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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Health and Spirituality Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am finding myself torn up with anger toward my ex-spouse. Whenever I have to see him, my stomach churns. He hurt me a great deal. Can you help?

Answer

As far as current dealings with your ex-spouse, try to decide how you want to deal with him, e.g., assertive, detached, etc., then, as they say, "fake it 'till you make it." In other words, try to act in accord with how you want to feel.

At another level, we need to discuss the idea of forgiveness. Keep in mind that forgiveness is not the same as condoning. The things that were done to you will never be OK and forgiveness will not make them so. When we resent someone, that person still has some power in our lives. When we forgive them, it is as if we unplug them so that they no longer drain our power. Pursuing forgiveness toward someone who still has the potential to hurt us is intended to benefit the forgiver.

The first and most important step is to decide if you are willing to forgive. This involves deciding to rid yourself of resentments which may feel like protection to you. They're not. Resentments only harm the person holding onto them. The other steps are discussed in my book Encounters with Angels. Give some time and thought to the specific hurts you've experienced and the specific needs that went unmet. Then find some ritual to symbolize letting go.

Forgiveness is easier said than done and is a process that takes time. Just keep in mind that you're worth the time and energy!

03/15/98

Richard B. Patterson is a clinical psychologist in private practice in El Paso, TX. He is the author of three books on psychology and spirituality.

 

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