Holistic Forgiveness: Conflicting thoughts, emotions, are a sign of needing to forgive


From my Psychology Today Blog:


In my trainings, I often ask people if they have ever noticed times when their thoughts and emotions are going in two different directions. Usually, every hand goes up.


People often experience this state when trying to forgive others. Your mind tells you that you should forgive, but your heart may be holding on to feelings of unforgiveness, also known as “nursing a grudge.” Or perhaps in your heart you feel you ought to forgive someone, but your mind keeps bringing up thoughts of how they wronged you.


Huna, the ancient Hawaiian system of energy, healing and consciousness, teaches that we must forgive others not only for harmonious relationships but also to heal ourselves. Huna recognizes the connection not only between mind, body and spirit, but also between mind, body, spirit and emotions. In order for these four aspects of our being to be “pono,” the Hawaiian word for right or congruent, we must learn to truly and completely forgive others.


This is important in forgiveness because of our Western tendency to compartmentalize emotions and thoughts. When we try to treat a physical illness without addressing underlying mental or spiritual issues, we address only part of the problem. So if you mentally want to forgive another person but continue to harbor angry emotions, or emotionally wish to forgive but hang onto thoughts of revenge, you will be unable to fully forgive.


This dichotomy ends up harming us because we feel conflicted. Also, carrying around emotional baggage (we refer in Huna to feelings of past hurts as “black bags”) limits our ability to grow. We create our own limitations when we are unable to forgive.


The good news is we can choose to throw off those limitations. The first step is to recognize the limitation we have placed on ourselves (thoughts such as “I cannot forgive that person”). We all have certain limitations. If you walk out into the street and challenge an oncoming bus, the bus is going to win. But at the same time, any limitations beyond our own physical or mental limitations are ones that we create ourselves. We call these limiting beliefs.


To determine if you are experiencing a self-imposed limiting belief, ask yourself questions like: Has someone else done this? Is it possible? Even if it’s a low percentage, has someone survived this disease? Has someone achieved this level of happiness in a relationship? Has someone overcome an obstacle like the one I’m facing? If you are able to answer, “Yes, someone else has done it,” then you realize the limitation you are experiencing is in your mind or in your emotions. Then you know it is something that you can release and begin to move forward.


When you study forgiveness, you find that some of the greatest heroes of humanity are those who have truly been able to forgive those who wronged them. You also find stories of “ordinary” people who have been able to forgive others in extraordinary ways.


As you look at these stories, you begin to understand that we all can choose to forgive. The first step is to realize your need to forgive. Are your emotions and thoughts about someone who harmed you in conflict? If so, that is a clear sign that you need to forgive. Has someone else been able to forgive a greater wrong? Yes, there are many examples.


Once you know that unforgiveness is a choice, then you can choose to forgive, mentally and emotionally. There are many tools and techniques available to help you. And you will never feel better than when you are able to truly and completely forgive. It’s a powerful feeling that will release you from limits you may not have even known you have placed upon yourself.




Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University and its training and seminar division The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. His new book, The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and wellbeing. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com.