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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

4 Steps to Forgiveness

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 7th 2012

heartI want to piggy back on a wonderful recent blog my friend Rick Hanson wrote about forgiveness. He writes, “Fundamentally, forgiveness frees you from the tangles of anger and retribution, and from preoccupations with the past or with the running case in your mind about the person you’re mad at. It shifts your sense of self from a passive one in which bad things happen to you, to one in which you are active in changing your own attitudes: you’re a hammer now, no longer a nail. It widens your view to see the truth of the many, many things that make people act as they do, placing whatever happened in context, in a larger whole.”

Forgiveness is about being able to breathe again, let go of the burden that’s being held and step into a new world of possibility. So we forgive for ourselves, not for the other person. We forgive because we don't want to hold this burden any longer, we want to let it go and be free.

The road to forgiveness doesn’t necessarily come with the snap of our fingers and so we need some patience, mindfulness and at times the help of a friend or professional. 

Here are a few suggestions to get started: 


  1. Name It - allow yourself to be honest and simple feel into your anger. This literally turns the volume down on your anger circuit and brings resources back to your rational brain. 

  2. Talk about it – This is taking it one step further, getting it out. You can do this by writing it down in a journal or talk about it with a friend or professional. Do something to try and see it from different angles.

  3. Flip it – If possible, see if you can flip the focus of being the victim to putting yourself in the other persons shoes, if possible, consider the life they lived that led them to this ignorant and hurtful action. This is difficult, but remember, this is not condoning their action, just seeing that humans, warped by our own traumas, might view the world differently from one another.

  4. Take action – This is completing the approach loop. Writing a letter to those who hurt us (living or not) telling them how their action made us feel hurt can be helpful. We can do this without attacking them. 


Remember, forgiveness does not come easy, but it is worthwhile. Having patience and a sense of caring for yourself is critical during this time. You may notice frustration, anger, sadness, and other emotions as you go through this process. You may also notice relief. Be patient and caring for yourself, you are doing important and difficult work.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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