Home Articles Store Ask Del About Hypnosis About Del Testimonials For Therapists Links Contact
hypnotherapy books

Del Morrill, M.S. C.C.H


A Center for Counseling & Hypnosis
Tacoma, Washington, USA
(253) 752-1506

Forgiveness and the Christian Perspective

At a convention, after giving a talk on healing past abuse through the use of altered state methods, the Q & A session elicited concerns about the idea of "forgiveness" having religious connotation. There was also concern with the possibility that a therapist might be forcing more guilt upon the victim, by equating the necessity of "forgiving" with their healing.

I have had clients, who already had borne enough guilt as a result of the action of others. They end up feeling more guilty because they couldn't forgive and thought they "should." Or they thought they had forgiven, only to have all those "negative" feelings surface again. Personally, I think there is a real danger in forcing an act of "forgiveness" too soon after some trauma or other issue.

Sometimes I wonder if the word and concept of "forgiveness" goes along with the assumptions so many hypnotherapists make about the religious convictions of others. For instance, I am continually amazed at how Christianity is assumed by many Hypnotherapy speakers and writers, including "script writers." In the last convention I attended, at least one third of the presenters, within the content of their presentations, made this assumption. I could have pointed out to those presenters that in that room of people they addressed sat at least one Buddhist and two Jews, a couple of agnostics, and myself, a weird mixture of heaven-knows-what. This assumption is evident in informal gatherings of colleagues. We sit around meal tables talking together, without knowing the religious preferences of those present. I was baptized a Christian, and yet I am always offended by such assumption. Imagine what it must be like for a Jew, Buddhist, or agnostic.

My greater concern is, that, if this assumption is made before whole audiences, and among us in informal settings, then what assumptions are being made in relationship to one's clientele. This is why, in the client's intake I include questions about the religion in which the client was raised, whether currently practices, and what the person believes in. This can make quite a difference in how the therapist approaches this person. Also, it can effect how the therapist decides to handle the dynamic of "forgiveness."

Now, I call forgiveness a "dynamic" (or a process, if you prefer). "Forgiveness" is just a word--like all words are merely words. At some point in history, a word was put on some dynamic, or process, or event, or experience, in order to remember it or to tell someone else about it. Unfortunately, we sometimes let the "word" itself get in the way, rather than looking underneath the word to figure out what it really is pointing to.

My own approaches to the dynamic I would consider "forgiveness" ranges from "reframing" the incident or trauma to creating a setting for dialogue among the key figures involved in the trauma. Certainly, there are other methods one can use to assist someone through the process of letting go of the hold of the past.

For instance, when working with healing of past abuse while a client is in an altered state, I feel that confronting the issue may be needed. One method I use is a dialogue with the abuser, which is staged in a safe environment. The victim of that abuser is helped to understand where the guilt actually lies, and is given power to handle that person, including what should happen to the perpetrator. I consider this to be a major step in "forgiveness." The client experiences their feelings of new power and confidence. They then decide whether this new memory and attached feelings are what they prefer carrying into the future, agreeing to leave behind the old "stuff."

Someone who has been raised Christian may well respond to the above by wanting his or her abuser to be forgiven. If so, then it comes out from the internal experience they are going through in the altered state, not because a therapist is suggesting that they will be healed only if they do so.

For active Christians, the words "forgiving-forgiveness-forgiven" may be important. But I find that there is a lot less "guilt," and more power, when they are used to explain the experiences of healing that the client has gone through, rather than what the client "needs" or "ought" to go through. The client may use a different word or phrase to describe the experience of such a process, such as "cleaning the slate," "clearing the garbage," "releasing a ton of bricks," "feeling lighter than air," etc. A Buddhist might speak of it as experiencing Buddha's mercy. A Hindu might speak of it as fulfilling Karma. There may be many other ways of talking about it. It doesn't matter what it is called--the question is, did the person get released from the past? Did they recover their power and confidence? Do they feel free to move into the future? (They always were free to do so, but had not experienced it before.)

Regardless of whether the word "forgiveness" is used, I think it is important for any therapist to understand more than one technique and process that can help a client be released from the hold others have had over them. The therapist?s job is to help their client understand that the past is only a set of memories, only thoughts. Those memories or thoughts can have a powerful hold over someone only if allowed to have that hold. Often they must be dealt with if the client (or the child within them) is to be released to move on. That's why we use such things as hypnotherapy. Hypnotic tools deal with that powerful hold most effectively. Perhaps, "forgiveness" is much like "breaking old hypnotic spells."




Ask Del

About Hypnosis

About Del


For Therapists