The Medicine of Forgiveness

Forgiving people is healthy. Life-giving. Not only for your mental, emotional, or spiritual health. But also physical health.

Science shows that our physical bodies can be ravaged by negative emotions. Cancer and other deadly diseases as well as depression-levels are high among non-forgivers.

I know a 45-year-old man who’s full of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness in his heart. Over the years, he poisons his body with negative emotions.

Today, his life is at risk. He’s set to undergo two dangerous coronary surgeries.

Forgiveness is healthy.

It’s a forgiver’s project, not the trespasser’s. Forgiveness is for you, not for the other person.

I often hear people mean, “I’ll forgive you if you change or ask forgiveness.” That’s not how true forgiveness works to heal.

Forgiveness is unconditional. It says, “I forgive the person who wronged me regardless of whether or not the person repents.”

This doesn’t mean you sanction or condone the abusive behavior done. True forgiveness recognizes the reality of wrong done.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness is a separate construct from reconciliation.

People who truly forgive people heal. They set themselves free.

However, at the same time, they don’t assume that their forgiveness has necessarily influenced or made the other person repentant of the wrongs made.

In fact, many forgivers rightfully choose not to reconcile. They create significant boundaries between them and the unrepentant persons who hurt them.

Dr. Charles Zeiders, author and psychotherapist, writes:

“Human nature is fallen, and people are capable of sadism, abuse, and grotesque behaviors that will again hurt us … We forgive, but we do not pretend that the people we have forgiven have been touched … or that reconciliation is possible. Even though we forgive in this life, we might have to wait for the next life to enjoy full community with those who have harmed us.”

Are you in love or an addict?

When a woman is routinely abused and coerced but nonetheless refuses to protect herself or leave the relationship, is it something you can call love?

Clinical psychological research and media news are full of documented cases of wife or woman batterings in intimate alliances.

Extreme are cases in which men have killed women. These women chose to stay on despite atrocities or severe hardships.

Nida was an executive and single Mom of two daughters. She seemed deeply depressed even before she met Norberto.

She was unhappy with her failed relationship with her husband whom she’s separated as well as her own parents. She hardly had friends.

After a series of sexual encounters and live-in with Norberto, Nida was forced by him to leave her job.

Along with it, Norberto dictated on her to sell her properties and use her money to support him and his five children from two other women he had in the past.

One time, Nida cut herself. Attempted suicide. Fortunately, she had relatives near their house. It happened after the usual verbal and physical beatings of Norberto.

In a visit by two of Norberto’s older children after the incident, Nida told them of her satisfaction and love for their father.

Is that true love?

From the vantage point of addictionology experts, Nida’s relationship with Norberto fulfills the criteria for addiction, not true love.

Nida had given up all outside relationships, her work, and any sense of personal dignity, normality or decency in order to continue her addiction to Norberto.

Nida accepted and identified with Norberto. His domination. His narcissistic claims about himself.

And she felt her relationship with him gives her own life value.

Yes, there is a difference between love and addiction. Between true love and fake love.

Who You Really Are When Alone

“Prison, I bless you!”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, noted author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” once wrote those lines while in jail, just before he won the Nobel Prize.

He was blessed in jail. In the agony, painful aloneness of imprisonment, he found God and his usableness to Him.

There is the paradox!

You can bless your problem. You can bless your wound. You can bless your loneliness.

Before my work as a psychotherapist, I felt I had wasted years. I was a troubled individual since youth. I credit my turnaround in life to my years of loneliness and self-healing.

As Dr. Calvin Miller put it, “Character itself is often the gift of aloneness.”

In the heaviness of a crisis, you can choose to like being alone. You cannot like yourself and know your gift unless you do spend time alone.

Possibly, like Solzhenitzyn, you’ll someday look back on a productive life and say, “Prison, I bless you!”

Great men and women all knew how to be alone. They knew how to celebrate who they are.

It’s small wonder that from aloneness came the Einsteins, the Gandhis, the Jobs, the Bezos, the Mandelas, the apostle Pauls of human history.

The quiet life is amazing. It’s full of treasures. It’s where you can find your depths, your confidence, direction, and self-worth.

Enduring trauma and healing from it is always lonely work. You can feel so alone. Yet paradoxically, it can profit you.

When you’re alone, that’s when you discover who you really are. And how you can be greater than ever before.

Is the treatment part of the problem?

In a community group session that I was conducting in QC many years ago, one of the teenage girls attending suddenly dropped to the floor. Trembling. Convulsing. Crying.

I observed she’s very conversational prior to this. I had not known then how she got to a strange point in front of others in the group.

Members of the group pulled her away and brought her home. I was with them. Talking to the teenager. Pacifying and listening to her.

In her home was her mother lying half-naked on the sofa. She just stared at us when we arrived. The father was nowhere to be found. And the other children in the house just appeared unfazed.

Here’s a sad story of a family afflicted with untreated mental disorders. The way it looked, the teenage girl and her family members have been suffering severely for so long.

Recently, the Bill of Mental Health or RA 11036 (National Mental Health Act) was passed into law by the Philippine government.

The new law is traditional, a medicalized bill. With such bill, the poor are now given access to mental health care, which is comprised of psychiatric consultation, drug treatment or even perhaps lobotomy.

In days when I was doing practicum and doing visits in the mental hospital, I witnessed horror. Patients slipped into catatonia or Jekyll-and-Hyde monsters after prolonged drug treatments.

I’m reminded of the popular movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson. That’s the picture of psychiatric and mental health hospital care.

In the US, Dr. Peter Breggin, called the “Conscience of Psychiatry” and other mental health advocates warned of the dangers of psychiatric drug medication and treatment globally (https://breggin.com) (www.psychintegrity.org).

I wonder about that teenage girl and her family as well as multitudes of others in need of mental health treatment in the country.

Does RA 11036 carry the proper and right treatment for them? Or, the unamended law and its treatment will become part of the problem?

Are you a people-pleaser?

People-pleasing is a type of addiction. A person uses it in the same way other people use drugs, alcohol, smoking, gaming, work, or shopping.

You see, when you go through life as a people-pleaser, you’re not living life in your own terms. You’ve chosen to hide your true self beneath the surface. By being nice and drama-free.

Rebecca is a severe people-pleaser. A real pushover. Even when people are already being rude to and manipulating her at work, she remains agreeable. Condoning. A sort of idolatry.

She thought it’s “cool.” To please and put other people’s needs first. But instead of being appreciated, she finds herself being treated as a doormat. She’s confused and depressed.

Where lies the reason behind one’s addiction to people-pleasing?

Often, it lies behind a person’s need to avoid being disliked, invalidated, or criticized. Any sign of discomfort of others’ disapproval can prompt a person to please.

Psychologists discover “childhood traumas” as a common factor that developed people-pleasing addiction. It’s linked to issues of parent-pleasing to avoid disapproval and abandonment.

Psychologist Dr. Leon Selzer, in his Psychology Today article, “From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing,” writes:

“As children, people-pleasers felt loved only when they’re conforming to the needs and desires of their parents … when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support.”

Thus, a child being dependent on the parents’ acceptance, he or she may become fearful of its being withdrawn from him or her. This is where the choice of parent-pleasing comes in.

According to Dr. Selzer, not to do parent-pleasing can risk parental alienation and produce feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.

He observes that the child may feel “it less hazardous to abandon the self than to run the risk of being abandoned by their parents” and “over time, this choice between self-abandonment and parental abandonment came increasingly imperative.”

From parent-pleasing to people-pleasing. Do you think the link makes sense?

Martha’s Intimacy

I wondered how Martha managed to find a fiancée if she evidenced such low self esteem and recurring depressive episodes. She’s even suicidal.

In-session, Martha’s self esteem was manifested always to an extreme to be based on what she thinks others think of her.

Constantly, she felt uncertain, helpless, and frightened on the inside. She disguised her low self esteem by efforts to impress others.

Despite her fears, Martha risked a romantic relationship. Eventually, she became “in love” and entered a “survival pact” with her boyfriend.

The trouble was, when she chose a mate, that Martha did not communicate her fears to her partner. She feared that her partner would not love her if she knew about her feelings of worthlessness.

Martha’s partner saw her as confident and strong. Yet she expressed misery about it. She privately expected and felt she must be what he thought about her.

In effect, Martha had actually put the other person in charge of her self esteem.

Therapist and author Virginia Satir writes,

“I have talked about choosing rather than acting from compulsion. When you feel that you have to live according to someone else’s direction or live so that you never disappoint or hurt anybody, then your life is a continual assessment of whether or not you please other people.”

In the context of intimate relationships, Satir further explains, if one has or both partners have low self esteem, each behaves as if he/she were saying …

“I am nothing. I will live for you.”

“I am nothing. So please live for me.”

With this unprocessed, will a relationship survive? Is it realistic? Can it be functional?

Healing the Family

She doesn’t know why she’s been severely depressed and anxious much of the time. Lita rarely socialize or get out of the house.

Lita experiences constant social anxiety when with people. In her mind, she worries that other people are silently putting her down or making fun of her.

As a result, her family hurts. The father, mother, and siblings came to me with sobs of sadness and pain about Lita’s isolation from them and others.

In the sessions, Lita recounted her family experience since childhood. She felt caught in the middle of her parents’ constant quarrels.

All that time during fights, both her father and mother vied for her support. She felt guilty for everyone’s feelings, including those of her siblings.

Virginia Satir, noted family therapist and writer, believes that a critical first step to the healing process is full or 100% awareness.

In her book, “Helping Families to Change,” she asserts the following goal for hurting families:

” … to see freely and comment openly on what you see, to be able to hear freely and comment what you hear, and to be able to touch freely and be able to comment openly on that experience – these comprise the restorative task.”

So, to heal your self and your family, here’s one master key: Stop pretending!

Based on Satir’s formula, there are skills or habits that need to be developed for total or 100% focus and awareness to avoid pretending.

3 things.

• seeing, not just looking
• hearing, not just listening
• sensing your touch

That’s what happens in my sessions in the initial phase. Progressively focus on these essential tasks.

Becoming aware – coming to your senses – is the first step to set you and your family free!