Who is not drawn towards working with forgiveness? I think most of us have a lot of people to forgive and not doing so most certainly disrupts health and happiness (causing depression, migraines, etc.) Sometimes reaching a state where forgiveness needs to happen because of the ill effects of not doing so pushes the process forward.
One method I find useful is the audio series Radical Forgiveness based on the book by the same name authored by Colin Tipping. I realized that his prescription is very much a cognitive exercise in re-training the brain to re-conceptualize the grievance story told by the ego and realize that this story is in fact, much larger than this. What I like most about this approach is the spiritual understanding or acceptance that the situation has greater meaning at a soul level, in addition to understanding the differing perspectives of the one who has caused the hurt. The aim of the program is to rid the forgiver of what is called “victim consciousness,” which is very much rooted in the ego. The author also recognizes that forgiveness is an energetic or soul-based shift that allows for a deep level of healing for both the forgiver and the forgivee. Forgiveness is a way to empower one’s self, understanding that allowing oneself to store and hold the negative emotions is a way to keep oneself trapped—separated from the peace that is possible. Tipping asserts that the broader view of the situation reveals that “nothing wrong or right ever happened,” in other words, that everything happens for a reason and there are no mistakes at the spiritual level of reality.
Tipping has several re-conceptualizing steps to take in this process. The first is a kind of radical acceptance of the situation as it is. In actuality, it was meant to happen that way and therefore there is nothing to forgive. It is important to understand that circumstances happen for soul growth and development, and not to the ego just to cause turmoil. The situation should be grasped as an opportunity for learning and growth. Also, a key ingredient in the process is faith. It is important to give up trying to always find the reasons for everything. We may not always know the reasons in a rational sense. One metaphor he uses that I particularly like is a tapestry. If you look at the back of the tapestry, it is a mess, with no predictable pattern. But if you look at the front of the tapestry, the pattern is apparent. In many cases humans are looking only at the back of the tapestry, but when life is viewed with a broad perspective, the patterns and reasons for events emerge. Tipping asserts that even this can be too difficult for someone who has been traumatized, so it helps to remain open to the possibility, and be open to the miracle of things all fitting together and making sense. There is a great deal of surrender in that statement. Peace also has to be a choice that is made by the forgiver. I think that the work that I do helps this process by helping people to see the patterns in the “tapestry.”
I found that over the course of several weeks, working with this information and truly absorbing it is extremely challenging. I’ve discovered that the reason is that my ego really wants to hold on to the victim mentality for reasons that I have yet to fully understand. To create the sense of separation perhaps—because if I can separate myself from those who have hurt me—somehow, I can spare myself some of the pain. At the soul level, however, I agree with many of Tipping’s assertions. From examining my own life, I can definitely see that there are patterns, and that events do not happen randomly and with no purpose. Even if it is a meaning only I have created, at least it does make some sense!
Cognitive restructuring like this takes some time, and I think it probably has its own natural timetable. I also think healing has its own natural timetable. Even by working with this material and method over the course of several weeks, complete forgiveness may not happen in that timeframe. I think one of the reasons is that the emotional component has to be worked through as well. And I feel that the only way out of the negative emotions is to go through them. There may not be any shortcuts. I believe that my spiritual practices (such as meditation) as well as self-examination techniques such as this one, are very important for keeping perspective and helping the healing process, but I don’t think that the entire healing process is under our control. I am beginning to believe that the healing process has its own organic structure, similar to the way in which Elizabeth Kubler-Ross maps out the stages of grief. I have found that even despite my impatience, these feelings never seem to make the healing process go any faster. In fact, when I skip steps or gloss over things, they eventually return to be dealt with at a later time. I’ve also noticed the cyclical nature of dealing with loss and grief—just when you think you are over it, something else comes up! I feel that there are great tools out there, such as Tipping’s, that can help, but ultimately the great surrender has to be to the process itself.