by Nanette de Fuentes, Ph.D.
The technique of embracing forgiveness for oneself is built upon a thorough understanding of guilt. Guilt is a pervasive emotion which when unresolved, can impair one’s psychological and spiritual growth. It is classically defined as “self-reproach and feelings of culpability” or “deserving of blame.”
The various schools of psychological thought view the etiology and purpose of guilt in different ways. From a psychodynamic viewpoint, neurotic guilt emerges from an overly punitive or overly developed superego, from the constrictions of which therapy should be able to free one. This viewpoint contrasts with Reality Therapy, wherein guilt is seen as a valid reaction to a real transgression. Existentialists, on the other hand, view guilt not as a neurotic trait stemming from early childhood (a personality organization one ought not to have), but as the personal sense of “missed life challenges.” Then there is the transpersonal perspective, which may view guilt as a response to a signal from one’s Wise Self to warn an individual to examine more closely his thoughts, motivations, and actions. The Transpersonal approach carries a basic assumption that matrices of psychological and psychic energy can constellate around thoughts and feelings, and these energies can easily turn into guilt, thus preventing positive change. Many people get mired in this energy matrix of guilt and compulsively—even over many lifetimes—repeat the attitudes and actions that generated the guilt.
Guilt is a contributing factor to a wide range of psychiatric problems, such as depression (which is considered by psychoanalysts to be frozen anger), sleep disorders, fatigue, compulsive eating, destructive sexual behavior, and substance addiction. Because it impacts the immune system it is a correlate of chronic illness, such as cancer.
A strong relationship exists between guilt and the defense mechanism of projection. Victims of violence often blame themselves, reinforcing the hypothesis that guilt is anger turned inward: they introject the anger that had originally been directed toward their aggressors. The introjection of a feared object serves to help an individual to avoid anxiety by internalizing the aggressive characteristics of the object, thereby placing the aggression under the individual’s own control.
From the perspective of Psychosynthesis, anger and guilt stem from unmet expectations toward others and toward oneself. A victim of a violent crime, for example, may expect that he should have avoided or handled a situation differently in order to have prevented the abuse or attack. The anger toward the abuser becomes anger at oneself and leads to intense self-blame or guilt. This guilt becomes a complicating but salient issue in the person’s recovery from a traumatic event. Much easier to identify is the expectation that the person who perpetrated the abuse should have behaved differently, but expectations toward both himself and the abusing other must be released, and both oneself and others must be accepted as they are, for transformation to take place.
Many times, expectations are linked to sub-personalities. If a strong emotion, such as anger or guilt, is not rapidly worked through and resolved, it may be drawn into the energy net of a sub-personality. These sub-personalities must then be dealt with in order for the subject to be able to release his expectations, both of himself and of others, so that forgiveness can occur.
Because emotions are a form of energy, they are subject to the laws of the transformation of energy and therefore cannot be destroyed. They can only be transformed, and anger and guilt must be transformed into love for a full healing to take place. The task of the therapist is to assist in the transformation of this energy, and the Essence-Psychosyntheses way is one effective technique.
Background of the Psychosynthesis Technique of Forgiveness
Psychosynthesis is one of many philosophical, religious, and psychological systems that are being used increasingly by past-life therapists. It has made an especially valuable contribution through its method of dealing with anger, as Edith Stauffer outlined in her recent book Unconditional Love and Forgiveness (1987).
This unique method of assisting clients in the transformation of anger is based upon the principles of two bodies of work: (1) the ancient Essene Code of Conduct; and (2) Psychosynthesis, a transpersonal psychology created by Robert Assagioli, M.D.
The Essenes were members of an ancient sect who lived three centuries before and one century after Christ. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered only in 1945, provide the modern day world with a look into the depths of this highly spiritual ancient society. Members of that society recorded their rules for harmonious existence in the Code of Conduct and called the natural law governing the human, the “Law of Attitudes.” The essence of this law is to express unconditional love toward the self, toward others, and toward the source of life. For the Essenes, to forgive or “shbag,” is to cancel demands and expectations one makes on the Source, on others, or on themselves as a condition for expressing love and other positive attitudes. This cancellation of expectations and demands is the essential component. (Shimun, 1974)
Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal or spiritual psychology that was founded by Roberto Assagioli, M.D., an Italian psychiatrist who lived from 1888 to 1974. Jean Hardy’s book, A Psychology with a Soul: Psychosynthesis in Evolutional Context (1987), describes how Assagioli, after studying with Freud and Jung, incorporated a wide ranging conceptualization of religious and spiritual mysticism, Eastern and Western philosophies, Neo-platonic theory, and classical Greek philosophy. Out of this he developed a spiritual personality theory and a large number of psychotherapeutic interventions, which include Gestalt, guided fantasy, meditation, sub-personality work, art therapy, and writing. (1974, 1981) Some of the special contributions to psychology made by Psychosynthesis, as described by Piero Ferrucci in What We May Be (1982) are:
- The multi-polar model of the human psyche with its various sub-personalities
- The central position of the Self as a focus of coordination of the personality
- The use and importance of the will
- The existence of the transpersonal realm as a source of inspiration
- The viewing of psychological disturbances as being of a spiritual nature
- The development of techniques for psychological and spiritual growth
- The use of imagery for the exploration of the unconscious and the transformation of neurotic patterns
- The concept of a natural tendency toward synthesis and syntrophy
- The spontaneous organization of meaningful and coherent fields within the psyche
These principles have successfully been applied to psychotherapy, education, business, medicine, music, and healing. Both Psychosynthesis and the Essene Code of Conduct promulgate the essence of the present day transpersonal and humanistic psychology movements by conveying the concepts of transpersonal consciousness. Both have to do with the creative use of the will and the utilization of the transpersonal levels of awareness for maintaining and increasing personal health and universal harmony.
Forgiveness as a Release of Expectations
The Essene Code of Conduct on Forgiveness states that “to forgive is to cancel demands, conditions, and expectations in my mind which I perceive are blocking the Attitude of Love; that is to say, to cancel the conditions which are preventing my mind from maintaining the Attitude of Love.” (Shimun, 1974)
This process does not forget the past or excuse one’s actions. Rather it delves deeply into sub-personalities, beliefs, and attitudes to find hidden expectations that are preventing the giving of unconditional love and forgiveness. Dr. Stauffer describes it this way: “Canceling is the dropping or removing of the requirements that the neighbor or self perform in any certain way in order to be loved by you.” (1987)
Some of the expectations that are held onto may be perfectly reasonable and normal. However, they were not nor probably will be fulfilled. Canceling the expectations releases energy consumed by anger and other negative emotions and allows for a change of attitude. It leads to a willingness to take responsibility for one self and allow others to take responsibility for their selves.
False Ideas About Forgiveness
There are four false ideas about forgiveness that foster reluctance to relinquish anger and hurtful past events:
False Ideas Truth
Forgiving allows the person to con- Refusing to forgive someone does tinue his/her hurtful actions. not control his future actions.
Forgiveness is an invitation to future Forgiveness is different from self-
Anger makes one strong and powerful. Anger engenders a false sense of strength—it takes more courage and strength to let go of anger and transform the energy into unconditional love.
To forgive is to forget. Canceling expectations brings freedom, but not necessarily forgetting. Sometimes it is good to remember for protection of self and others or to learn from an experience.
The Forgiveness Script
The following “forgiveness script” has been found to be effective in working with clients:
- Have the person think about the hurtful incidents or situations related to the anger.
- Have him delve into the memories and reveal the hidden expectations that the client has/had related to these situations. Different parts of the self or sub-personalities may be sources or carriers of these expectations.
- Have him image the object of his anger sitting in front of him.
- Assist him with the following script, filling in the blanks with the particular expectation being dealt with. Limit each releasement to one
- I choose not to punish myself and feel hurt or bad for what ____________ has done (or not done).
- I would have preferred you had said (not said), done (not done)
- But you didn’t do that (couldn’t do that), so I choose to release and heal this incident.
- I cancel all demands, expectations, and conditions that you do or say (refrain from doing or saying) ________________________________________, then and now. I cancel the demand that you be any certain way. You are totally responsible for your actions and deeds, and I release you to your good.
- I accept you just as you are.
- And in this place I send out unconditional love to you just as you were and as you are now.
Have your patient breathe deeply and raise his consciousness into the flow of unconditional love by closing his eyes and imagining that his love is without conditions, demands, or expectations and that it is going out to that pure, whole part of the one from whom he has cancelled the demands and expectations. Allow ample time for him to experience this.
Then have the patient be aware of his body, sensing how it feels and if it is holding onto any expectations or demanding that someone be different. If he does not feel release, repeat the process again, moving through the process for each action he is holding against another. It is important that each expectation and resentment be handled separately. Sometimes it is necessary to work with a sub-personality that has entangled the expectation and anger into its own script. This additional process can be initiated by asking what would happen if the patient did release his expectation. The answer might be: “I would become a nothing.” “I would be ridiculous.” “I would become vulnerable.”
This script also facilitates self-forgiveness. The same steps are followed, and one’s love is sent out to oneself.
Forgiveness and Past-Life Therapy
Many members of APRT who are past-life therapists have found this Psychosynthesis technique of unconditional love and forgiveness to be an important healing and transformational tool, especially since the technique uses a transpersonal basis.
Most past-life therapists employ the forgiveness script during the transformative state of therapy, when the individual is in his “soul state” following the death process and the review of the lifetime which has just been recovered. It seems essential that the past personality—rather than the present personality—be the one to cancel the expectations, though it is appropriate for the present-day personality to assist the past personality in this process by offering wisdom and an extended perspective. The rationale behind this principle is that the past personality serves as the source of decisions, emotions, and experiences that occurred in the other lifetime but that affect the present-day personality.
The following are two clinical examples that illustrate the use of this technique in past-life therapy. They illustrate how inextricably related are self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others.
Mary was an attractive 28-year-old woman who came for psychotherapy due to a recent break-up of a three-year relationship, generalized anxiety disorder and a basic distrust of people. In addition, she had a history of sexually abusive relationships with men. These relationships were characterized by self-punishment and abandonment. Past-life therapy was suggested when Mary spontaneously reported sudden fears of guillotines.
The regression leads to the 1500s in France and a simple young girl who lives in the forest and works with herbs and plant medicines. She practices healing with the local village people. She is in love with a young man whose mother is jealous. The mother spreads a story to the village people that this young woman has deliberately killed a child by the administration of poisonous herbs. The village people storm her home and find unprepared herbs in their toxic form and imprison her. (The herbs are actually harmless and are useful for healing when properly prepared, which is the way she has given them to patients).
She ends up being convicted of witchery and is beheaded on the guillotine. She dies feeling abandoned by her lover, angry toward the woman who had accused her unfairly, and bewildered and angry toward the village people for turning on her.
Reviewing her life with the aid of her High Self in her soul state, Mary learns that her lover could not rescue her because he was sent away to war. This new information initiated a reframing of her perception of the situation. She was also assisted in the unconditional love and forgiveness script.
Therapist: Can you see the French girl standing in front of your present-day self? Next to her place the individuals you want to forgive. Who are they?
Client: My lover, his mother, and the village people.
Therapist: You might choose one of them to start with, and look at your expectations.
Client: I’ll start with my lover. I had expected him to rescue me and protect me.
Therapist: As the French girl, can you tell him these expectations?
Client: “You said you loved me, and I expected you to rescue me and protect me.”
Therapist: Can you say, “For some reason you were not able to do that, so I cancel my expectations.” Visualize him in front of you.
Client: “I see now that you did not save me because you were sent away, so I cancel my expectations that you should have helped me.”
Therapist: As you were then, the French girl, can you accept him just as he was?
Client: “I accept you just as you are.” (Tears) “I won’t put my expectations of help on you any longer.”
Therapist: Now as the French girl can you visualize a white light of love flowing from you to him and let him go into the light? In this place of accepting him as he is, can you send out love to him unconditionally?
Client: (With evident feeling) “I send out my love to you unconditionally.”
Following this releasement Mary cancelled her expectations toward her lover’s mother, from whom she had expected tolerance, and toward the village people, from whom she had expected belief in her innocence and gratitude for her care of them.
Finally, the present-day personality of Mary was asked to talk with and send love to the past personality of the French girl, thanking her for all of her service and feeling empathy for the French girl’s suffering.
Therapist: Now see the French girl standing there and you as your current self go and talk with her. What would you like to tell her?
Client: I would like to tell her that I feel sorry for her and proud that she helped the village with medicines.
Therapist: Why don’t you do that?
Client: “I want you to know that I feel sorry for what happened to you. I know you suffered a lot. I appreciate that you were brave and that you knew how to make medicines from plants. Through these things you showed love to the village people.”
Therapist: Now in a white flow of love send her to the light, retaining within your self the best of her qualities.
After completing this process with Mary’s lifetime as a French girl, we continued regression work and uncovered an earlier lifetime in which Mary was the victimizer:
Mary is running through a jungle as a young black man who is pursued by the members of his tribe. He is a young man of power, the medicine man of his village. However, he has just taken by force the chief’s daughter, a virgin who has been betrothed to someone else. He dies by being speared to death by his fellow tribesmen for this crime. He finds himself deeply remorseful for his actions.
In his Soul State he was able to look at the motivations for his behavior and to see that they were related to lust, greed, and insecurity. He was told by his Higher Self that he needed self-forgiveness, and that this former life was negatively affecting the present-day personality as Mary.
Therapist: Visualize the young black man standing in front of you. Can you see him?
Client: Yes, he’s here.
Therapist: With the aid of your High Self, tell him the expectations you had toward him. It is important to do this because these expectations are maintaining a program of self hatred, anger, and self-punishment that are affecting your present-day life.
Client: Okay! I’m seeing him next to me. He looks guilty and scared. I say to him, “I would have preferred that you had requested the young virgin in an honorable way instead of going against the rules of your tribe.”
Therapist: Can you release this expectation? Can you accept him as he is?
Client: “But you couldn’t, so I cancel this expectation and accept you just as you are.”
Therapist: Look at him now, this self from another lifetime, whom you have accepted as he is. Can you send out your love to him?
Client: I was going to say he didn’t deserve it, but I guess that isn’t important. It’s hard, but I do send out my love to him.
Mary then releases her other expectations—that the young man should have faced up to his punishment instead of running away.
The statement of preferences and expectations and subsequent canceling of each one led to self forgiveness. In addition, with the emotional impact of the situation diffused, Mary became able to look into the karmic necessity of all of the players of that lifetime. She gained valuable insight as to how in one life, as the French herbalist, she played the role of victim, but in a prior life as the medicine man she acted as the victimizer. Subsequent therapy sessions focused on her current-life abusive relationships with men and the possible connection of these relationships and the uncovered past-life memories. Eventually, through the use of unconditional love and forgiveness toward herself and others, she attracted a healthy relationship and married.
Ken was a 42-year-old businessman who requested past-life work in order to throw light on the problems of his second marriage. Even though he loved his wife, he and she often engaged in power plays and he would become extremely angry with her, creating a situation which proved disruptive to their relationship.
The regression reveals a 17th century Catholic priest who is the Monsignor of a church and head of a religious school for children. The priest is a devout man who has dedicated his life to his work. He made his priestly vows at a young age and since then has had no personal involvements with a woman. In his late forties he begins to question his spiritual beliefs and the church’s dogma, which was quite oppressive at that time.
During this re-evaluation period a young and beautiful nun comes to teach at the school. She attracts the attention of the Monsignor because of her purity and piety. However, she is a simple person who adheres to the church’s traditions without question. The Monsignor often observes her in the classroom teaching, and they become friends. He begins to respond to her emotionally, and though there is no acting out of his feelings, he begins to feel guilty.
During one of their long walks, the Monsignor confesses to the nun some of his hidden spiritual perplexities and his questioning of the church’s dogma, which horrifies her. She is shaken that the head of their order would even think such heresy. Because of this difference in spiritual perspective, the rapport is broken and he no longer comes to visit her. The nun continues to teach at the school but will not talk to the priest and avoids him whenever possible. He dies depressed and desolate, filled with guilt over his sexual and intimate desire for the nun. He has been deeply saddened by the breaking off of their friendship and is angry at her religious rigidity.
The Soul State revealed that the young nun was Ken’s wife in this present life. Forgiveness was needed both for the nun and also for himself as the distressed Monsignor. We first explored the expectations of the Monsignor that had generated anger.
Therapist: As the Monsignor, what were your expectations of this young nun?
Client: That she would have been more curious about alternative spiritual beliefs. She just accepted what she was told by the church and never considered that there might be another way. So I couldn’t talk with her about my own searching.
Therapist: Okay. Can you see the young nun standing in front of you as the Monsignor, with you telling her this?
Client: She’s here…“I expected that you would have been more curious about other spiritual beliefs and not accepted the church dogma blindly. And even if you could not be open yourself you could have had sympathy for my searching.”
Therapist: Tell her that you choose to heal this situation and hurt and cancel the expectations.
Client: “I do not want to be hurt any more in my present life. I want to heal this old situation. So I cancel the expectation that you should have been more open, both in your own thoughts and in accepting me.”
Therapist: Can you accept her just as she is; a rather limited person intellectually?
Client: I guess she couldn’t have been different, with her background…“I accept you just as you are.”
Therapist: If you wish, send her love and forgiveness and visualize her in white light. Have your present personality assist your past personality if this is needed, or call upon your High Self.
Client: “I will send her light and love.”
Self-forgiveness was facilitated by the release of many expectations of himself as the Monsignor (the past personality).
Therapist: As your present self, stand before the Monsignor and tell him an expectation you had of him.
Client: I see him next to me. He is dressed in his black robes and he looks very sad…“I would have preferred that you expressed your love for the nun in a way that would have been acceptable to her, such as being her friend and the spiritual leader of the school. You knew neither of you could have a personal relationship because of your vows, but you could have been more gentle and honoring of her.”
Therapist: Can you cancel those expectations of your old self?
Client: “You really did not do anything wrong as a man. You were just guilty over your fantasies. So I cancel my expectations that you didn’t treat her in a more appropriate way, and I accept you as a man who wasn’t always perfect.”
Therapist: Could you send him unconditional love?
Client: It’s hard to say…“Yea, I love you unconditionally…” He’s looking better now, not so beaten down with his guilt.
In the same way, Ken carefully released expectations that the Monsignor would not have had sexual and intimate feelings, and that he would have done something more useful with his spiritual questioning. Ken found he was not angry with the Monsignor for having the thoughts, but rather for the lack of courage and insight which would have enabled him to move into a greater spiritual reality. As each of the expectations was cancelled separately, Ken came to envision them as a “freed caged bird,” and with this change came a sense of peace and tranquility and self-acceptance.
This process of releasement was reinforced by recognition of the positive qualities of that life, and it was suggested to Ken that he tell the past personality that he admired the Monsignor’s many years of service and dedication to the school, and his courage to question the church’s dogma. As Ken imaged the Monsignor and told him these things, he realized that he had found the soul of the nun again in the wife of his present life, and that he shared with her a fulfilling physical and spiritual relationship. The Monsignor reported to him that he no longer felt anger and despair, and was now willing to go “to the light” in joy.
In subsequent therapy sessions, Ken became able to relate the present problem of anger toward his wife to the issues revealed in the regression. With much of this anger transformed, Ken and his wife began to relate in healthier ways.
These cases demonstrate the use of the Psychosynthesis technique of unconditional love and forgiveness in past-life therapy. In the example of Mary, the personalities of the earlier lifetimes did not continue through into the current lifetime, but through the use of forgiveness when she was a victim—and self-forgiveness when she was the victimizer—she was able to alter a life-long pattern of abusive relationships. In the case of Ken, forgiveness toward others and toward him self contributed to the healing of a current relationship that held roots in another lifetime.
Dr. Stauffer’s technique is simple, but it is effective and carries profound spiritual implications. It is an adjunctive technique that is effective in working with past lives that are characterized by anger and guilt.
Assagioli, Roberto. The Act of Will. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.
Assagioli, Roberto. Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
Ferrucci, Hero. What We May Be, Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1982.
Hardy, Jean. A Psychology With a Soul: Psychosynthesis in Evolutionary Context. New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987.
Shimun, Sadook de mar. Enlightenment: Selected Passages from the Khaboris Manuscripts. Atlanta, Georgia: Yonan Codex Foundation, 1974.
Stauffer, Edith R. Unconditional Love and Forgiveness. Burbank, CA: Triangle Publishers, 1987.
 This patient reported that she had held no prior knowledge of herbal medicine and was surprised to learn that plants could be made into medicines. The author is familiar with herbology and verified the description of the plants and their preparation. In fact, there are many plants, such as hemlock and aconite that in their natural form are toxic. However when prepared correctly by tinctures and homeopathic means, they are healing and are used regularly by herbalist and homeopathic physicians.