Dr. Jim Dincalci How to Forgive When You Can't

Forgiveness Therapy

The article on Forgiveness Therapy presented below is an abstract of a paper entitled An Effective Tool to Make Forgiveness Last,” which was presented by Dr. Dincalci in 2003 in Atlanta at the professional conference Helping People Forgive, put on by the Campaign for Forgiveness Research.

You can access more of Dr. Jim’s work on Forgiveness Therapy in his write-up on Power Forgiveness.

In addition, articles by other authors on Forgiveness Therapy can be accessed here.

A Forgiveness Therapy Perspective
By James Dincalci, RSD, DD, MA (Psych)

If you are reading this, you know that through forgiveness we connect with a tremendous Power, which brings love, peace, and joy into our everyday emotional and spiritual lives.

In 1993, at my lowest, my life was completely transformed through a forgiveness process that came to me one afternoon as a result of 25 years of studying and practicing various emotional, psychological, spiritual, and holistic health practices. Since then, I’ve gained a great deal of experience and insight into Forgiveness Therapy from:
1.  Studying forgiveness and brain research
2.  Developing and presenting many forgiveness processes in my classes and workshops
3.  Doing forgiveness groups and private forgiveness counseling for eleven years.
As a result, the forgiveness training and work I present has been refined, expanded and used very successfully across the country to bring healing and transformation into peoples' lives. My book, How to Forgive When You Can't, on this life-changing forgiveness work was published in 2010. And has now been published in 8 languages and has won 4 national awards.

I believe an effective Forgiveness Therapy approach must integrate:
• Brain/mind research in medicine, professional research in forgiveness
• Physical, psychological/ emotional mechanisms within the brain/mind which prevent forgiveness
• Spiritual methods used through the ages that are effective in aiding forgiveness
• In addition, we have an intuitive ethical/moral sense within us, which when connected with, assists us in the process of forgiving.

The un-forgiving mind and the mental defense mechanisms we use to keep it in place must be addressed for deep, effective forgiveness to occur. If these defenses are not addressed, forgiveness will be more difficult to maintain; thus, joy, love and peace can be less available.

Of course, people have used forgiveness through the eons to transform their lives and have had major life changes without knowing these defense mechanisms. However, now—coupled with the understanding we have of the brain/mind functions and defense mechanisms—we have an even more powerful Forgiveness Therapy tool that can help people to look deeper at difficult situations, thus forgiving more easily and effectively. 

The more I do this forgiveness therapy work, the more I continue to be astounded at the power of forgiveness to heal all avenues of life—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. When people forgive, their lives become richer, healthier, happier, and certainly filled with more love and peace.

* * *

Following is an abstract of another paper Dr. Dincalci presented in 2003 in Atlanta at the professional conference Helping People Forgive, put on by the Campaign for Forgiveness Research.

An Effective Tool to Make Forgiveness Last
By James Dincalci, RSD, DD, MA (Psych)

Topics into which the paper might most closely fit:

• Psychoeducational Approaches that Enrich People through Promoting Forgiveness
• Forgiveness in Psychotherapy (Forgiveness Therapy)
• Learning objectives:
1.Understand the effect of defense mechanisms in the forgiveness process
2. Understand the significance of self-forgiveness in the forgiveness process by showing its power in undoing defenses
3. Facilitate the use of a process which integrates projection and self-forgiveness in helping clients forgive

50 word abstract:

My forgiveness workshops as well as counseling sessions held over 10 years indicate that, although all defense mechanisms impede the process of forgiveness, projection is both the most easily overlooked and the best indicator of what needs to be brought to light and resolved for forgiveness to be successful.

300 word abstract:

An essential reason that forgiven situations often need ongoing forgiveness work is that defense mechanisms (denial, repression, displacement, and especially projection) are at play, preventing deeper understanding and resolution. Our forgiveness workshops and group and individual counseling sessions, held over seven years, indicate that defenses, while mentioned by other researchers, are not given the importance they deserve.

Forgiveness goes against the primitive defense of the mind and the very grain of our culture. Projection of “sins” onto another is natural, because it frees one from having to confront and deal with them. It allows obsessively judging the splinter in the eye of the other, while ignoring the beam in our own. A person projects and displaces to hide some quality or action that he deems unforgivable. The low success rates achieved by psychotherapies of various types in effecting lasting change are due in no small measure to the mass of repressed and un-forgiven deeds.

I have often found in my work that the un-forgiven situation, or person presented, uncovers metaphorically what the client has projected and then denied. Thus, forgiving the perpetrator does not get at the root of the upset, but self-forgiveness can, for it dissolves the guilt and the need for projecting, which holds the situation in place.

The following steps offer an effective way of dealing with a difficult un-forgiven situation:
1. Finding the earlier displaced perpetrator.
2. Finding the personal metaphor of the projection in the situation.
3. Forgiving the target of the projection.
4. Getting the client to accept self-forgiveness for the presented action/quality.

In conclusion, un-forgiven situations are often released when nothing else has worked by especially addressing the defense mechanism of projection. Then, when self-forgiveness is utilized as part of this process, permanent relief becomes possible.


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