The Role that Forgiveness Plays in Health and Healing
” . . . and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . . .” How many times have we, who have grown up in the Christian tradition, recited these words from the Lord’s Prayer?
How often do we stop and contemplate what it really means, “to forgive” or consider the ramifications if we do not forgive. To some, these words are only words, said by rote, without any substance. To others, forgiveness is conditional on their judgment of another’s actions. Since forgiveness is often interwoven in religious dogma, those who have been or are alienated from the church avoid it.
What is the definition of “to forgive”, the root of the word forgiveness? For starters, it is a verb, which implies action. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines this verb as “to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; excuse.” If we follow the meaning of “to excuse”, we come up with “to release from an obligation; to permit to leave; to liberate.”
In Roget’s Super Thesaurus, our current vernacular offers “wipe the slate clean, let off the hook, and let bygones be bygones” as synonyms for “to forgive.”
Forgiveness, then, is a process of releasing our hold on past emotions, thoughts, and deeds. If these emotions are negative and full of resentment, we are, in essence, trading pain for peace. In this process, there is an inherent catharsis – in the release, there is liberation. Samuel Clemens so appropriately summed up forgiveness as “The fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
What is the importance of forgiveness – is there anything to this beyond its religious implications?
For starters, modern medicine has proven that forgiveness plays an important role in our health. The Simontons’, in their ground-breaking cancer research, (Getting Well Again) have demonstrated that an individual who harbors resentment towards another increases their stress level each time they recall the source of their resentment. When the individual recalls the event, they “relive” that moment, reviving all the emotions and feelings surrounding this event.
Chronic stress places an unnecessary strain on the human body, releasing excess adrenalin and placing the biochemical system in a state of imbalance.
Often, individuals direct anger or blame towards another person, perhaps feeling that the “other” is responsible for a certain wrong, i.e. a boss overlooked a person for a promotion. Or, the individual may have responded to a situation in an unsatisfactory manner.
These initial incidents probably involve stress; however, if the stress is not discharged and the individual holds onto the negative emotions associated with these past occurrences, resentment develops. Each time the person replays the scenario, they experience the same stress originally felt with the past experience. Resentment is a “long-term re-stressing process.”
As the Simontons’ discovered, stress has a direct, debilitating effect on the immune system. If the past wrong is not released, or forgiven, the individual continues to bombard his limbic system with tension and stress, further depressing the body’s defenses. If the immune system is sufficiently weakened, serious illnesses, such as cancer, can develop.
It is therefore important to let go of grudges and make peace, if not directly with the other individual, at least with the memory. If you hold a negative internal representation of another then you are affecting your own internal processes and emotions. The release of guilt is in alignment with one of the prime directives of the Subconscious Mind: Since the Subconscious Mind is a highly moral being, if it thinks it needs to be punished it will create disease. Therefore, a regular purging of guilt via forgiveness promotes the health of the body and the mind.
Often, forgiveness may appear to be a very difficult thing to do, even though it may benefit both physically and mentally. It is easier to say that the “other” is bad rather than to clear up that part of you that feels bad. Blame, guilt, and self-hatred are all symptoms of unreleased anger towards others and one’s self. Another barrier to forgiveness is the belief that what we did was so special that it is unforgivable. What we must realize is that when we forgive, we are forgiving the person, whether it is another or ourselves; we are not condoning the actions involved.
When we continue to engage in resentment, it is as if we are playing tug-of-war with what was. The past holds one end of the rope and we are pulling on the other end in the present. As soon as we let go of our end of the rope, all tension disappears.
Forgiveness works in the same manner – as soon as we forgive, we immediately release all tensions, guilt, hurt, and negativity. In essence, we have transformed the past, as forgiveness is the great release from time. When we forgive, what was disappears.
When there is unwillingness to forgive, memories are kept alive that no longer exist. These memories act, then, as punishment for something that is not real.
Essentially, it is the ego that wants us to feel separate from our true selves, as punishment is a form of separation and judgment. Perhaps we need to find out if there is a part of us is willing to forgive – if there is some part that is willing to release the past, then that part can be cultivated. Often, through hypnosis or self-hypnosis, we can rescript the past by imagining a different response and outcome to that situation.
One of the best exercises we can perform is ”Forgiveness – Free Yourself Now” exercise: “Ho’oponopono” is a Huna technique of letting go of personal history and releasing emotions specifically. The Hawaiian Kahunas, or priests, used it for Hawaiian family therapy. “Ho’oponopono” literally means, “To make right times two.” This ancient Huna technique offers a paradigm for contemporary therapy as it addresses the release of guilt in a powerful and effective way. It is also an active way to forgive others without condoning their actions.
The Kahunas believed that everything is connected via “Aka” chords, which transcend space & time. “Aka” connections are created either by the touching of someone or created mentally, i.e. by thinking about someone. An “aka” connection is like a radio wave length of electricity flowing in a circuit between sender and receiver.
When we interact with people, we automatically create connections. Sometimes these connections are empowering; more often, these connections create a circuit of energy that does not support our personal magnificence. For example, one of the strongest connections we may have is with our parents, whether they are alive or not. We might feel guilty because we did not follow the career path that our parents chose. By holding onto this guilt, we form an image of ourselves as being a disappointment to our parents. If this image is less than favorable, it affects our neurology and holds back our magnificence.
It follows that what is inside of our selves will effect the way we behave. Thinking about the part of you that’s your mother will usually elicit behavior similar to your mother, whether that is nurturing or counterproductive. An interesting concept that explains this phenomenon is that, in quantum physics, reality is non-local. Like frequencies will attract to like frequencies at a quantum level.
So, if we hold onto grudges and guilt, blaming others for our misfortunes, we cannot be totally magnificent and we tend to attract similar feelings. For we cannot be totally magnificent unless images we have of others are totally magnificent. This follows the Hermetic Law of Correspondence – if we heal self, we also heal the universe.
The process of Ho’oponopono focuses around “cutting” these aka connections in a gentle, healing, and forgiving way. By “making right times two”, we are releasing our “less than magnificent” image of our self along with the image of the person(s) who originally evoked this image.
The guided imagery exercise:
Find yourself a quite, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Ensure that this is your time, free of interruptions. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes of quality time. Close your eyes and take several deep, cleansing breaths.
Once you are completely relaxed, imagine a stage like one that is in a theater. Invite all people, living or deceased, that you feel “connected to”, onto this stage. As each person steps onto this stage, you mentally ask him or her “will you support my magnificence 100%?” Look for congruency in their answer. If the response is yes, then thank them and let them exit the stage; if their answer is no, then healing is required.
To heal and release, ask the ones that answered “no” to remain on stage. At this point, invite a white light that is the “infinite source of Love and Healing” to envelop all of those on stage. State that your intention is to ask for forgiveness. Imagine the many “aka” chords radiating out from your solar plexus and head; Imagine that your body is surrounded by four laser like blades of silver white light. Imagine that these four laser like blades of silver white light are rotating counter-clockwise. Now, “cut” the Aka connections with each one on the stage with the image of four large blades of silver white light that surround your body. (This aspect of the process frees you from obligations and connections. These connections are cut to heal a reference point i.e. image you have of any abuse or a nagging parent, disloyal friend, etc.) As the connections are cut, send all on the stage into the white light that is the “infinite source of Love and Healing”.
When you feel that the healing is completed, usually when only the white light is present and the stage is empty, gently return to awareness of the room. A nightly forgiveness and releasement using the Ho’oponopono process can help do regular house cleaning before any negative thoughts take hold.
As the Course in Miracles teaches, “There can be no form of suffering that fails to hide an unforgiving thought, nor can there be a form of pain forgiveness cannot heal.” So, we can see how important it is to release and forgive, as the seeds of unforgiving thoughts can grow into major problems. Yet we have the tools to prune back this growth, even to transform the very nature of the original seed thought. All it requires is a willingness to forgive.