The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection Review

The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection
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I found this book perceptive and personally helpful.
Robert Karen is careful, at the beginning of the book, to make clear his intentions. He is not using forgiveness as a blanket application nor is he discussing the forgiveness of great atrocities (the Holocaust, 9/11, etc.) or the forgiveness of such terrible violations as sexual, physical and verbal abuse. He is exploring, rather, forgiveness as a step towards wholeness: the recognition that people can be both lovable and infuriating, that we ourselves can be flawed and yet worthwhile. Karen is encouraging the reader to move beyond "good guy--bad guy" tags, to accept that people--our parents, ourselves--can be imperfect without being the enemy.
This acceptance and recognition, Karen makes clear, is a process. He is not advocating forgiveness as something easy or instantaneous or even, sometimes, appropriate. Forgiving, from Karen's point of view, is a dialog, whether it is a dialog with another person or with our past. The hallmark of this kind of forgiveness is honesty--to honestly admit, "This is how I feel, this is what I'm doing, this is what I experience." Karen is not interested in "fixing" problems: "Okay, I won't do, feel, experience that anymore." He is interested in illustrating the achievement of being able to say, "Okay, I feel this envy or this malice. I don't like it. That's also part of me. I'm a whole person."
Wholeness is the object of Karen's book: how to achieve personal wholeness through recognizing the potential wholeness in other people: "I can still love someone even though they are flawed." In this, Karen accesses a deep truth, call it religious or ethical or whatever (and why should religion and ethics be removed from mental health?): to try to act towards others how we would like them to act towards us.
Karen uses a number of movies, books and current events as examples. Although some of these are applicable, and they are all very interesting, these object lessons are less credible and less applicable than his therapy work and personal experiences.

Recommendation: Buy it.

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