words, “that bad was to darned heavy.”
The nature of holding grudges and resentments is such that it can result in the in a self perception of victim. It is all too easy to take the next step of becoming a collector of resentments. This is what makes “grocery bag” so heavy.
This entire attitude is so addictive that it is difficult to give up that bag.
There is a tendency to think that, if we can convince the other they did wrong and get them to apologize, life will feel better. However, this is not a successful or strategy. In my experience, parents rarely admit to wrong doing, much less apologizing for the past. In any case, it really makes no difference because these things happened in a long ago past and cannot be undone. That is why it’s more important to let go of these things and move on with life. Forgiving goes a long way towards being able to move on. By the way, forgiveness has more to do with a way of thinking than actively forgiving someone who does not believe they have done anything they for which they need forgiveness.
Giving up resentment is not easy and takes time to work on. However, there is a stress reducing exercise that is very helpful. This exercise is done with eyes closed while sitting comfortably. All of the resentments and traumas from the past, are visualized as aches pains. Next, these aches and pains are seen pouring into some part of the body. Most often, people select the body part where they feel a lot of discomfort, such as the neck or back. Then, the pain is seen filling a large balloon. The balloon fills until all of the aches and pains are drained out of the body. The final step is to let go of the balloon so that it drifts away into the sky forever.
This, along with meditation, exercise and relaxation, gradually releases all of the tensions connected with the resentment until it all vanishes.
Your comments and questions are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD