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Overcoming Anger: Healing from Within
Houses of Healing

"Forgiving yourself is probably the greatest challenge that you will ever meet. It is, in essence, the process of learning to love and accept yourself no matter what." So writes Robin Casarjian in her book, Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart. In much the same way that anger can rob us of daily peace, so too can unresolved guilt over our own past actions. Casarjian spoke with Body & Soul senior executive producer Gail Harris about her work with inmates at the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston, and the important role that self-forgiveness plays in their recovery.

"Part of the emotional healing process is being honest with yourself. And for many prisoners who have left pain and havoc in their wake, acknowledging the truth about what they have done and the impact of what they have done to other people, their families, their communities, themselves, is an integral part of the emotional healing process.

"You have to get down and dirty about what you've done and how it's affected other people and yourself -- not to beat yourself up, but to acknowledge the truth. You have to begin to learn from the truth, and to see where it is that you need to clean up old business, apologize, make amends, make reparations, and do what you can so that you can heal the past in the best way you can. So that you can move on in your life in a way that you're not literally dragging the weight of those unresolved issues with you into the future, and holding yourself back.

"Part of the healing process that I find very powerful for many, many of the people I work with, is writing a letter of apology. It's one way they can begin to clean up the past, even if they can't send it to people. And I challenge them to look at what it is they're really sorry for, and imagine themselves in the shoes of the other people.

"And rather than saying, 'Well, I'm sorry I hit you,' really looking at 'I'm sorry for…' and challenge themselves to do that maybe fifty times with one person, so that they can widen the scope of what they've done, and how it has affected people.

"Part of self-forgiveness is being completely honest with yourself, and it's also understanding that forgiving yourself never means condoning behavior that was hurtful or abusive, or that lacked integrity. It doesn't meant that you excuse your behavior. In fact, in order to forgive yourself, you have to be completely accountable and responsible for your behavior, or self-forgiveness isn't even a possibility… In truth, it's a process that takes a lot of time and emotional investment, because of what's required in terms of looking at the truth and making amends.

"Some of the change I see is in the spirit that people bring to class. Sometimes they come in uninvested, hostile, constricted. And as people participate in the process of inner healing, I see people become more positive, more respectful of themselves and of other people, more serious about investing their energy in showing up as a person with dignity and integrity.

"We also see practical things going on, such as the number of disciplinary reports in the prison diminishing. People begin reaching out to their children in ways that they never have before. People begin to reach out to one another in ways that they haven't... I can't even explain the gratitude I feel in participating in this process of emotional recovery with people."

If you are interested in learning more about self-forgiveness, Casarjian's book, Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart, offers visualization techniques, and concrete suggestions. In addition, the book also includes an extensive reading list of additional material that can open the way to personal insights and healing. Houses of Healing, also by Robin Casarjian, details more fully her work with incarcerated men and women.

Program Description
Managing Anger
Robin Casarjian
Houses of Healing
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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