The importance of forgiveness and useful self-help technique
Why is forgiveness so important for our emotional well-being?
Put very simply: negative emotions are damaging for our health. The benefits of forgiveness are essential for our emotional and physical well-being. When individuals are hurt, they feel betrayal, anger, hatred and resentment, which are often difficult to control.
Research shows how forgiveness is essential to reinstate our well-being: it decreases our blood pressure, reduces depression, stress and psychosomatic symptoms. It also helps to fight self-harm, self-criticism and addiction. Forgiveness does not just benefit our present moment and state but is also beneficial to long-term psychological success.
Forgiveness allows individuals to let noxious feelings go and to rediscover positive emotions such as compassion and tenderness. These emotions are often inaccessible prior to therapy; through therapy clients achieve a greater sense of empowerment.
The path of forgiveness is important for ourselves; it represents a growth and can help us to reach a feeling of wellness; it brings back calmness and serenity as well as the possibility to carry on with the path of our lives that was blocked before.
What happens if we don't learn to forgive?
Many individuals have symptoms directly related to hurts, traumas or violence endured by significant persons such as parents, relatives or by their partner. These situations may be the imprinting for dysfunctional relational relationships. If we don't learn to forgive this can become the base for psychopathology to grow and people could experience distress or more severe symptoms. In these cases forgiveness helps to elaborate the trauma, to close the unfinished business, to change the dysfunctional patterns of behaviour.
The process of forgiveness
Forgiveness is an aware, proactive choice, it does not "just happen". It is a process and it takes time.
Forgiveness is then a matter of intention, it comes from the insight and can’t be imposed or self-imposed.
It happens because it naturally thrives as the result of a bumpy and rewarding process.
A complete process of forgiveness might lead to recognise possible positive aspects, other than the injury, such as a personal growth and an increased self-awareness.
At the end of the process of forgiveness it’s important for individuals to name things they are grateful for to their offender; this brings positivity and is a meaningful step, especially if the offender is a parent or a relative, as it reinstates a balance.
Also, forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation: we can forgive and decide that we don't want to have a relationship with our offender.
We also need to remember that forgiving does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness is the choice to remember the injury without feeling resentment.
Self-help techniques for forgiveness
A useful technique can be writing a letter to the offender as it helps to express emotions. Many people can actually become aware of their feelings thanks to this exercise. It also helps elaborate what may be bridled in our thoughts and bring more clarity into our minds.
I would suggest to then read this letter out loud as this will certainly help to let go. Finally, a symbolic act could close the process; for example to let the letter go in a river or to bury it. Whichever method you choose, do it out loud, saying and meaning it: "I forgive you and I let this go".
I would also recommend the exercise of gratitude as a daily practice. Every morning, before your day starts, name five things you are grateful for in your life. This can be everything, even the smallest and simple things.
Grateful people are happier. Those who forgive are the happiest.
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About Francesca Moresi
Psychologist and psychotherapist qualified in England and in Italy, with over 10 years of study, research and practice with clients from around the world. I help individuals to develop self-awareness. My method aims to guide you towards reaching a unique perspective on life, by exploring your emotions and thoughts.