Forgiveness is a process not an event. Rather than an endgame, what is important and beneficial about forgiveness is that it motivates us to work through the powerful feeling and thought patterns that block it.
Carl Jung felt that we don t really solve a problem, rather we go to the mountain top, figuratively speaking, and learn to see it differently .
Forgiveness involves both willingness to work through the feelings that keep us reverberating in unresolved, painful emotions that make forgiveness seem impossible, as well as a willingness to view, as Marcel Proust said, the same landscape through different eyes.
The kind of emotional and psychological pain that inevitably are part of living with addiction are not easily forgotten. Learning to tolerate the intense emotions that make us want to run, shut down or pick up is part of the work of recovery. Twelve step programs have understood, since their beginnings, that forgiveness is an issue that needs to be addressed at some point in recovery for both the addict and those affected by addiction.
Forgiving others who have hurt us, whether we are an addict, codependent or in recovery, can seem insurmountable. Emotions like anger, resentment and unresolved hurt come to the surface and cloud our willingness or ability to see past them. But it is in addressing these feelings openly and honestly, as a part of our fearless, moral inventory, that we can move through them toward healing.
People in recovery sometimes struggle the hardest with self forgiveness.
Self recrimination and shame can make us retreat into rigid positions that make intimacy and connection feel fraught with discomfort. Becoming willing to forgive the self implies a recognition that hanging onto anger toward ourselves not only hurts us, but everyone around us. For addicts, self-forgiveness can help to lighten the emotional burdens that can fuel relapse.
Both unresolved anger and sadness toward others and feelings of guilt and shame over their own actions while using, can contribute to a dry drunk syndrome. At the least, white knuckling it takes the comfort and joy out of life and relationships and at the most can contribute to being forever welded to addictive and compulsive patterns.
Following are some of the misconceptions surrounding forgiveness that seem to give some people pause when contemplating it.
TIAN DAYTON, MA, PH.D.,T.E.P. has a masters in educational psychology and a PhD in clinical psychology and is a board certified trainer in psychodrama. She is the director of The New York Psychodrama Training Institute where she runs training groups in psychodrama, sociometry and experiential group therapy.