- Do you have anger?
- Have you been hurt by someone and struggle to forgive?
- Do you suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illness?
- Do you wonder where God is in all of this?
- Are you estranged from someone you love?
We have all struggled with anger at some point in our lives. We are all guilty of hurting someone and even struggling to forgive for wrongs committed against us. Anger is like a defense that we use to protect ourselves from feeling pain. After all, pain makes us feel vulnerable when someone or something hurts us, and anger makes us feel stronger. But anger is unhealthy when it gets to the point where we actually desire something bad to happen to someone else. This is called revenge. The longer that we allow anger to be our source of “protection”, the harder it is to forgive because it hardens our hearts so that we don’t feel pain or love. Psychiatric disorders that commonly develop due to unresolved anger include mood and anxiety disorders, trauma disorders, addictions, personality disorders, somatic disorders, and more.
FORGIVENESS THERAPY FOR TREATMENT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS
The objective of forgiveness therapy, like other methods of psychotherapy, is the resolution of psychological conflicts that produce psychiatric symptoms that often result in a diagnosis as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The theory is that unconscious anger is what causes these symptoms, and that healing comes from being able to replace unconscious anger towards the person who injured you with agape love for the person who injured you. The person who injured you is often referred to as “the offender”.
Psychotherapy models that emphasize forgiveness as the goal require that the injured person be able to acknowledge and feel the pain that underlies their anger, which is often unconscious and deeper than the person realized at the beginning of treatment even if they were initially aware that they had anger. Forgiveness does not require that the injured person continue or renew a relationship with the person, which when done properly is called reconciliation, although some people choose to do so. I specialize in forgiveness in psychotherapy because in my clinical research and experience, I have found it to be the most effective therapeutic approach to resolving unconscious anger, which is why I call it the antidote to anger.
ALTHOUGH YOU MAY SEE THE BENEFITS OF FORGIVENESS THERAPY, YOU MAY STILL HAVE SOME QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROCESS…
I don’t have anger. I have depression.
Like many people who experience depression, you have lost hope and turned your anger inward. It’s a hard concept to understand until you have participated in psychotherapy with a skilled clinician who helps you to scrutinize your unconscious, but depression is “anger turned inward”. In other words, you have learned to blame and even hate yourself for the pain that others have caused you. Your pain likely started in childhood and at some point, in your life, you became depressed. Forgiveness therapy can help you heal, but it may be premature to talk about forgiveness until you are ready to acknowledge and feel the pain that you are currently protecting yourself from feeling with your depression. As bad as the depression is, it’s telling your unconscious that the pain you felt before was worse.
I don’t have a mental illness, but I do need help with forgiveness.
It takes a lot of strength and courage to acknowledge that you need help with your anger and pain because you have been hurt and need to forgive. I have witnessed many clients heal from disabling mental disorders as well as clients who did not meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder, but still found healing through forgiveness and it improved their lives overall, particularly in the way that they viewed themselves and in their other relationships.
Is forgiveness therapy consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church?
Yes. One of the main distinctions that the Catholic Church makes is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation and that distinction is made clearly in forgiveness therapy models as well. Forgiveness was already offered to all of us by Christ on the Cross, but we are still required to accept it by acknowledging our sins, apologizing for our sins, and doing penance through the Sacrament of Penance, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Only God knows our hearts, but I believe that God will not punish you for trying to abandon your anger and replace it with love, regardless no matter what faith you come from, even if you have been told differently.
I don’t need help with forgiveness, but I can’t get ___ to forgive me.
It’s unfortunate when people are so estranged from one another that they cannot even speak to each other or if they are speaking to one another, there’s still no forgiveness. It sounds like what you are actually seeking is reconciliation, which is a process that takes both of you. If you truly understood forgiveness and didn’t need any help with it, you would understand that you cannot make someone else forgive you, nor can you force reconciliation. Forgiveness is a freewill choice, based in love, and reconciliation requires much more than that. There is a sense of anger and pain in your statement. Forgiveness therapy may be able to help you too.
How do you do forgiveness therapy? Can you tell me a little about what that might look like for me or someone that I might refer to you?
That’s a great question, although it’s difficult to answer because my experience has taught me that every person’s situation is unique, and every person needs an individualized treatment plan. However, you may find some answers to this question by reading Forgiveness Therapy and Getting Past Unconscious Resistances, which is a guest blog that I wrote for the International Forgiveness Institute about my experience treating clients with forgiveness therapy for more than a decade. I am a passionate ambassador of forgiveness because I have been a witness to the healing effects of forgiveness.
START THE HEALING PROCESS TODAY WITH FORGIVENESS THERAPY AT FORGIVEPRAYLOVE
If you have any further questions about forgiveness therapy with a Catholic therapist or would like to schedule an appointment to begin treatment, I offer prorated consultations based on my hourly rate with a minimum charge of $35 before 6:00pm and $40 after 6:00pm for a 15-minute consultation Monday-Saturday. (Hourly and prorated rates are based on Arizona time.) Take the first step to schedule a consultation today.