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Ten Keys To Forgiveness

Calvin D. Banyan, MA, BCH, CI

At our Center we use a universal approach to doing hypnotherapy called 5-PATH®. This is a five-phase approach consisting of: Direct Suggestion, Age Regression, Forgiveness of Others, Forgiveness of Self, and Parts Mediation Therapy. Two phases of the therapy process are dedicated to working on forgiveness. We have found that Age Regression, Forgiveness and Parts Mediation Therapies are powerful hypnotherapeutic procedures because they are insight therapies. Among other things, insight therapies are valuable because they cause the subconscious mind to go into a state of reorganization as it integrates the insights gained by the experience. This causes a temporary state of heightened suggestibility, especially to suggestions consistent with the new insights.

Unfortunately, some hypnotherapists who would like to use forgiveness therapies are beginning to abandon it, and are instead, seeking to have the client, "let the person go," or to "just release "them." This approach is not as effective as a real forgiveness, because it does not require insight on behalf of the client.

If a forgiveness experience, is superior to a "letting go" of the offender, why would therapists abandon it? Perhaps these therapists have had difficulty in consistently getting their clients to forgive. Frustrated and concerned therapists have told me that they feel that forgiveness may be too high of a standard to meet for most of their clients. They are concerned that when they are unable to conduct a successful forgiveness session that they may be causing more harm than good, perhaps, causing their clients to feel feel guilty about their inability to forgive. An unsuccessful forgiveness session may also suggest to the client that the work that they are doing is incomplete, or not working.

At our Center, we spend about 45 percent of the therapy time conducting Forgiveness Therapy. We achieve a full forgiveness, approaching 100 percent of the time. The Ten Keys To Forgiveness has resulted from that experience.

The Forgiveness Therapy process that we use is based on the work of Fritz Perls, a Gestalt Psychotherapist who developed "Chair Therapy." He had his clients (who were not hypnotized) talk to an imaginary person sitting across from them. I first learned of using this approach in hypnotherapy from Gerald F. Kein. Doing "Chair Therapy" in hypnosis proved to be significantly more powerful than the one that Dr. Pearls created because for the hypnotized client, it is as if the figure is really there. In deed, the somnambulistic client is able to hallucinate the presence of the offender, resulting in an experience which is more realistic.

Briefly, Forgiveness Therapy consists of suggesting to the somnambulistic client that she is going into a room with two chairs. The client sits in one chair and the offender, the one who hurt them, sits in the other chair. Who the offender is, is revealed during the age regression phase.

This "offender" is perceived as being the one most responsible for the Initial Sensitizing Even (ISE) associated with the client's problem. Another approach is to simply suggest to the client that the person who "hurt you more than any one else goes in the other chair."

Next, the therapist encourages the client to express to the offender how she hurt her (what happened, how it made her feel and what that made her think). It is important to have the client express the most hurtful experiences so that when the forgiveness has been accomplished, the anger over these situations will have been neutralized. This is one of the most important reasons to do Forgiveness Therapy, because forgiveness is the antidote for anger. Just "letti"g go? of the offender only dissociates the client from the anger which is an unhealthy condition! Hypnotherapists and other professionals are now beginning to accept that such repressed emotion is responsible, at least in part, for our client's addictions and chronic illnesses. Forgiveness therapy releases anger (when forgiving others) and releases guilt (when doing self-forgiveness).

The process continues as the client speaks from both sides of the discussion: first speaking to the offender, then responding from the offender's point of view, back and forth. This is accomplished by simply suggesting that the client become the offender and respond to what she just heard (yes, this really works).

The following Ten Keys To Forgiveness, are tools which the therapist can use while encouraging the dialog which leads to forgiveness. The more "keys" you can bring into the process, the easier it will be for the client to forgive.

Suggest that:

  1. Any known causes of the hurtful behavior be expressed such as information about the off'nder?s childhood that may have caused her to act the way she did. This leads to understanding. (If the cause of the hurtful behavior is unknown, the next best thing is to consider probable causes, such as the conditions in which the offender grew up in.)

  2. The offender disclose any pain that she has experienced because of what she did.

  3. The offender express any regret that she may have over having done the wrong or painful thing.

  4. The offender inform your client about how the intent was not to hurt the client, but rather to fulfill some other need, want or desire, if that is the case.

  5. The offender reveal any positive intent, associated with what was done to the client. For example, a parent might have been overly critical, but the intent was not to hurt, only to prepare your client for a world where "being tough would benefit her."

  6. The offender express any regret that there may be, and say "I'm sorry."

  7. The offender ask for forgiveness directly, by saying, "Please forgive me."

  8. The forgiveness is not for the offender. The forgiveness is a gift that they are going to give themselves that will change how they feel inside, and set them free from the past.

  9. The offender won't be able to benefit from it at all because the offender will forget everything that just happened when she gets up from the chair and leaves the room.

  10. That she does not have to forget. Forgetting is not required, nor is it recommended! Intelligence is defined as the ability to learn from experience. Forgetting the experience would lead to ignorance.

Your clients have an amazing capacity to forgive when these tools are used in therapy. Don't give up on forgiveness. It is worth it. Just letting go, does not sufficiently address feelings of anger and guilt. Remember that the insights gained during the therapy cause a high level of suggestibility. So always follow forgiveness therapy with a period of direct suggestion before you emerge your client.

© 2001 Calvin D. Banyan. All rights reserved