Can you Forgive Yourself? Can You Forgive Others?

by Peter Milhado PHD on October 12, 2015

L et’s just hope the old saying ‘the darkest hour is before dawn’ is true, because 2008 has been a very dark year. What on earth is going on in our present day culture ? Our outgoing administration, who suffered from the disease of conceit, has left a hell of a mess behind. Poverty, homelessness, anxiety and fear are all around us. Sometimes it feels like the powers of destruction and creation are in a raging life and death struggle. Where there is light, there is shadow. Progress has brought us the healing power of penicillin and the light bulb, but also the abyss of Hiroshima.

Here are some questions for 2009. How much of our gross, excessive consumption is based on environmental degradations and destruction ? How much are we, here in the west, beneficiaries of the exploitation of others on different continents? How much time do we spend watching television, shopping, desperately trying to make money, or trying to get laid…? Or all four ? Are we going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street ? How much have we traded in our daily creativity and joyfulness for social approval, economic success and buying things?

Readers will have to answer these questions for themselves. How do we heal our planet and ourselves ? Several decades ago, a major conference was held in Dallas, I believe. The topic was ‘Evil in the World’. A lot of big guns from science, government, literature, Nobel laureates, medical doctors etc. showed up with all their theories regarding evil. When it was Maya Angelou’s turn to speak, she got up and said something like, ‘We can’t talk about evil in the world unless we talk about the evil inside all of us….right here in this room.’ Wow! Bingo ! What courage ! This concurs with Carl Jung, who, at the end of his life, was asked what his hope was for our planet and his answer was, ‘There is only hope if enough individuals do the inner shadow work !’ What is shadow work ? It is living the examined inner life. It is the courageous acknowledgement that yes I can be greedy, selfish, cold, cowardly, cruel and yes…evil ! This has been the content of many of my articles, as those readers that have hung in there with me over the years, know.

Therefore, it appears that we cannot really heal the planet unless we heal ourselves. Likewise, we can’t love someone else unless we love ourselves. How ? Here are some hints from Jungian psychology and Native American Toltec traditions I have gotten from James Hollis, Ph.D. and Don Miguel Ruiz. Living the examined life, we explore the depths of our souls, both light and dark. It appears that if we don’t go willingly into the shadow, eventually we will be dragged down via depression, anxiety, loneliness, illness, etc. Whatever we are not willing to face in ourselves will eventually hit us like a Mack truck. For myself, I know I’ve been lied to and I lied, I’ve been cheated and I’ve cheated, I’ve been betrayed and I’ve betrayed, I’ve been the recipient of cruelty and I’ve been cruel. The first step towards healing is to look in the mirror and stare at the naked TRUTH. Not what I want to be to others, but who I truly am…warts and all. Truth is painful, but it is the primary medicine. In my work, I know that eventually I have to tell my patients the truth, but truth has to be anchored in compassion, tolerance and love !

The art of psychotherapy, as I know it, is speaking the truth at the right time. After becoming conscious of the truth and the dark within us, comes the next step in our healing, namely forgiving others and ourselves. If we do not forgive ourselves and others, we will feel sick and poison ourselves with smoldering resentment, hate, jealousy, envy, revenge etc. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. Just maybe, the healing of our planet begins with healing ourselves. If I know I have a dark side within, I can be much more tolerant and empathic of others who have a dark side also. I do believe life can change if I forgive others and myself. So here is the process we talked about. First, we honestly and courageously face the truth about ourselves, including our darkness, with this acceptance of self in its totality comes self-love and forgiveness and love for others.

Truth, forgiveness and love of self and others can heal our planet. Love always accelerates healing. P.S. Dear Proprietor/Editor Joel Anderson and assistant editor Mary Long, I want to thank you both for putting my articles in the Ojai and Ventura View. These articles have brought soulful people into my life and for that I am deeply grateful. As you know, our mutual friend, Jeffrey SanMarchi, editor and proprietor of the ‘Voice” died a year ago. This article as well as all the others is dedicated to him. Jeff would be proud of his lineage.

One for all and all for one. Love to Mother Meera

Peter Milhado © 2015

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lily October 9, 2016 at 1:29 am

Alan Watts on Carl Jung and The Shadow

Tom kosterman January 1, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I agree. Self realization is the key to all. Very aspirational however. But what if you realize who you are and determine you are a mass murderer?
Yes Truth can heal. Unless the word are defined. Who’s

Tom kosterman January 2, 2017 at 11:36 am

Yes my PC dumped me in the beginning of a comment. Dick certainly is controversial by nature but his thoughts are always provoking even if acuminous. I would think differing opinions are basic to all reasonable thought. Otherwise soliloquies and sermonets would rule the day.

Your forgiveness thoughts are wonderful Utopian ones. I wish i could live in the words. As we know we are coming to our last days. My final words will not be “peace on earth”. Because I do not want to delude myself in my final hour. Give me a call when you get a chance.

Rumpel S. Tiltskin January 9, 2017 at 9:01 am

Whereas it is sorely obvious that deviation from psychochurch dogma is verboten, here’s something
you may find useful—
The parasite toxoplasma gondii can be passed from cats (it’s found in their feces) and plays a role in the development of schizophrenia.

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