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Dr. Hanscom's Blog Beyond Forgiveness–Compassion for Those Who Hurt You

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Back In Control Blog, Feb 23, 2020.

  1. Back In Control Blog

    Back In Control Blog Well known member

    Ongoing anger is an absolute block to moving forward and living a truly enjoyable life. You are stuck to past. As anger is a reflection of higher elevations of stress hormones, sustained levels of them will also make you sick. The list of stress-related diseases is long and they are serious. The essence of healing from mental or physical pain is learning methods to optimize your body’s chemistry to that of a play profile. There is a profound effect on every cell in your body (50 trillion of them). This occurs in the presence of deep compassion.

    There are several factors to consider with regards to forgiveness:

    • It is not an intellectual exercise. You have to be able to feel and acknowledge the depth of your anger before you can let go.
    • You will always possess anger. You are not going to get rid of it. It is a survival reaction. Forgiveness is an ongoing daily practice.
    • It is critical to become aware of and let go of your deepest wounds. Forgiving smaller wrongs is helpful, but is not going to really alter your body’s chemistry. Global ongoing anger is deadly.
    • The final step of forgiveness is generating deep compassion for the person or situation that hurt you. You might be thinking at this moment, “No way!!” It is not a matter of liking this person, but do you really want to continue to give control of your quality of life who you rightly despise?
    • Deep compassion will move your brain activity off of the pain circuits and create a wonderful chemical environment. Why would you not want to exist in this state?
    • BTW, it is common, if not the rule, that people become addicted to their pain and being in the victim role. It is irrational and the biggest block to healing. If you are already reacting to these first few sentences, you are in this role. I know because I was one of those people for most of my life.

    Empathy/ compassion

    The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It is a core component of nurturing human relationships. If you don’t have some sense of how someone close to you is feeling, you can’t interact with them in a meaningful way. You might as well be in another room. The capacity to feel empathy is an inherent part of the human experience because from an evolutionary perspective, it was the species of humans who learned to cooperate that had the highest likelihood of survival.


    Compassion is the next step in healthy relationships that follows empathy. You first have to have the ability to see a situation through the other person’s eyes with an understanding of what it might be like to be in a similar circumstance. Compassion is a desire to help out. Nurturing compassion has two parts: 1) engaging in practices that engender empathy, and 2) removal of any interference connecting you with your own compassion.

    The disconnect–anger

    The problem is that when you are consumed with frustration and anger, it is only about you and it is not possible to be aware of other’s needs. So, the foundational step of empathy is compromised. You might feel you have empathy in spite of being upset. You might–after you calm down. But often people in pain are constantly frustrated and many of their relationships are based on bonding with other people who are angry. It seems like a close relationship with intimate conversations around suffering. But do you really know the person beneath the pain? It is a vicious cycle and one of the reasons why it is so important to never discuss your pain or medical care with anyone except your providers – ever!!

    Anger wins over compassion

    We all have a deep need to help those around us. But when you are angry, compassion goes right out the window. It is the interference that needs to be dealt with before you can feel compassion and engage in helpful acts. Only then are you able to implement practices to increase your empathy–starting with awareness.


    Patients freed of pain often want to give back—and in a big way. Brenda was a patient who became paraplegic from an unfortunate series of events surrounding spine surgery. She wasn’t happy before the complication occurred and certainly not after it. Using the methods she learned in the book, Forgive for Good (1) made a tremendous impact on her outlook, mood, and pain.

    After she embraced true forgiveness, her overwhelming urge was to help others in wheelchairs who were suffering from chronic pain. She was happier in a wheelchair than she was walking, anxious, and angry. She then descended back into her Abyss of chronic pain for several years. I recently heard from her, and she had pulled herself back out. Once you’ve tasted true freedom, you’ll know how to return to it.

    Nurturing Compassion

    I have a few suggestions to consider, which might help you formulate your own ideas of how to give back.

    • Remain committed to your own journey. You can’t help others if you are not doing well.
    • Practice awareness. Remain aware of yours and other’s needs, listen carefully to others and try to see situations through their eyes.
    • Don’t discuss your pain, complain, give unasked-for advice or be critical. Not of these are compassionate acts. It is a little harder than you might think, because all of us complain. It really isn’t that enjoyable.
    • Learn a compassion-based meditation practice. I don’t meditate easily and I have condensed my practice to, “be nice” regardless of the situation. It is humbling to see how difficult this is.
    • Your highest priority is your immediate family. Even if you’re in pain, always treat them well.
    Compassion requires a sequence of actions

    It seems almost impossible to forgive those you have wronged you or commit evil deeds. It is indeed extremely challenging. The first step is to realize how much suffering they are experiencing that drives them to act so badly. They are living in a dark world and may not have ever known love or what it even looks like.

    Also remember that you don’t have to like the person who has committed bad deeds. That is a much different energy than letting go and having compassion.

    Anger will block compassion. It has to be processed first. There is no way around it. The way you can and will nurture compassion for you, is to develop it towards others around you. It is the step beyond forgiveness.

    Moving Forward

    A growing body of research is showing that most people won’t let go of the situation or person who wronged them. (2) Hanging on to resentment has been shown to increase pain and compromise one’s quality of life. (3) Forgiveness is correlated with less mental distress, pain, and an increased capacity to enjoy life. (4)


    Make a random list of ideas of ways to give back that are interesting to you–write them down. They can be small actions.

    • Pick the top five
    • Prioritize them.
    • Pick one.
    • Develop a focused plan.
    • Do it!

    What is your vision of what you’d like your life to look like in one year/ five years?

    • Be as detailed as possible.
    • Learn organizational skills to implement your vision.
      • Getting Things Done (5) by David Allen is an excellent resource.

    Creating your vision and moving forward with or without your pain requires compassion and a commitment to yourself. It is the surest way to leave your pain behind as you actively re-engage with an enjoyable life. It is time to move on!!


    1. Luskin, Fred. Forgive for Good. Harper Collins, New York, NY. 2002.

    2. Burns JW: Anger management style and hostility: Predicting symptom-specific physiological reactivity among chronic low back pain patients. J Behav Med (1997); 20:505-522.

    3. Burns JW, Johnson BJ, Devine J, Mahoney N, Prawl R. Anger management style and the prediction of treatment outcome among male and female chronic pain patients. Behav Res Ther (1998)l 36:1051-1062.

    4. Carson, JW, et al. Forgiveness and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Preliminary Study Examining the Relationship of Forgiveness to Pain, Anger, and Psychological Distress. The Journal of Pain (2005); 6: pp 84-91.

    5. Allen, David. Getting Things Done. Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2015.

    Related posts:

    1. Compassion
    2. Compassion and an Italian Dinner
    3. The Gift of Hope – “This Might Hurt”
    Sita likes this.
  2. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    This article is huge! I have so much anger deep down for my abusive alcoholic parents. It’s so deep that all the writing exercises in the world feel like they aren’t getting me very far. Nor is my therapy eliminating the anger—though I am working hard on it. Needless to say, my internal rage is crippling me. Literally. This article could possibly be a way for me to get the relief I am looking for. Anyone else have a bottomless pit of rage?
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  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    I surely hope so, @Diana-M! This is indeed some powerful, intense work that Dr H describes.

    A slightly different way that I've seen this explained is that you never, ever have to forgive the behavior that harmed you, because such actions are always unacceptable and unforgiveable. Nonetheless, it is possible to find compassion for, and ultimately decide to forgive, the individuals who caused the harm, because, as is suggested, they were not capable of behaving differently. It's a subtle, but powerful difference.
    Diana-M likes this.
  4. shadowson

    shadowson New Member

    looks like we have a lot in common.

    Yes, I have a bottomless pit of rage. I’ve been doing loads of journaling and I can feel how angry I am in my body. It’s not improving my pain or fatigue though. Then I get angry that I’m not improving.

    Sorry to hear about your parents. I have an alcoholic mum so I understand.

    My inner child is breathing fire in a pit of rage and I know it’s causing my pain.

    I’m so angry that most people I know don’t have pain like me. I’m getting angry writing this now.

    I wake up in the morning full of pain and absolutely exhausted. And everyone else I know skips out of bed and off to the gym.

    anyway I’d best stop because I can go on all day.
  5. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    @shadowson I am with you! I look out my window and watch people walk their dogs and I get jealous that they can walk. I wake up and for a split second I don’t think anything is wrong with me, and then it all hits me like a sledgehammer and I wonder, how did this happen? I get angry at the TMS. I get angry at my life. BUt I truly believe we can heal. We can heal from all of this. We will be better than before. As long as we don’t give up. Have you ever tried Al-anon? It is helping me a lot to heal from the alcoholic family I grew up in. There is an app for it now. What are your symptoms? What’s your story? Do you mind me asking?
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2024
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  6. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    @JanAtheCPA -I like this, because I believe it’s possible to get stuck in the anger. At some point you have to be able to move past it. I know Dr. Sarno and others encourage the journaling. But after all of that, there needs to be a way to release this rage (tension) from your body. Some of us need more help than others on this.
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  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    100% so true. Have you ever come across the ACEs? Adverse Childhood Experiences. There's actually a simple 10-question yes/no quiz which can produce a score that can be very helpful for people to identify and validate where they stand in terms of the risk of lifetime mental and physical health problems. Basically any score other than zero signifies risk. Check it out via this post: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/aces-quiz-printable-version.27061/ (ACEs "quiz" - printable version)
    Diana-M and shadowson like this.
  8. shadowson

    shadowson New Member

    Thanks, I’ve done the ACE test before and got a 3.
    Sexual abuse when I was about 8 from my brothers friend who was about 14
    Parents divorce
    Mum had alcohol problem and still does
    She almost died from liver and gall bladder failure in 2019 which was extremely difficult.

    I’ve had chronic pain for about 15 years but the last 6/7 years have been all over or what the doctors call fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
  9. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yeah, a 3 is a high score, @shadowson, I'm so sorry. It's heartbreaking. If you've never gone in for psychotherapy, it's time. If you think you've tried it and rejected it, I'm here to tell you that your brain is going to be really really resistant, and that the function of your TMS brain mechanism is to convince you that nothing will work, the only way to for you to stay alive is to stay in bed and suffer. I know this makes no sense, and that's because our brains are stuck in a very primitive survival-at-all-costs mindset. Re-read the article above by Dr Hanscom, especially where he mentions victimhood. Recovery requires letting go of victimhood.
    BloodMoon likes this.
  10. BloodMoon

    BloodMoon Beloved Grand Eagle

    So true imo too! The way I'm gradually overcoming this issue is by filling in the blanks in the following 'formula' when I'm journaling:

    " If I were not sad or angry about _______ (fill in the blank) then I would be able to _______ (fill in the blank)."

    I'm finding that the second part of the above 'formula' tends to release the 'tension' and helps your brain to move on. (It's from
    'The Forgiveness Book: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve' by D. Patrick Miller.)
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2024
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  11. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    I scored a 6 on the AdverseChildhood Experiences questionnaire. I’m not surprised. I had a very rough childhood. I have battled TMS my whole life and somehow survived and was able to live, until the pandemic came. I went straight downhill, with basically my TMS brain wanting me to curl up in bed forever. It’s a VERY hard mental battle, to believe there is even a way out. But I have always been a survivor. I might go down, but I’ve never been out. I have been through a lot of tough times, even in my adult life, but this recent bout of TMS has now become the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. And believe me, that’s saying something!

    I refuse to let this get me. The therapist I am seeing is using the Internal Family Systems method. It goes very deep. I’ve been in it 3 years and many times have wanted to quit, the pain has almost killed me.

    I have to believe that things are all coming together. I am banking on the guidance of those who are ahead of me in this TMS healing journey. I’m banking on Dr. Sarno. I’m banking on the many success stories I’ve read and the testimonies of people on this wiki. I think it all comes down to will. You have to dig as deep as you can and just drum up the will to survive. Whatever you have to do to get out of this is what you have to do. I might not think I’m behaving like a victim. But I have to be brave enough to take another honest look at that. I might not think I’m clinging to my anger. But maybe I am? How am I holding myself back? It’s time to ask that. This is like a maze and I have to find my way out. Try everything I can and see what inches me ahead.

    Yesterday I went outside for the first time in 4 1/2 months. (!!!!) I could barely get down my 3 front steps. I had to drag my numb left leg into the car with my hands. I didn’t have the strength to haul myself out of the car. I needed help. I took a short walk with my (stupid!) walker that I have to use right now. I got super tired and every muscle in my body hurt. But you know what?! I was so HAPPY!!! I did it! I took a step forward to live my life. I will build on that. It gives me hope!

    I know life gave me a bad hand, but I don’t have to lose the game. And it’s only a bad hand if I quit. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe my pain can be made into strength to help other people who are suffering. But right now, the stakes are high. If I quit, I’ll probably die. It’s time to fight. (Thanks for listening to me rant. )
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2024
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  12. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    Great info @BloodMoon! Thanks for this! I’ll try it.
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  13. Diana-M

    Diana-M Well known member

    @shadowson 15 years of pain would wear anyone down!
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