Anger: Healing from Within
Casarjian, MA, is a therapist who has led workshops on forgiveness and
stress management for many groups, including HMO's, major corporations,
the United States Army, and the Massachusetts prison system. Author
of the book, Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart,
Casarjian spoke with Body & Soul
series creator Gail Harris about the importance of forgiving, rather
than glossing over pain and anger. These are some excerpts from their
HARRIS: Robin, why is forgiveness important?
ROBIN CASARJIAN: Forgiveness is a way that we can release the past.
It allows us to be free emotionally -- to be joyous and happy. You'll
never find a person that's angry and happy at the same time.
It's not possible to have those two emotions simultaneously?
RC: That's correct. It's not possible to feel fearful and joyous, or
angry and at peace at the same time. Forgiveness allows us to release
the past and be in the present.
You call it a bold choice. Why is it bold?
RC: For some people it's bold because they have to be willing to see
the world in a different way -- and sometimes it's very difficult. We
have to let go of our projections towards other people, and that takes
a certain amount of courage, initially, for a lot of people.
Where do you start?
RC: Well, I think you start with willingness. That's the first place.
Without some willingness to heal oneself, to heal the relationship,
there is really no second step.
What about our reaction of not being ready to forgive? I mean, how do
you inspire someone if they're not quite ready?
RC: First of all, when I teach a workshop, I say, "This is not about
who should forgive. This is about -- there's an option to open up to
a way of seeing the situation where forgiveness becomes a possibility."
And my golden rule of all the work I do with forgiveness is -- be gentle
with yourself. If you're not ready to forgive, perhaps you really need
to let that be okay for now. And sometimes, if people have very deep
wounds -- say a person is trying to deal with anger from childhood --
they may really need to work with processing their anger for a long
time before they are ready to do the forgiveness work.
in other situations, those that arise on a daily basis with your co-worker
or your neighbor… if you understand forgiveness and integrate it immediately
into that situation, you don't have to hold onto the anger and resentment.
Is there a correlation between being angry with other people, or the
world in general, and perhaps not being in the best physical health?
RC: More and more research is coming out indicating that there is a
correlation between the two. And if you look at the word "resent," it
comes from "to feel again." So when you resent, you feel again and again
and again the pain of the past. Now the nervous system cannot distinguish
between events that are actually occurring in our lives and the ones
that we relive in our mind. So as we go through those negative, fear-based
experiences again and again and again, our body is triggered into a
'fight or flight' response. We want to fight, we want to flee, and we're
not at peace.
wearing us down on a constant basis when we hold onto these emotions,
even though intellectually or consciously we may not even be aware of
it. For some people it may manifest in headaches, or in a depressed
immune system. For others it may be stomach problems, or colitis.
So maybe the greater message is, forgive somebody else if you need to
because you need to feel better?
RC: One of the most important things for people to understand is that
forgiveness is first and foremost an act of self-interest. People get
their lives back…they feel like, "I'm free. I can have a level of peace
in my life, and an experience of personal freedom that was not a possibility
for me before." It's a huge breakthrough for a lot of people.
Houses of Healing
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