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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Learning to Forgive Yourself

Learning to forgive yourself is often more difficult than forgiving others.  Many people come to therapy because they're unable to forgive themselves and they're plagued by guilt and shame.  Even when they know objectively that there's nothing to be gained by continuing in self blame, they're unable to let go of these feelings--even when the other person (or people) involved have long since forgiven them.


Learning to Forgive Yourself
Is There a Part of You that Needs to Hold Onto Self Blame?
When a psychotherapy client is stuck in this kind of dilemma, usually, there's a part of him or herself that won't let go--that continues in this self defeating dynamic of self blame.  Regular talk therapy, although useful, often doesn't get to the core of the issue.  A person can get stuck in a loop of knowing that he or she needs to let go, but not being able to engage in self forgiveness.  

Clinical hypnosis in combination with "parts work" (also known as ego states therapy) can be very helpful to overcome this problem.   The combination of hypnosis and "parts work" allows the hypnotherapist and client to explore if there is an internal part of the client that feels the need to hold onto this self blaming stance and the reason why it feels this need.

In a relaxed hypnotic state, clients can sense into themselves and access unconscious information that is usually not available in their ordinary state of consciousness.  For instance, a client, who lied to a friend, could feel very ambivalent about forgiving herself for lying.  Even if her friend has forgiven her and she knows logically that it would be best to let it go, a part of herself might feel the need to hold onto the guilt and shame in order to make sure this doesn't happen again.  Once this is revealed in the relaxed hypnotic state, the therapist can work with this part to explore if there are other ways to handle this (other than continuing to feel guilty and engage in self recrimination) that will satisfy this part.

This is just one example, but there can be many reasons why an aspect of oneself can't or won't let go of self blame  Most of the time, these reasons are not in a person's ordinary awareness.   It's often a relief to discover, first of all, that there's an actual a reason why part of the self is having difficulty with self forgiveness.  And, more importantly, that there can be other options that don't involve continuing to blame oneself.

An Inability to Forgive Yourself Can Lead to Anxiety and Depression
All of this is not to say that if someone has engaged in a transgression that he or she shouldn't feel remorse.  It's a sign of health to feel remorse when we've hurt others (or ourselves).  But the kind of problem that I'm discussing is beyond that--it's when a reasonable length of time has passed and a person continues to blame him or herself.  In some cases, people can continue to blame themselves for over 20 years.  This is usually debilitating to one's sense of self and can get in the way of maintaining important relationships.  For some people, their inability of forgive themselves causes them to isolate themselves from loved ones.  It can lead to anxiety or depression.  For some people, it can lead to abusing alcohol or drugs as a maladaptive way to soothe their emotional pain.

If an inability to forgive yourself has you feeling stuck, you owe it to yourself to seek professional help from a licensed mental health practitioner, preferably a hypnotherapist who can help you to overcome this problem.  Many people find it so freeing to let go of the self blame that had been weighing them down so they can move on with their lives.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I also provide dynamic talk therapy in a supportive and empathic environment.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006. 

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin