Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review: "Dare to Forgive" by Edward Hallowell, MD

Edward Hallowell, MD wrote "Dare to Forgive" in very basic terminology and used scenarios we can relate to.  Over the last few months I have been struggling with guilt, forgiveness and moving on.  Even though I followed the basic steps, I needed more.  I yearned to find out more about forgiveness and how I can actually forgive and not just think it.  There had to be something else I could do.  Right way, upon reading chapter 2, I knew this book would be helpful.  And Hallowell is upright and tells you it might not be easy.

Part One: What is forgiveness?
Not forgiving takes a toll on us; we are less happy, sleep bad, sad, loss of sex drive, headaches/pains, higher stress which can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.  Forgiving is necessary, not for them, for us.  So what is forgiveness? Isn't that we all think about at some point in our lives?  It could be something small or something big but no matter, forgiveness starts from enduring pain.

Hallowell talks about revenge, and how revenge is a natural first reaction to what has happened, but he strongly urges everyone to take a step back and not act on that feeling.  Revenge is temporary happiness.  You think up a 'plan' and act it out, but it is addicting and you may want more.  Revenge makes it worse for us, not just because you feel better after (because you generally don't. In fact, sometimes you want more) but because it could result in doing things you will regret and you could end up dead or in jail. 

Forgiveness does NOT mean you condone the other persons actions, want them to do it again, or even that you will forget what happens. Page 25 Hallowell finally gives us a definition.  Forgive, as defined by My American Heritage College Dictionary is "to renounce anger or resentment against".  So to forgive, we have to reject that anger.  This definition is important in forgiveness because it allows us to still feel, but to disown those feelings.

In the forgiveness is brave chapter, it really hit home for me when Hallowell says what I know "When you hate, you are the person who gets hurt" (pg 55) and of course "But if you do not learn to forgive and grieve, you are the one who will pay" so it is important to let go.  The more time that goes by, the more cynical, more irritable, more depressed and more angry you will be.  The first step in forgiveness is wanting to forgive.

Part Two: How to Forgive?
Forgiving yourself has its own chapter, and for good reasons.  Forgiving yourself is very important (and I mentioned this in a blog post of mine at least one or two times). Forgiving yourself is the hardest.  You can fool yourself into forgiving others (which of course isn't recommended) but you can't fool yourself.  If you are like me, you have conversations in your head and all those secret thoughts.  You know how miserable you are regardless of the front you can put up.  So to forgive yourself is necessary to forgive others (see my forgiving posts for more information on how) and it is a hard process since forgiveness is usually an interactive process (pg 118).  Hallowell suggests that talking to someone is necessary, whether you inflicted the pain or not.

How not to take it personal is another important chapter.  I think many times we forget that most often it isn't personal.  Hallowell gives a lot of examples we can relate to. 

A lover's quarrel had a paragraph that really hit home.  It was about when your partner acts out and says horrible things to you and pushes you away.  And you don't know why.  Well, here is the shocker - that person is horrible to you because they want you to feel how they are feeling and they don't know how else to do it (page 143-44).  I never made that connection but I am really glad this book has brought it to my attention. 

Forgiving your ex - This was a very important chapter for me.  Holding onto the love and the hurt are things we do to keep them around (even if it is in our head).  But we need to cease to live under their rule.  I won't necessarily say that we are playing to win, but what I have realized is that the wrong-doer 'wins' when you are hung up on them whether in love or hate he has that control over your life, and you need to let that go.  You need to 'win' and take control and not let it bother you...and then you will be happy.

Forgiving those who hurt us...and who won't apologize - This chapter was helpful for two reasons. One, there is a lot of truth behind it...many people won't apologize for their actions and it eats away at you. Two, it puts it into perspective and helps you find ways to lessen the hurt if full forgiveness isn't possible.

What to do when forgiveness just won't come - I loved this chapter because it really resonated with me and what I am going through. I have tried to forgive a lot, but it is still there that "hook" is still in me. 

The chapter "The Fear of Loss of Control" stated "forgiveness is so hard because it represents giving up on the wish that the past will be different....As long as you are hoping the past will change, you can be angry that it hasn't' (pg 221).  We all want control of things - and when something is out of our control we get upset to say the least. 

Overall I liked this book, it really helped me understand other aspects of forgiveness and it reassured me that the steps I have taken are good, but more still needs to be done.  I am walking away not only with that knowledge, but also with insight into the future.  There will be many times in the future where something will bother me, and knowing how to prevent that anger from getting so full force will benefit me in so many ways.  Currently, almost daily I am annoyed by people and their actions.  Sometimes I have let them get the better of me and I carry that annoyance for a day or so making everything on top of it seem like a bigger deal than it is.  Hopefully now I can take things with a grain of salt - that I can try not to let it infuriate me when people cut me off in traffic, yell at me at work, etc.  I am realizing that people's bad actions are because they are not secure enough in themselves.  They have issues, but I have control of mine, and I don't want the burden of that.  If I can lower (because realistically, eliminating seems impossible at this time) the instances where I get so worked up that I get hurt or where I can forgive people faster then I come out of it on top.
"Reaching forgiveness takes guts" (pg 15) and not everyone is capable of being strong enough, having the self-discipline, the courage or is brave enough to do so.  The person who hurts you is cowardly, in the sense that they could have prevented the hurt if they were honest and forthright.  They have more issues than you...and when you are truly hurt, it is a sign that you have decent morals because the pain caused is never something you can understand because it would never cross your mind to do so.  But Hallowell thinks if we can try to understand what led the other person to cause you pain, you will be able to forgive, and this is where I get stuck and where I realize I must work on this to complete the forgiveness process.

I think anyone who is angry or has been hurt and it has been going on for a while, should read this book.  You are not alone, and reading some of the stories within the book that you can relate to do help, even if in a small way.  I will be recommending this book to one of my sisters, and I just gave it to a co-worker.

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