Dealing with Anxiety and Depression through Forgiveness Therapy

Buddha is quoted in the Suttas, the Buddhist Holy Scripture, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the one who gets burned.” Holding on to anger and resentment is among the most self-damaging acts that consumes a person. Whether it is directed towards a close family member, a friend or spouse, if conflicts are unresolved, they affect a person’s emotional and psychological well-being in a very negative way. Although these feelings are unavoidable are times, it is not advisable to hold onto them because in excess, these may lead to anxiety and depression. The ultimate solution to these mental problems brought by resentment is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the decision that a person makes to forgo resentment and anger towards another person. It is an act of letting go of the emotional burden from all the negative feelings from unresolved conflicts. Agreed, it isn’t an easy process but accepting the fact that conflicts do happen is the first step towards true forgiveness. Mental health experts can now attest to the positive impact that forgiveness can bring to clients suffering from anxiety and depression. As a matter of fact, findings from recent studies have proven that forgiveness can help mitigate the symptoms of these mental health problems. It also has many benefits to a person’s physical health. It lowers the risk of heart problems and improves sleep. Psychological research on forgiveness is pioneered by Dr. Fred Luskin. He is the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. The concept of forgiveness as a way to address mental health problems is now what they call as Forgiveness Therapy.

Other studies found that there are some people who can easily forgive more than others. These people are relatively living a happier life and are less susceptible to stress, depression and anxiety. On the other hand, people who find it hard to let go of resentment or anger tend to suffer from different physical and mental health problems. Although forgiveness is difficult for them to do, it is not impossible to achieve. Psychotherapists can aid in making this process easier for them.

The process of Forgiveness Therapy usually starts with an instance that the person can freely express pain and anger. This is the cathartic stage wherein a person pours out as much negative emotions as he or she can get out of his or her system. The next stage would involve the recognition that feelings of anger and resentment stems from how a person reacts to the conflict. The therapist allows a person to gain more understanding about the negative effects of holding onto anger and resentment. The person will then have to start the process of self-forgiveness because there are times when these outward negative emotions are actually what the person feels inside. It can be a feeling of inadequacy or self-pity that also grow inside and causes the person to withdraw from any form of interaction with other people. Being able to do all this will help the person manage the final stage of moving on and letting go.

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