Syrian children have watched their parents die or have assisted in carrying out their parents’ bodies.  What would you advise for these children?

We first have to realize that forgiveness belongs to those who rationally conclude that they have been wronged.  Even if others say, “You have no right to forgive because there is no injustice here,” this does not mean that the children now are frozen in their decisions to forgive.  Some, perhaps the majority, of children who have such a traumatic experience, may develop severe resentment.  This resentment could destroy their lives in the future, even in the distant future because the damaging effects of resentment may not be manifested for years.  So, if there is the poison of resentment and if the children, as they grow up, decide to forgive, they should do so.  A question is whether they are able to identify specific people to forgive or whether they will end up forgiving a system and which system that will be.

For additional information, see Healing Hearts, Building Peace.

How can I say, “I forgive you” to a system that has oppressed my people for a long time.  I am a “person of color” and it is my understanding that to forgive involves a concrete, flesh-and-blood other person.  This is not the case with a system.

You are correct that you are unable to say directly to a system, “I forgive you.”  It sometimes is the same with concrete, “flesh and blood” other people.  For example, you can forgive from your heart without words to a person who abandons you, whom you now cannot see.  When you forgive a system it can be from the heart and from the actions you take toward that system.  After all, systems are made up of people and people create norms that can be hurtful to some groups in that system.  So, you are able to forgive the system if this is your choice.  It is more abstract than forgiving one concrete, “flesh and blood” other person, but you can extend kindness and generosity to  the unseen others who established and continue with unfair norms.  Of course, this does not mean that you give up the quest for justice.  Forgiveness and justice exist side by side.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

I am a victim of incest. My father has died and I refuse to go to his graveside.  Does this mean I am not forgiving him?

Your not going to your father’s graveside does not necessarily indicate that you have not forgiven.  Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you are finished with all negative emotions.  Classical conditioning may be happening here in that you associate the grave with the incest and it makes you uncomfortable or anxious.  Staying away under this condition is understandable.  If you are doing no harm to your father in that you are not talking negatively about him to family members or others, you may be on the path to forgiving.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

Forgive — for Your Own Mental Health

Mad In America Foundation, Cambridge, MA – The more forgiving people are, the fewer symptoms of mental disorders they experience, according to a study published in the Journal of Health PsychologyThe researchers suggested that teaching forgiveness, particularly at an early stage in one’s life, may be a valuable mental health early intervention strategy. 

A team of four psychologists led by noted forgiveness researcher Loren Toussaint recruited 148 young adults from a Midwest liberal arts college for the 2014 study.  The team’s analysis essentially confirmed the rationale and methodology being used by Dr. Robert Enright for the past 17 years to teach his Forgiveness Education Programs to children in countries around the world.

The researchers wrote that their findings “show for the first time that forgivingness is a strong, independent predictor of mental and physical health…” Specifically, regardless of the types and levels of stresses the participants reported, the researchers found greater forgiving tendencies linked to fewer negative mental health symptoms. “Forgivingness” is a general tendency to forgive; it does not assess the degree of actual forgiving toward people who acted unjustly. . .

“[W]e found that lifetime stress severity was unrelated to mental health for persons who were highest in forgivingness and most strongly related to poorer mental health for participants exhibiting the lowest levels of forgivingness,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers did not study how or why this correlation may exist, but hypothesized that “forgiving individuals may have a more adaptive or extensive repertoire of coping strategies and that forgivingness may facilitate healthier behaviors in the aftermath of major life stress.”

“To the extent that forgiveness training can promote a more forgiving coping style, then these interventions may help reduce stress-related disease and improve human health. Such interventions may be particularly beneficial when delivered as a prevention strategy in early life, before  individuals are exposed to major adulthood life  stressors,” the researchers concluded.

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learn about forgiveness principles.

Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, began teaching Forgiveness Education 17-years ago in six grade-school classrooms in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While that program is still operating in Belfast, the Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides developed by Dr. Enright and his associates for students in Pre-School through 12th Grade, are now in use in more than 30 countries around the world including Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria (West Africa), Kenya and Rwanda (Africa), Colombia and Brazil (South America), Israel, Palestine, and Iran (Middle East), China and the Philippines (Asia), Greece and the Czech Republic (Europe), as well as Canada, Mexico and the US. 


Learn more about the study: Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health (Toussaint, Loren et al. Journal of Health Psychology. Published online before print August 19, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1359105314544132).

The Mad in America Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose “mission is to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad). We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society, and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change.”


Resources on the International Forgiveness Institute website:

5 Advantages of Online Therapy

Through the scientific efforts of psychology researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, Forgiveness Therapy has become an accepted standard of practice for clinical psychologists and for counseling members of organizations like the American Psychological Association.

For many people, self-help books like Forgiveness Is a Choice and 8 Keys to Forgiveness (both written by Dr. Enright) provide an easy-to-use step-by-step process for forgiving another person.  For others, working closely with a therapist is an important part of the journey to forgiveness.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a therapist frequently enough to make real progress in a reasonable amount of time. In a variety of situations, it can be beneficial to work with an online therapist. The advantages to online therapy, such as that offered by websites like BetterHelp, include:

Accessibility

While therapists are easily found in most metropolitan cities, suburbs and rural areas may not have very many options when it comes to a therapist. Psychologists are not prevalent in all areas of the country. If you don’t have very many mental health providers in your area, online therapy can give you access to a therapist where normally you might not have such access.

Convenience

Many therapists that you see in person have regular business hours and do not have weekend appointments. For those who work full time it can be very difficult to find a therapist willing to work with your schedule. Online therapy is convenient because you can use it when you have time, regardless of your work schedule or family life.

Affordability

Online therapy is often more affordable than in person therapists and psychologists. According to LearnVest.com, the average cost of therapy is $75 to $150 per session, with some psychologists charging as much as $300 per session. Online therapy is typically more affordable, with costs per session ranging about twice what the average person makes per hour.

Larger Selection of Therapists

Not every therapist is well versed in every issue. Not every therapist specializes in helping people with Forgiveness Therapy. Finding a therapist who is an expert in forgiveness and who can easily work with your particular situation can be challenging. It can take several tries to find a therapist that can really understand and help you. With online therapy, you have the ability to talk to many therapists until you find the one that is just right for you.

Feeling of Anonymity and Lower Anxiety

There is a certain feeling of anonymity that people have when dealing with others on the Internet or over the phone. It can be a lot easier to talk about difficult subjects when you don’t have to look at the person you are speaking with. This remoteness can help you face difficult topics more objectively.

Another advantage of the anonymity factor is that many people experience less anxiety about therapy when they do it online. With online therapy you are in the comfort of your own home. You can be much more relaxed. Those with social anxiety or anxiety about talking to strangers are much more comfortable using online therapy chat sessions.

Overall, online therapy can be a great solution for many people who are working on forgiveness issues. Forgiveness is divine, but it is not always easy. If you need help finding forgiveness within yourself for yourself or others, you may want to consider giving online therapy a try.

» by Marie Miguel


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource called BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


 

My Journey to Forgiveness

I never expected that one day I would be asked to give talks about forgiveness.  Forgiveness was the farthest thing from my mind. How could I ever forgive someone who hurt me so much, someone who was supposed to love and adore me? After all, I was her child.  By the time I was twelve, I made a pack with myself that I would never let anyone hurt me the way she did.  I lived a life protecting my heart, keeping connections at a distance and sabotaging intimate relationships if they got too close.  And where did I end up?  Middle aged and single.

On the outside, I looked good.  Had a successful career in a glamorous field and was acknowledged with prestigious awards along the way.  My face, my projects, my stories were featured on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and others.   As I aged, I managed to keep my weight down, my figure looking not too far from college days and my face less wrinkled than many of my contemporaries.

I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Why are you not married?” or said “The man that gets you is a lucky person.”

A young Gayle and her mother Mildred.

Underneath this glossy package, I was seething with anger towards my mother.  My accomplishments didn’t matter.  From head to toe there wasn’t anything right about me. My hair was too frizzy, my butt too fat and my nose too big.

Growing up and well into adulthood in my mother’s eyes, I just couldn’t do anything right. And my brothers couldn’t do anything wrong.

Little did I know, the obstacles I faced in my childhood would end up being the biggest opportunity of my life.  By facing those challenges, I figured out the secret to finding forgiveness and the power and freedom that gives you.

Growing up in my house was like growing up in enemy territory and you’re the only one who was captured.   From the moment I was born, mom took ownership.   She was at the helm controlling how I looked, spoke and behaved.  Not always successfully as she wrote in a letter to me in college, “You are my product and you are destroying it.”

When my nose started growing so did her relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.  No, I never had a nose job.

My brothers were mom’s bouncers. The one closest to my age did not want me around as you can imagine he had been the youngest. And he let me know it on a regular basis – destroying my dolls and then trying to do the same with me. And my eldest brother did as he was told.

When mom wanted me out of her way, she had my brothers put me on top of the refrigerator where I could not get down.

There is one evening mom refers to today proudly as the night she pulled a Mommie Dearest on me. Remember the movie about how Joan Crawford was so abusive to her daughter Christina?

I was a teenager and out with my friends.  I came home a bit later than she expected. When we pulled up to my house, my mother was standing on the street with a glass of water in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other hand.  With my friends  watching from the car and the head lights shining on us my mother threw the water in my face, and told me to walk the dog, she didn’t care if I got raped if I wasn’t already. That was just the beginning.

Never knowing what I would do that would trigger her rage on me, I lived in fear of my mother, in fear of her punishments, often humiliation.

The fear led me to being sick and I had headaches and dizzy spells. As soon I left home I never had headaches again.

Gayle, shown above — and, yes, she’s Jewish, so the “nose” problem (mom wants her to have it “fixed”) crops up early on and never goes away.

When I hit middle age, I finally gave in to mom and agreed to visit plastic surgeons for consultations about my nose as long as I could have a camera crew with me.  What resulted was a funny short film about mom’s relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.

After the Q&A, people stood on line to compliment my nose, and then tell me their story. It wasn’t always about their nose. It was about criticisms they endured from their mother.

I saw how many people were hurting and knew I was not alone.

It didn’t matter if I was attaining success in my career, traveling the world, making friends internationally – underneath it all I was fuming and holding onto victimhood.

I had given my power away.   I was still reacting to mom’s insults and criticism.  And often would give it right back to her, having learned how to have a sharp tongue and knowing how to leave a lasting scar.  I was not proud of my behavior and it was not making me happy.

I was emotionally and mentally trapped hanging onto the anger.

I knew I would have to change how I thought about my mother in order to heal myself.

I knew if I was going to find peace and happiness I would have to forgive her. I just didn’t know how.

Mom was now well into her 80s. I asked her if she would be willing to go on a journey with me to resolve our relationship in front of the cameras and she agreed. I knew I had a golden opportunity. In her mature years without the responsibility of taking care of children, my mom’s humor came out and she was not only willing but also happy to show herself to the world.

The result was my award winning feature documentary LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  It’s been released widely. Unforeseen, this deeply personal film has been transforming lives all over.  Due to the humbling response, I have launched workshops and talks teaching forgiveness called NO MORE DRAMA WITH MAMA.

So how did I do it? How did I forgive my mother?   There are three main steps.

The first step is to UNDERSTAND.

I knew I had to first understand my mother and to do so I would have to dig into her past. With cameras rolling, I started my investigation and learned about her pain, her father’s suicide attempts, the untimely death of her baby sister, and the financial hardships.  And the childhood she never really had.

A big light bulb moment came when I played a psychological board game. I threw the dice and it landed. The facilitator asked to me to imagine my mother as a little girl. At that point, I knew about her childhood and saw a wounded little girl. Then she said imagine yourself as a little girl.  I knew my pain and that I was a wounded little girl. Then she said now you both come together.  Wow! She was no longer my mother. We were both wounded little girls.

The second step is REFRAME.

By learning about my mother’s pain, I was able to understand her and instead of seeing her as an abusive mother, I now reframed how I looked at her and saw her as a wounded child.  And by doing that I changed my expectations of her.

The third step is FORGIVE.

When she said something critical, it bounced off of me, as I knew she was a little girl in pain herself.  By reframing how I looked at my mother, I was able to actually feel compassion for her and forgive her.  I rendered her abuse powerless over me. And as a result her insults were less often until they faded away. Why?  Because they had no effect on me. I laughed them off or ignored them and at times gave her love in return.

What makes us so upset is when we have unfulfilled expectations.   When your three year-old daughter looks up at you and says, Mommy or Daddy, I don’t love you anymore. What do you do?  You bend down and pick her up and give her love because you know that is really what she is asking for.  So when you mother tells you that you are fat, you will amount to nothing, imagine she is a child crying for love and respond accordingly.

I forgave my mother. I didn’t say I forgot. You never forget.


“If you don’t forgive and you hang on to the anger and resentment, it hurts you and affects all aspects of your life – your relationships and health.”
– Gayle Kirschenbaum


While I was making LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! I reread my childhood diaries and relived the trauma. I ended up getting an autoimmune disease. It came out through my skin, and I developed a bad case of psoriasis on my hands that they were bleeding and I needed to wear vinyl gloves it was so painful. After trying various medical treatments and not getting lasting results I turned inside and realized I got myself sick due to the emotional stress and I will heal myself.  I did so by changing my thoughts and getting rid of the anger and forgiving my mother and feeling love.

The biggest gift you can give yourself is the ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is emotional freedom. It unleashes the perpetrator from holding the noose around our neck, which we have allowed.

Once I learned the secret to forgiveness I was able to apply these steps to other people and used this method to also forgive my brothers.  I know now when I am faced with a difficult person and situation how I can turn it around.

As I look at others who are acting unkindly, I reflect on myself and know when I am unkind to others, it is coming from fear, insecurity and anger.  When we are feeling loved we are not reacting nasty to others.

Gayle and her mother after forgiveness.

With that said, by showing kindness, compassion and love to someone you can actually transform them.

Our BRAIN is the most powerful organ in our body. It is our thoughts that control our  emotions and actions.

By changing my thoughts I was able to reframe how I saw my mother and forgive her.

Mom has become my closet friend.  Today she is in her 90s. We have been traveling the world together for the last 10 years.  We speak to each other daily by choice because we love to share and communicate.

To recap the three simple steps:
1. UNDERSTAND
2. REFRAME
3. FORGIVE

Think about your own life.  Who hurt you so badly that you have not been able to forgive them?   Remember you have the power to make the choice whether to forgive or not.  We all have a story.  Be the hero of your story not the victim. 


To learn more about LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  and watch it,  visit: https://www.lookatusnowmother.com/   It is also on Netflix, Amazon and several other venues.

To learn more about Gayle Kirschenbaum’s work or to book her for her talks, screenings  and workshops, visit:  https://www.gaylekirschenbaum.com/

To watch Gayle’s TED Talk, visit: No More Drama With Mama

Email: Gayle@gaylekirschenbaum.com

Self-Care Tips During the Quest for Personal Growth

Many Americans make changes to their lifestyles over time; some of us are eager to improve our careers, while others want to make the perfect home for a family. Taking steps toward personal growth is an important part of life, but it can be difficult to keep an eye on your mental health at the same time. Change often comes with stress or anxiety, especially if you’re attempting to try something completely new, and that can lead to unhealthy decision-making.

To take care of yourself while you’re on a quest for personal growth, you need to make sure your physical, mental, and emotional needs are met while finding new ways to empower yourself. The key is to get organized from the very beginning so that you’ll be able to make positive changes in a healthy way. Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Spend Time Alone
It will be hard for you to make positive changes in your life if you can’t be comfortable with yourself. Spend some time alone, doing something that makes you happy, and learn what you really like and what you don’t. Think about the best ways to grow. Would you like to go back to school? Learn a new language? Become a more involved parent? Taking a time-out will help you analyze your life without distractions so you can figure out what you really want.

Get Organized
Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Setting goals now and getting organized will help you stay motivated and help ensure success when you’re ready to tackle something new. You might even try creating a “vision board,” which involves making a visual representation of your goals, so you can see what should come next.

Reduce Stress
Stress is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to making positive changes in your life. No matter what you want to achieve — a boost in your career, changing your relationships for the better, or helping others — it will be that much harder to do if you’re stressed out. Find ways to reduce stress, such as exercising daily, practicing yoga, learning deep-breathing exercises, and learning how to forgive—both yourself and others. These can help you beat stress in the moment so you’re not left feeling anxious when things start to feel overwhelming. They can also help you make healthy choices. Click here for tips on how to make good decisions for your body and mind.

Sleep Well
Much of self-care comes from taking steps to keep your body healthy,  and one great way to do that is to get adequate sleep. Good rest can not only help you feel better, it can improve your memory function and keep you sharp for the next day. Start a good sleep routine that will help you get to bed at a reasonable hour every night, and shoot for at least seven hours of sleep each time you lie down. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and do something relaxing in the evening so your body will be ready to recharge.

Making changes to your lifestyle to better yourself can be a long road, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and start with a good plan. Talk to your friends and family about what steps you’re going to take to stay on track so they can be a support system. By staying organized and taking care of your mental health, you can make positive change happen.

by Brad Krause


About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”

You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.