Therapist: “Do you want to learn more about yourself as a person?”
Client: “I guess, but I probably won’t like it.”
Therapist: “I didn’t say you had to like it. But, if you do it right, it only hurts for a little while. One thing I’d like you to do is forgive the people who have hurt you. Can you do that?”
Client: “Sure I can, but I won’t!”
Therapist: “Why won’t you?”
Client: “Why should I, after what they did to me? It not fair to forgive them after all the pain they caused me.”
Therapist: “Does not forgiving them help you?”
Client: “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Therapist: “It’s worse than that – you can’t care. Your feelings won’t let you. They are in control. They are making your decisions for you.”
Client: “Good. That saves me the trouble.”
Therapist: “It saves you the trouble: the pain of making a ‘wrong’ decision, but it causes other troubles you don’t even know are down there. These are the troubles that are making you sick, physically and emotionally. They are killing the happiness you could be enjoying right now. You are paying a high price for this ‘principle of fairness” you are upholding so nobly.”
Client: “That’s right. I have principles!”
Therapist: “Do you have these principles or do the principles have you?”
Client: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Therapist: “Now you’ve got it! You don’t know. You’d be better off physically and emotionally if you did. Would you like to know what I’m talking about?”
Client: “I guess so.”
Therapist: “I’ll settle for that. I’m talking about your obstacles to forgiveness. It’s not a choice you are making, to forgive or not. Your feelings made that choice for you years ago and nothing has changed. Your emotions are the same now as they were when it happened way back when. They are frozen in time. They haven’t been adequately identified for you, let alone relieved. How many more years do you plan to suffer with this unfinished business?”
Client: “I didn’t know it was up to me.”
Therapist: “Who else have you got? You just learned something. You are responsible for the consequences of your choices. You can choose to to take ownership over your own happiness. If you don’t give yourself a break, who will? Would it help if you knew what ‘forgiveness’ means?”
Client: “I know what it means.”
Therapist: “What does it mean?”
Client: “You know, forgetting about it.”
Therapist: “That’s exactly what you can never do! The human mind is too powerful to forget. You have such a wonderful memory that these experiences will always be with you. But we can reduce the emotional weight they carry. Forgiveness means letting go of anger, not for others benefit, but for your own. These people who have hurt you will never know about it. It’s none of their business who you forgive. It’s for your benefit. If you don’t forgive, the anger will stay down there inside you forever. Is that what you want? I don’t think so. You have the power of choice now.”
Client: “I never thought of it that way.”
Therapist: “You can choose to write out your anger. Writing your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper makes them tangible and concrete before our very eyes. You cannot evaluate abstract thoughts in your mind about your life or about yourself. However, we can begin to sort them out when you see them in black and white in front of you.”
Client: “How do I begin?”
Therapist: “To start the journaling process it maybe useful to ask yourself focusing questions. By answering these questions you are able to make your internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings conscious and concrete. This allows you to find forgiveness from your conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps you to move forward.”
Client: “So what’s the first step?”
Therapist: “You can begin by using some focusing questions, such as:
What is the worst part about it?
How does that worst part make me feel?
When else have I felt this way?
What am I trying achieve?
What scares me about this?
How will this affect my life in the long term?
What would be an ideal outcome?
What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”
Client: “I see how that can help. It would be nice to let all this stuff out on my terms, instead of jumping down others throats over small petty problems.”