Friday, May 29, 2009
I hope the articles have been worth your time. 'Forgiveness therapy' has always been an article I had wanted to be published in one of the magazines where my articles have been published but so far it's not been possible so I decided to publish it here in my blog. I think it's a write-up that is worth reading. Let me know if you like it.
If you have any particular area of interest you could direct your questions to my box email@example.com. I'll be glad to hear from you.
Next month I'll talk about 'addictions'.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I met Timi 15years after the separation; he was now in his fifties. He had come in with complaints of being unable to sleep without taking medication for more than 13 years, he was also unable to concentrate at work and had actually resigned from an enviable position in a successful bank and was now teaching economics in a private secondary school. He had been to several hospitals, done several tests, taken so many medications over these 13years yet the problem was still there. He was unable to trust women after the separation and was now in various relationships strictly for the sex. He had come to the hospital for help but one desire was glaring, he was obsessed with proving to his ex-wife that he would rise again and get the last laugh.
As I spoke with him it became obvious to me that he had a “Somatoform disorder” (a term used for a group of disorders characterized by physical symptoms with no proof of organ malfunction and discovered to have a psychological origin). Alas! Timi’s problem no doubt, stemmed from all the bitterness he had bottled up against his ex-wife! And so my focus will be on dealing with the issue that led to the deterioration of his physical, social and occupational functioning…Unforgiveness!
This story may be considered to be an extreme example of the toll that unforgiveness could have on our health and general well being but the saying is true that when we do not forgive someone, we end up hurting ourselves even more. Everett Worthington, Jr, a clinical psychologist and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has completed studies that show that people who won’t forgive the wrongs done against them have more stress related disorders, lower functioning immune systems, and more cases of heart disease than people who forgive. Unforgiving people also tend to have higher divorce rates.
There are three types of forgiveness: first is judicial forgiveness, this type of forgiveness can only be given by God. It is the pardoning of sin, the gift of undeserved kindness. Second is psychological forgiveness. It is the victim’s job. It is letting go of the desire for personal revenge and negative feelings towards the offender while extending underserved kindness towards him or her. And lastly, reconciliatory forgiveness; It is the offender’s job. It is at this point that the relationship is restored or at least restoration is sought. In order for this to happen the offender must be repentant.
Now looking at these three types of forgiveness, the first and the third are beyond our control but the second is well within reach; our responsibility and fundamentally necessary for our total wellbeing. Forgiveness is a process that takes time and effort but it is well worth it!
Forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting the offence rather it means “to let go of the resentment and the thoughts of revenge; the bitter ties that bind us to the one who hurt us”.
Forgiving someone is not an easy task; you can’t just skip to the part where you feel better but you can commence the journey to feeling better with these liberating steps listed below.
Step One: Don’t deny the pain
You can not heal what you do not feel. Rather than brush it aside, avoiding the pain, you should allow yourself the time and place to feel these emotions. You have a right to feel hurt. Deciding to just let go of the hurt or trying to forget it will lead to failure of effectively dealing with the hurt. Those are quick fixes and only mask the anger. It usually resurfaces. You may have to find a trusted family member or friend who will just listen, like a sounding board, without making too many comments and wouldn’t share your delicate issue with others.
Step Two:Don’t pass it round
When hurt, there is usually the tendency to become easily irritable and the tendency to snap at others is high, the hurt generally colours our judgment and it affects our decisions and those around us. Sometimes we look for who or what to blame and at moments like that, we must accept and own the hurt without transferring it to someone else.
Step Three: Visualize separating the offender from the offence.
This is pretty difficult because as far as we are concerned there wouldn’t have been any offence in the first place without the offender however by doing this you are giving up your control, your right to go over and over again in your mind what they did to you. It is like making an excuse for the offender; it may sound foolish but it is a step in the right direction of achieving peace of mind
Step Four: Release the offender and the pain
Every thought, every emotion, hold nothing back. You could write down the offence and all the emotions you feel; anger, guilt, depression, disappointment and so on, then burn it afterwards. You could write a letter to the person who hurt you expressing your hurt and then just simply throw the letter away. This may look like a ritual but it also has a therapeutic effect. You should also ask God constantly to give you the strength to let go of the hurt because it would occasionally return like waves especially when you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of the offense, for example, being in the presence of the offender.
Step Five: Express love to the offender
This should be approached like a baby attempting to walk…one step at a time. After the offense is committed there will surely be setting up of boundaries directly related to the nature and severity of offense and I wouldn’t expect you to let down your guard and allow them back into your life with all the privileges they once had. It may begin with a smile when you meet, regardless of if he or she has asked for forgiveness. You should also continue showing love despite the boundaries like sending a get well message when you find out they are not feeling fine. This last step makes you look vulnerable but remember this whole forgiveness therapy is for your well being not for the offender though your attitude and actions of love may eventually help them. I can not tell you what boundaries to keep after an offense especially if the offense was severe like in sexual, physical and/or mental abuse and the exact measure of love to show but I would say a counselor (whether religious or a clinical therapist) would be of great help here.
Like I said forgiving is a process that could take a while but it is worth it because in freeing the pain and the offender you literally set yourself free. Accommodating feelings of anger and hurt in your system can actually make you ill over time, and lead to unhealthy addictions. Like they say; don’t get bitter, get better! And yes, it often takes God’s help to go through it, after all;” to err is human but to forgive is divine”.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
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Sunday, May 10, 2009
For as long as I remember my mum has been ill. She will often get into fights with neighbours accusing them of having evil intentions towards her. She was not the kind of mum anyone would dream of…she was unpredictable and sometimes she was out rightly frightening. We couldn’t usually bring our friends home for fear of being embarrassed. At first, I felt shame, and then I felt so angry at her and blamed her for her state. When I became older I was often hostile towards her.
Despite her struggle with the illness I could see that she loved us and she often regretted her inability to be the mum we wanted her to be.
No doubt when someone is mentally ill it also affects those around them and often drains their loved ones emotionally. These loved ones struggle with issues like stigma, fear of coming down with the illness, anxiety arising from anticipating being embarrassed by the one that is ill and frustration having to pay extra attention attending to some of the needs of the ones that are mentally ill.
I have noticed that too many times, particularly in the country where I practice, the coping styles adopted to deal with the stress of having a loved one who is mentally ill are not healthy and usually increase the risk of an emotional breakdown in these loved ones and possibly worsen the condition of the one who is ill.
I sincerely appreciate the burden of having a love one suffer from a mental illness and I know it may not be easy coping with them but here are some tips to help cope and reduce the burden…
- Be informed about the illness.
Most times people just want them treated and don’t want to be informed about it. It is advisable to equip oneself with the nature of the illness especially in this age when that could be easily done. Try and find out what type of mental illness (the diagnosis), the features (the symptoms) of the illness, what turns it on and what treatment is available for the condition. It is also wise to find out the course of the illness: in some mental illness, when the individual is stable there is very little or no evidence that the individual had been ill like in Bipolar disorder whereas in some other condition, like schizophrenia, even when the individual is no longer actively ill there are traces of behaviour that gives them away that the suffer from a mental illness.
Trust me, being informed improves ones capacity to appropriately cope with those who are mentally ill.
- Avoid blaming anyone.
On very few occasion there is a clear cut cause of the illness but often it is due to the interplay of multiple risk factors. We may readily blame a drug abuse habit but there are those who have similar habit but never had a mental breakdown. Now, I’m not endorsing drug abuse but I’m only saying don’t be too quick to philosophize a cause and apportion blame. Looking for someone or something to blame sometimes robs one of taking responsibility to carry out the next appropriate step.
- Be supportive.
Now before you jump and say I already know and do that, there two major areas where I would want to advice you to show your support
· Learn how best to communicate with them. This could be a very difficult task depending on the nature of the mental illness but remember this that the most important tool in communicating with anyone-whether mentally ill or not- is respect; treat them the way you will like to be treated.
Avoid being HOSTILE, OVERLY INVOLVED WITH THEM EMOTIONALLY (like being in their face all the time) and OVER CRITICIZING them…these attitudes could actually lead to a relapse or re- occurrence of the mental illness.
For more details on how to communicate with them, you can read up “Tips on communicating with a mentally ill person” by Brigite Boulard.
· Help them out with complying with treatment. This entails compliance with follow-up appointments and medications. You may often have to be firm but not hostile. Learn to encourage not threaten. Have you ever failed completing your medication that you were suppose to take for just a week or two may be for malaria or the flu or some infection of some sort? Then imagine taking medication daily for many years…like we say in Nigeria…e no easy!
- Find support for yourself.
I could say there are two sources of support and it is advisable to use both, they are
· Professional support. This could be offered by any member of the health team. You could be educated about things that could put you at risk of coming down with a similar illness.
· Non professional. This could be from a religious group or someone (or a group of people) with similar challenges.
Whatever you do, don’t try to “act out small ville”; trying to be a super man or woman and keep everything to yourself. We all need someone to talk to; it will help lessen the burden.
Remember, people with mental illness can live more productive lives, talk to a professional today.