What Is There to Forgive?

By Michael Berkes, PhD, MBA, Retired Psychology Professor

Almost from birth, most of us are bombarded with criticisms about our looks, character, worth, errors, weaknesses, what we should not have done, what we should have done and did not do, or did, but could have done better. The list of such “constructive” criticism from our elders is endless.

And this is only the ‘better’ half of the hammering we get from birth on. Sadly, there are grownups, themselves wounded souls, who add malice and cruelty to their put-downs of children, causing wounds so deep that they may take a lifetime to heal. Such parents, teachers and peers, should be nurturing and encouraging, providing loving support instead of the opposite. Even more tragic are the misdeeds of some of these care-takers who hurt the children physically as well as emotionally, committing serious crimes against their trusting charges, crimes that go mostly unreported and, most importantly, unpunished. We will not broach here the horrors of sexual abuse of innocents by criminal psychotics.

We store these toxic messages and traumatising experiences as we receive them, unchecked, because we are too young to understand, let alone reject and blot them out. With repetition, as we mature, the “truths” we stored earlier are added to by ones we receive later. All these “truths” (read: “lies”) are stored in some dark corner of our sub-conscious, where they fester, mostly unknown to us, robbing us of our ability to give and receive love and lead a happy and productive life.

Is it surprising that, as we learn to socialize in our various groups over time, dealing with people like us, all of whom carry similar “ballasts” of guilt, we often treat others as we were treated, by being critical, judgmental and hurtful ourselves? We put each other down, we ridicule, laugh at, or diminish each other’s worth, under the cover of only “kidding” and, much too often, we do even greater harm to each other. Our peers, employers, ‘elders and betters’, products of their own less than happy childhoods, add their insults to the injuries we suffer over the years, making the load of guilt even greater.

All this is done “For Your Own Good”, as psychiatrist Alice Miller’s book title reads, a very big and insidious lie that, unfortunately, most of us also believe.

When was the last time you had a truly restful night’s sleep? Do you even know what your minimum need for sleep is? Did you know that it varies from 4 to 10 or more hours, for an average of 7 to 8? Did you know that lost sleep is not ‘recoverable’ by catnaps, but only by several restful nights in a row? Do you know how harmful to your health and dangerous to your safety sleep deprivation is? Falling asleep at the wheel is the second cause of fatal accidents in the United States.

Did you know that an estimated 40%-60% of Americans suffer from undiagnosed ‘moderate to severe’ depression? Why would we, one of the world’s best fed, best housed, best protected, freest nations have cause to be depressed? Scientific studies show that the main reason is the burden of guilt we all carry from our earliest childhood.

When was the last time that you had a truly relaxing vacation during which you were able to let go of your work and unfinished tasks and enjoy life to the fullest?

Why do we take our work related problems home and why do we so often obsess about our personal problems at work? Again, it is the same culprit: unresolved hurts, rejections and humiliations we did not deal with, that gnaw at our innards.

Are there any people in your life, either past or present, about whom you would rather not think, or worse yet, who cannot walk through your mind without causing you to rage? Are there any disturbing thoughts that keep recurring that you cannot figure out? Are those memories, for wrongs you have done, not just those done to you, disturbing you, either in your dreams, or also when awake? And, before you say “NO”, remember that we seldom even know, let alone remember, what goes on in our mind while we sleep.

Are there any occasions when, for no good reason, you seem to lose your ‘cool’ and flail out at someone you care for, hurting them against your will? Most, if not all of such occurrences are caused by un-resolved hurts and conflicts from the past. They can be resolved, if there is a will to do it, by forgiving yourself and others through the method described in Dr. Dincalci’s book. It is not an “easy” method, but it is one that encourages those who are able to get into the work with a commitment to learn and profit by it. For these, success is virtually unavoidable.

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