Tag Archives: suffering

Birthing Forgiveness

forgivenessForgiveness is a transpersonal quality whose essential role is often overlooked in the story of Good Friday. Today Christians mark the death of Jesus, who before dying, forgave his executioners as well as the thief crucified by his side. Born out of a paradoxical mixture of human suffering, responsibility and love, the essential power of forgiveness is that is contains rather than proliferates violence. Today seems like a good time to explore where forgiveness comes from and the power it holds. How does it happen? And what are the steps that we, in our personal lives, can take towards it?

Forgiveness is a creative process. You decide how much, when, where, how, and under what conditions to forgive. As Jungian psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes, “The important part of forgiveness is to begin and to continue” (author’s italics). It does not happen overnight, it does not have to happen fully. But one thing is certain, it cannot happen from your head. We cannot reason our way around, into, or towards forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the heart, and it requires a great love, a Love beyond ourselves.

Assagioli wrote:

“Forgiveness is not an act of passivity or weakness. Every time we forgive, we perform a ‘magical act’, because we break a chain and, by doing so, we free ourselves from a bond. Forgiveness is a conscious act of will and love, that truly knows how to forget and stop the sad succession of resentment, vendettas and struggles among human beings. Forgiveness is the most effective way to bring peace to the souls of the world.”

Throughout the years, I have come to understand that forgiveness is a process of both acceptance and surrender. It is a long process and does not happen once but gradually, many, many times. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when Peter asked him, “How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seven times seventy” (Matthew 18:21-22).

panther

Forgiveness comes stealthily like a panther.

There are initial steps we can take towards forgiveness. First we must acknowledge and feel our sorrow, soften our rage, and give room to our grief. The sadness encasing our hearts must be felt, tears must fall, sobs must rattle our chests free of hardened armor. If we don’t accept the pain inflicted upon us by others and release it, that pain will continue to roam our soul like a hungry predator.

Courageously facing our own grief and sorrow—and each of our lives inevitably carries such heartache—will ultimately lead to forgiveness. But we must also want to forgive. Without this inner longing by ourselves, forgiveness will never come. Once the soul is open, forgiveness comes stealthily like a panther. It takes its time, pausing, waiting, watching, easing closer and closer to the wounded spirit. Then, unexpectedly, it leaps into the vulnerable, bare soul.

mandela0502ap726Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Forgiveness is sung as a duet. We bemoan those who have hurt us, but we also must at the same time entreat those we have hurt. We are often the last to forgive ourselves, especially when we have for many years inflicted pain and self-judgement against our own lives. What we don’t forgive of ourselves, we can never forgive of others.

No matter how dark the path or how close to death our past trauma lurks, as human spirits, we are as strong as iron in the blacksmith’s fire, able to re-emerge transformed and free. Forgiveness ultimately restores the living relationship that we have with ourselves, our neighbours, the world, and God.

The moment we forgive, we birth merciful energy into the collective unconscious and help to generate more forgiveness in the world. As the survivor of Auschwitz Eva Mozes Kor once said, “I discovered that I had the power to forgive, and it was a tremendously empowering feeling. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. Forgiveness has everything to do with the victim taking back her life.”

Five Steps Towards Forgiveness

  1. Write a letter to the person that you feel injured by. Do not hesitate to write down all your feelings towards this person. Hold back nothing. Do not mail this letter.
  2. Write a letter to yourself. Ask yourself for forgiveness for the things that you might have done or failed to do and are sorry for.
  3. Find someone that you can trust and who can listen compassionately to your story.
  4. Write the word “Forgiveness” on a card and place it somewhere that you pass frequently during the day. For example, on your desk, the refrigerator door, or the bathroom mirror. Ask the Higher Self to help you forgive, whenever you see it.
  5. Try to put a human face on your perpetrator. For example, try to imagine the person who hurt you as a little child. A woman I knew had been molested by her grandfather, but no one else in the family knew. As an adult, she wrote to her cousin and asked him to write a letter describing what he remembered about their grandfather. Her cousin’s response enabled her to see her grandfather in a more human light and this eventually helped her to forgive him.

References

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 400-403.

David Smith, “Twinned in terror at a Nazi Camp,” Guardian Weekly, January 21-27, 2005, p. 20.

Threshing our Lives Anew

But I shall sing of your strength; and in the morning I shall sing of your love. For you are my defender; and my refuge, in the days of my tribulations. (Psalm 59:16)

Since moving to Italy a year ago, I often hear the word ‘tribolazione’. While rarely used in English, this word ‘tribulation’ often poetically enters Italian conversation when my neighbors are talking about a very long, difficult, and grievous period in their or someone else’s life.

thresh and ox

Farmers in some parts of the world still use a tribulum to thresh their harvest.

Hearing this word more often, I started to wonder about its origins. I soon discovered that it derives from the Latin word tribulum. A tribulum is a threshing roller or sledge pulled by oxen that farmers have used for centuries to separate the corn from the husks, the wheat from the chaff.

How often I have felt trampled by oxen as they yanked sharp flints of cut stone over me. (Well, okay. I am dramatizing, but you know this feeling don’t you?) Something inside me is being purged and discarded allowing my truer self to be freed from its hidden form. Without the tribulum, the seed of new life cannot be beaten away from the wheat, the flail, or the corn. The new seed can only lay dormant and lost. Continue reading

“A Hymn to Inner Freedom”

soloFRONTERoberto Assagioli’s “prison diary” Freedom in Jail is an autobiographical account of the month he spent in prison under the fascist regime in 1940. His conclusion is entitled “A Hymn to Inner Freedom” where he writes about every man and woman’s power to inwardly free themselves.

One does not need to be incarcerated to feel imprisoned. Part of the human condition, at different points in our lives, is to find ourselves enslaved by some uncontrollable situation to which we feel bound. Freedom in Jail shows us that no matter what our condition – be it catastrophe, ill health, old age, and even pending death – we always remain free and responsible for choosing how we actively accept the situation and what attitude we take. The mystery is that these circumstances can also lead us to our Higher Self.

Think of Viktor

Assagioli’s note: “Remember Viktor Frankl. Think of all those who are in jail,…” (Archivio Assagioli, Firenze, © Istituto di Psiconsintesi).

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Birthing Mercy

forgivenessForgiveness is a transpersonal quality  whose essential role is often overlooked in the story of Good Friday. Christians and non-Christians alike might reflect on Jesus’ act of forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the cross and the thief who hung crucified at his side.

After the recent carnage in Brussels, most of our world leaders are calling for heightened surveillance and security, tighter borders, illegal torture of prisoners, patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, stricter control over the flow of refugees from the Middle East, and the ultimate destruction of Isis.

Perhaps it’s too early to start talking about forgiveness, but one faint whisper of mercy would not do us any harm. Our own responsibility in co-creating the world we all live in also needs to be acknowledged and spoken.

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Searching for True Love

School children walk behind three-dimensFrom a psychosynthesis point-of-view, our life’s journey is to reestablish the I-Self connection, in other words, to seek, reconnect, and synthesize the consciousness and will of the “I” with the consciousness and will of the Self. Personally, I have found this journey forever bringing me closer to True Love —  Love for myself, others, and God.

A beautiful example of one client’s journey towards this I-Self connection is illustrated by a drawing she made during a session when I asked her to reflect on her search for true love. What is remarkable about this drawing is how well it illustrates Assagioli’s egg diagram of the human personality. One could almost superimpose Assagioli’s diagram onto the client’s drawing!

True Love

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The Joy of Suffering

This past week I have received a number of emails from friends as far away as Portland in the USA and Legos in Nigeria. Since they know my husband is Dutch and we live on the German-Dutch border, many are writing to ask if we and our family members are okay after the recent Malaysian airline crash in the Ukraine. (Yes, we are.) On top of this terrible tragedy are the wars raging in Gaza, Iraq, and Syria to occupy us and the news media.

Yesterday I met Simi for the first time. She is a 7-month old solid soul who has nothing but gurgling smiles for the world. Her mother between bites of ice cream became quietly despondent. “Hasn’t the news been terrible lately?” she asked.

Headline

Yes, the news has been terrible. The news is always terrible. That’s what news is. Terrible. It is either full of suffering or full of rich, happy, famous people. Sometimes it is full of rich, unhappy, famous people suffering. But usually it consists of poor, unhappy, non-famous people suffering.

If the news is making you feel sad, then there is probably something you need to feel sad about in your own life. A man I met recently said that he had been so sad about the plane crash that he left work early. He didn’t know anyone on the plane, but after talking about himself for a while, I began to realize that he was mostly sad for himself. Doing the same job for 18 years, he dreamed of moving to Italy and starting his own export business. He soon admitted that he was too lazy and complacent to change his life. His sadness seemed to be more about how his life was like a plane about to crash with no escape hatch.

I call this “the comfort of familiar suffering.” So often we are afraid to change our life because we fear what suffering might come to us as a result. Better to stay where we are. At least we know what the suffering we are enduring now feels like! We know how to talk about it for hours and soothe ourselves with fantasy and addictions. Everything is in place and under control to help us feel comfortable in our suffering!

Assagioli's notes on joy from his archives.

Assagioli’s notes on joy from his archives.
Joy as a Duty:
The duty to be joyous
in every circumstance
and condition.

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