By Marie McCabe MA LMFT BCN
Many of us, especially if we want to live according to our faith, are quick to forgive when we are offended. The Bible states in Colossians 3:13 “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT). Forgiveness is important because it allows us to let go of feelings of resentment, anger, abandonment, betrayal and other negative emotions. In fact, forgiveness is for our emotional well-being as well as for the other person. However, we tend to forgive quickly without processing and resolving the issues that caused the offended feelings. It is true we should forgive but many times the pain is very difficult and hard to overcome and requires healing which doesn’t always come at the point of forgiveness. So even though we decide to forgive we need to remember that forgiveness does not mean we forget the offense or that we can automatically walk away from the pain.
When we are struggling with the hurt, psychotherapy (talk therapy) can be a tremendous help in relieving the pain and restoring hope. Research shows that most people who receive psychotherapy experience symptom relief and are better able to function in their lives. Psychotherapy can improve emotions, behaviors, and is linked to positive changes in the brain and the body. So how does psychotherapy work?
One of the key ways that psychotherapy works is by allowing the person to fully process their painful feelings and to learn coping skills necessary for emotional regulation. Another key, which is vitally important for resolving the issue, is to help people discover the root problem that has caused the pain in the relationship. By looking at the relationship objectively a person can gain insight and perspective that they may not have had previously. By uncovering deeper root problems or possible mental health issues (in others or in self) such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse or past trauma the person is able to gain perspective and skills to repair the relationship or bring healing to themselves through the help of the therapist. An important root issue that some people struggle with is unforgiveness towards themselves. We all make mistakes but sometimes the mistakes seem unforgivable and we may find it hard to let ourselves go free of the hurt or disappointment we have caused others or ourselves. However, God has stated that he is willing to forgive us and put our offense away from us (Psalm 103:8-13). With that in mind it becomes extremely necessary that we learn to forgive ourselves even as we learn to forgive others. Since God has stated he is willing and wants to forgive us our indiscretions and sins than we should humble ourselves and follow His example. This may seem impossible but with the help of psychotherapy and God’s Word it can become possible.
Psychotherapy can be of benefit for the individual, for couples or for families depending on relationship difficulties. Finally, the objective in psychotherapy is to help the individual, couples or families to explore feelings, repair relationships and find ways to move forward with their lives. The psychotherapy process may take time and a lot of teamwork but it has the potential to help establish healthy boundaries, relationships and well-being.
Marie McCabe MA LMFT BCN