Inability to forgive psychology

Why Forgiveness Is So Hard (but Important)

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You’re not a bad person if you’re finding it difficult to forgive someone; you’re human. As human beings, we’re programmed to avoid danger or anyone who has proven to be untrustworthy. Therefore, thinking about forgiving someone who harmed us goes against our very instincts. More often than not, it is wise to listen to your instincts. But if they’re keeping you trapped in a memory that doesn't allow you to move past the wrongdoings of others, it's time to make the tough decision to forgive. Following are three ways to move past your innate instinct to avoid forgiveness.

1. Admitting the Challenges to Yourself. From early childhood, many of us have grown up with fairytales that show people with seamless relationships resolving conflict perfectly, as if relationships don't carry the realities of disappointment, disagreements, or hurt. When we expect our lives to resemble those unrealistic fairytales, we don’t equip ourselves with the proper tools to deal with conflict effectively. Afraid of being wrong or unable to see a clear resolution, we cut people out more quickly instead of trying to work things out. This is especially true if we already feel betrayed, as facing our problems simply adds another layer of anxiety. But in order to forgive, it’s important to be honest with yourself about the difficulties and challenges it will take to move past the dispute. Knowing that it's not just about the betrayal but also about the anxiety you feel when trying to resolve it, is key.

2. Releasing the Heavy Burden. As influential teacher Ajahn Chah explains in his book Food for the Heart, when we choose not to follow the path of letting go, we decide to carry a heavy rock around with us, weighing ourselves down. We don't know what to do with the stone, so we keep carrying around those negative feelings and pain. Even if others explain to us the benefit of throwing away the emotions—or the rock, as Chah puts it—we're still afraid to let it go. We've been carrying it for so long that it's become a part of us, and we continue to carry it until we get so weak and tired that we have no choice but to let it go. It's only then that we can finally feel at peace and recognize how physically and mentally heavy that rock was. Letting go invites peace and the release of unresolved conflict.

3. Know It Takes Courage. Many people think that they show courage and strength by holding grudges and cutting people out of their life who offended or betrayed them. But the real power comes from listening to your pain, finding ways to manage during those times, and noticing your anxiety without suppressing it, avoiding it, or passing it on to someone else. It means finding the courage and strength to say, "I am hurt, and I am not sure what to do. However, I do want to find a way to forgive." Real courage is knowing that forgiveness will be hard but finding a way to do it anyway.

When we are unwilling to forgive, we carry around with us unresolved emotions. This is especially true if our unwillingness to forgive is with an important figure in our life like a parent, grandparent, sibling, and so on. If we don't find a way to forgive and resolve the conflict, we will carry those unresolved emotions into our other relationships. We will also be more likely to attract people in our life that can easily trigger us and bring up old wounds. If you can't forgive your critical father, for example, and work on the feelings that criticism brings up for you, you will be more sensitive and reactive to others' perceived negative comments. When holding onto a grudge, resentment, or anger, your willingness to love and be loved will be stunted. If you cannot forgive, you'll have trouble being open, loving, and forgiving in future relationships.

Several research studies have found how unforgiveness correlates with mental and physical health issues. People who suffer from low self-esteem and negative self-worth don't readily accept themselves and their own mistakes, leaving less room for them to forgive others. Unwillingness to empathize with your own mistakes can lead to an increase in depression symptoms and negative emotions. Perpetually thinking of past hurt and pain increases the risk of anxiety and sleep troubles. Studies also show that an unwillingness to forgive contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic stress.

As you can see, you might be creating more anguish for yourself by holding on to your anger. Just remember that you have no control over what other people decide to do. You only have control over how you choose to deal and respond to what others do.

Healing is a process and can't be rushed; it's a long-distance run, not a sprint, and it takes time to recognize you've been avoiding big emotions instead of moving through them. Many of us have our own feelings to face around the person or people who hurt us. We must understand the impact the offense has on us before we can truly forgive. When you go through the lengthy process of understanding your offender's actions and the depth of the pain they’ve caused you, you will be able to let go.

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

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Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.



" ...we are only confronted with the issue of forgiveness because someone has hurt regain our equilibrium, to be at peace again, we must process the emotions and resolve the situation."

Many people struggle with forgiveness. Often, they either are unable to forgive or they forgive too quickly without fully processing their emotions or resolving the situation. In which case, they haven't truly forgiven. Both of these situations involve an inability to navigate the grief process.

You may ask, "What's grief got to do with it?" To understand this question, we must examine the nature of forgiveness and the process of grief. Briefly, we are only confronted with the issue of forgiveness because someone has hurt us. Typically, when we are hurt some sort of loss is involved such as loss of trust or loss of our self-image. When we experience any type of loss, to regain our equilibrium, to be at peace again, we must process the emotions and resolve the situation. To further understand this, let's look at these concepts in depth.

Why is it important to forgive?

To forgive is the ability to pardon an offense without holding resentment. The emphasis in this definition for the purpose of understanding why we need to forgive is on the idea of "holding resentment." Resentment is a chronic state. In other words, we feel it continuously. An emotion such as anger is meant to be felt for short periods to help us process and resolve a situation. However, when we experience anger over prolonged periods of time, our body goes through harmful physiological changes. In particular, high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, will be released in an attempt to cope with the stress. However, when cortisol is released continuously over time it will contribute to health problems including heart disease. Therefore, forgiveness is important because it takes a toll on our bodies to hold resentment.

In addition, the state of holding onto resentment prevents us from being happy. We become bitter and focused on the negative aspects of life. So being unable to forgive doesn't harm the transgressor as much as it harms ourselves.

Why do we experience loss when we are hurt?

When we are struggling with the issue of forgiveness, it means that we have been hurt. Someone has done us wrong. Someone has betrayed us. Someone we trusted mistreated us.

Frequently, people only think of loss and grief when someone dies. But we experience loss in many ways throughout our lives, both major and minor loss. When someone hurts us, we experience loss. This may be obvious in a situation such as divorce. However, other situations may be more difficult to see the loss. For instance, what if someone doesn't invite you to a party? The loss in this situation may be the loss of self-esteem due to the rejection. Or, what if your teenager steals from you? The loss you experience may be the loss of trust. Thus, whenever we are dealing with an issue of forgiveness we are dealing with a loss. Which means we are also dealing with the emotions involved with grief: pain, anger, sadness.

How is grief involved in forgiveness?

As stated previously, when we have been hurt, we experience loss and need to grieve. For instance, a child may experience loss when they can't have something they want. What do you see when that happens? They get mad and then they get sad. But then they move on (although often it's to the next thing they want). This demonstrates the full, natural grief process even though it might occur in a matter of minutes.

By the time we are adults, however, we have learned to suppress this natural grief reaction. We have been punished for getting angry or told that we shouldn't cry. As a result, we often become stuck with grief because we can't release our emotions as we did when we were children. Depending on what we learned when growing up, there are different ways people become stuck in grief. For instance, some people may have learned to "fight back" so they are likely to become stuck in the anger and focused on retaliation. Others may be afraid of their anger so they become stuck in denial and believe that they have resolved the situation: "I've forgiven her. Really!"

What are the paths to forgiveness?

I make the distinction between different paths to forgiveness because each situation varies and we don't have the same opportunities in every situation. Therefore, we may have to pursue different means to achieve forgiveness.

1) True forgiveness. We are able to pursue true forgiveness if there is true remorse on the part of the transgressor. This is often the easiest path to forgiveness because the other person admits fault, takes responsibility for their actions, and asks for forgiveness. In this situation, we may need to determine the sincerity of their apology, but otherwise we are able to allow ourselves to focus on resolving the emotions.

One reason I say this may be the easiest path is because when someone is truly sorry for their behavior, they may be able to accept the emotions we experience. For instance, they might say, "You have every right to be angry with me. I was being thoughtless." Or, "I know you are sad. What I did really hurt you." However, how often do you hear this type of response?

When this type of situation does occur, we are able to feel our emotions and arrive at an understanding. Such as recognizing that the other person didn't hurt us intentionally or that they are truly trying to make amends and changing the behavior that caused the problem.

Notice that I said "feel our emotions" before we are able to come to a resolution. Even if the other person is remorseful, we can't just move to forgiveness without a release of our emotions. We need to feel the anger. And the sadness. Have you noticed that sometimes when you have been hurt and the other person apologizes you continue to focus on what they did to you? "But you hurt me! You. .." Or, maybe you've experienced this when you've apologized to someone else. The reason for this is that you are still trying to process the hurt and release the emotions.

Too often, unfortunately, the transgressor wants you to bypass the emotions quickly because they don't want to continue to feel bad or guilty. "I told you I'm sorry. Why are you still focused on this?" Ideally, if the other person could allow you to express your pain and anger, you are likely to come to a resolution more quickly.

2) Acceptance forgiveness. Although the true forgiveness path may be the easiest of the three I'm discussing, it is by no means easy. But in situations where the transgressor does not feel remorse it is even more difficult to achieve forgiveness. How do you pardon an offense when the person does not show remorse and is not trying to remedy the situation?

Many reasons exist why someone may not have remorse. For instance, they may lack awareness that they hurt you. This is often the case when the other person may not be hurt by the same behavior. Let's say your best friend dates your ex-boyfriend. If it's a situation where she wouldn't be bothered if you did the same thing, then she really isn't aware that she did something hurtful.

Or a person may have hurt you due to some personal limitation such as mental illness or ignorance. I heard an interview with Michael Vick, the pro quarterback who went to prison because of his involvement with dogfighting. He stated that he grew up in a culture where he didn't learn to value animal life. So he didn't know dogfighting was wrong. What impressed me about his sincerity was that he was trying to teach youth what he had learned even though he was not court ordered to do so. This was a situation where ignorance was involved. Once he was educated about how his behavior was wrong he tried to make amends.

However, many times the transgressor doesn't ever recognize their mistakes. In which case, we need to deal with forgiveness without an apology or change in behavior. The reason I call this "acceptance forgiveness" is because we need to be able to let go of the resentment even if we can't pardon the offense.

We still need to release the anger, the pain, and the sadness. However, we may need to do this through indirect means such as writing about our feelings, or talking to a trusted friend, or punching a bag.

Resolution means coming to an acceptance that although you've been wronged, you can move on in your life and not dwell on what was done to you. Usually, by the time you have released your emotions, you are ready to do this. Therefore, the key is to fully experience and release the emotions.

3) Principled forgiveness. This last path to forgiveness is the most difficult. Sometimes we are faced with transgressions which are deliberate and are meant to hurt us. Or sometimes people hurt us repeatedly or even derive pleasure from hurting us. How do we let go of resentment in these situations?

I think of these situations as requiring the path of principled forgiveness which means we need to find a higher level of understanding in order to forgive. I call this "principled" based upon Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning in which we decide upon our moral actions not because we will be punished or rewarded and not because of the impact upon other people, but because we believe in a higher ethical standard of how to behave. In the case of forgiveness, we are not saying "I forgive" because it solves a problem or because we feel better. We say "I forgive" because we hold to the priniciple of forgiving as a higher ethical standard in which we believe.

When Jesus was dying on the cross he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I think he exhibited principled forgiveness in this request. However, Jesus also asked,"Why have you forsaken me?" This demonstrates the grief process in which he released his emotions. The emotion of despair is combined anger and sadness. Too often, people want to emulate Jesus in his ability to forgive without realizing that he engaged in the full grief process of releasing his emotions as well. They try to forgive without the release of emotions which only keeps them stuck in the process. I believe Jesus truly demonstrated the full grief process.

Buddha's concept of compassion is another example of principled forgiveness. Compassion isn't feeling pity or feeling sorry for someone. That would be included under acceptance forgiveness because it is recognizing and accepting someone's ignorance or limitations. True compassion is the ability to love and cherish all living beings, even those--especially those--who hurt us. Compassion means having empathy for the pain our tormentors must experience or have experienced to treat others as they do. It also means having sorrow that they are not able to experience true joy and contentment in life.

The irony of this concept is that the more we are able to feel compassion for others, the more that we let go of our own resentments and develop true happiness in life. Therefore, in the same way, prinicipled forgiveness leads us to contentment. Ultimately, forgiveness is not for the other, but for ourselves.

Copyright © 2011 by Excel At Life, LLC.
Permission to reprint this article for non-commercial use is granted if it includes this entire copyright and an active link.


The ability to forgive - Psychology of life

“The ability to forgive is a property of the strong. The weak never forgive.” ©Mahatma Gandhi

Some people will never accept the idea of ​​forgiveness, any arguments are useless. You can try to convince them for a long time that the inability to forgive, revenge, hatred or resentment make us live in the past.

Inability to forgive

All these will be empty words if a person does not know how to forgive at all. Forgiveness requires courage. Often his whole life is filled with grievances and to forgive means to feel emptiness. The person becomes scared. nine0007

If he gets rid of resentment, what will he be left with? Such a person is accustomed to using this emotion in order to manipulate others, causing them chronic guilt. Being offended is a familiar way of interacting with the world. And his whole world is divided into bad offenders and good offended people like him. Resentment and resentment. How to stop being offended?

Pseudo forgiveness

Another category of people are "pseudo-forgiving". It is easier for such people to say: “I have forgiven” than to understand the reasons for their offense. And all because they are afraid to realize their feelings, and even more so to decide to voice their feelings and demands, risking forever ruining or even destroying relationships. nine0015 How to learn to let go of resentment?

Fear of destroying relationships occurs when you have already tried to talk about your feelings, but faced with the partner's cold indifference and his unwillingness to change anything. But pretending that you don't resent people when you are actually offended and angry is not the same as forgiving. This is a form of self-denial, which is destructive for a person.

Some experts generally argue that resentment is not a real feeling. It is a behavior used to manipulate another person. nine0015 Emotional blackmail

“Resentment is a feeling that appears in us so early that we can be firmly convinced that this is a primordial feeling. Ann is not. This is a racket. Remember children. At what age do they start to be offended? Yes, exactly when they understand that being angry with their mother for not getting candy is ineffective.

Much more justified to be offended by her, "I don't love you" - beats without a miss and acts more destructively than a nuclear bomb. A rare parent can withstand such an onslaught. Having made a conclusion, the child begins to hone and improve his skills. The ability to be offended becomes a habit, then a habit, and then a reflex” (Zygmantovich P.V.)

No need to be offended.” We must learn to forgive!

Resentment is a tool for managing human relations. In childhood, the child is offended, they pay attention to him, the parent feels guilty, often not even understanding why, and from this feeling he does what they want from him. The child "makes a decision" that this is how it is necessary to influence this world in order to be heard. Then it works automatically. To finally stop being offended, you need to learn to forgive.

nine0008 Saying goodbye to hurt is forgiveness

Psychoanalysts Nicole Fabre and Gabriel Ruben identified the main stages that a person goes through on the path to the ability to forgive:

The ability to forgive is a resolute renunciation of suffering. The first and important step towards the ability to forgive can be a conscious decision to stop suffering, stop being offended and forget about justice. Unfortunately, sometimes for this you have to part with those who hurt us.

The ability to forgive is the recognition that you have been treated badly. nine0016 Thanks to the mechanisms of psychological defense, suffering, hatred and anger are forced into the unconscious, where they continue to act with destructive force. We need to acknowledge the guilt of the person who harmed us.

As Gabriel Reuben explains, this realization gives us the opportunity to "put the blame back on the offender and thereby reconnect with ourselves." In addition, it will avoid the development of psychosomatic illnesses or behaviors that lead to repeated failures in work and relationships. nine0015 Who will you see first? Express test

The ability to forgive is taking care of your health. Psychologists have found consistent physiological differences between states of unforgiveness and forgiveness. At one memory of the offender, all the subjects disrupted the activity of the cardiovascular system. These changes became very significant when they thought about revenge.

To stop being offended, you need to get angry. nine0016 The feeling of anger at first is even useful, it speaks of mental health and that you do not deny what happened and do not transfer the guilt of others. So acknowledge and "let out" your suffering.

Of course, there is rarely such an opportunity to directly express one's anger to the offender, to express reproaches. He may not consider himself guilty, or he may have such strong power over us that we will not dare to resist him. Techniques for dealing with resentment

However, we can help ourselves by using a variety of techniques for dealing with resentment

Stop feeling guilty. The ability to forgive means to be able to forgive yourself Here it is important to find out what was hurt - your pride, reputation, honor or bodily boundaries? “The answer to this question can help get rid of guilt, that is, to realize that we are not responsible for what happened to us,” says psychoanalyst Nicole Fabre.

How to get rid of guilt?

The ability to forgive is the understanding of the one who offended you. nine0016 Natural reactions of anger and anger help us to stop being offended, but if you feel hatred for a long time, it will lead to self-destruction. To avoid this, it is useful to understand the motives of the one who offended you, to see his weaknesses, to comprehend the act that caused us pain, which will help to forgive him.

How do we know if we have really forgiven and stopped being offended?

If we no longer feel either anger or anger towards the one who made us suffer, and "if the feeling of guilt about what happened has disappeared", adds Gabriel Ruben, then we can consider that we have forgiven. nine0007

Psychologists never tire of repeating that forgiveness is needed not for the offender, but for ourselves

"To forgive is to free the 'prisoner' and discover that you were the 'prisoner'" © Lewis B. Smeides

The ability to forgive is a liberation in which pain dissolves and which helps the survivor to become the master of his life, stop tolerating and suffering, or even become stronger.


Personal conflict
Conflict with boss

The ability to forgive - why is it important

Every day people are exposed to stress, leading to depression and apathy. People are exhausted from resentment and discontent, which lie on the soul and do not allow them to live a full life. Psychologists believe that the only way to get rid of resentment and negativity is to forgive all those whose words or actions once left a negative imprint. nine0007

Finding the strength to forgive is not always easy, each person decides for himself whether it is worth forgiving in a particular situation, and whether it will be deserved by the offender. This article provides information about the concept of resentment and ways to overcome it.

What is resentment?

Pride, wounded pride, unjustified expectations, dissatisfaction with oneself - all this can be called an insult. How to get rid of the habit of being offended and learn to forgive?

First of all, it is worth understanding that being offended does not make the offender worse at all. He will hardly feel even a tenth of the negativity experienced by those who are offended by him. Is this situation worth the bad mood, all that irritation and anger? Negative emotions, as has been repeatedly proven by science, undermine physical health, leading to a wide range of diseases. nine0119

Forgiveness - is it hard to learn?

An insult inflicted undeservedly, ingratitude is not always easy to forgive, especially when unpleasant thoughts swarm in the head, unsettling. Learning to forgive is a difficult but important step towards overcoming addiction to your thoughts and negative emotions. It is always important to remember to strive for more, which the baggage of unpleasant memories obviously will not contribute to. In order to learn to let go of the situation, in order to sincerely learn forgiveness, one postulate “I must forgive everyone” is not enough, it is worth constantly working with your inner self, developing self-confidence. nine0007

How to forgive an offender?

Forgiving is never easy, especially when it comes to loved ones or relatives. Resentments against loved ones last longer and are more painful, perceived as a betrayal. Here, probably, an attempt to put oneself in the place of another will help in order to understand the motive of his actions. Continuing to experience pain, it is worth considering that this quarrel is likely to become a break in relations without any attempts at reconciliation. Despite the circumstances, it is important to appreciate your loved ones, not forgetting that there are no ideal people, and absolutely everyone makes mistakes. nine0007

Psychological advice

Experts offer several options for overcoming grievances, but they will be effective only if the offended person really understands the importance of forgiveness.

  • Write to the offender

One of the effective therapeutic methods for overcoming internal conflicts is writing letters. It is important to describe in detail all grievances, everything that causes anger, irritation. The letter should describe in detail each situation that caused unpleasant emotions, which until now was difficult to get rid of. You should not choose specific phrases, it is important to state on paper what comes to mind, all thoughts and emotions. The letter should end with words in which you forgive the person, thank him for everything he has done. The letter, with thoughts of releasing negative emotions, is then burned. nine0007

  • Dialogue

When emotions subside, in order to avoid open confrontation, it is worth trying to bring the offender to a conversation, in an attempt to convey what specifically caused the offense. It is likely that he did not want to cause discomfort at all, and was misunderstood.

  • Specialist consultation

In the case when grievances have accumulated for many years, and it is no longer possible to express all emotions in a simple letter, it will be extremely difficult to overcome hostility on your own, and even more so to forgive a person.

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