Forgiveness — Physical, Spiritual and Psychological Health Implications
By John Graham
November 24th, 2011
I am currently reading a fascinating book by Lionel Corbett, M.D., entitled The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice (Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 2011). As Edward Shafranske of Pepperdine University says so brilliantly on the book’s cover, “
The Sacred Cauldron is a remarkable book, sophisticated and ecumenical in its depth and breadth. Corbett draws upon philosophy, psychology, literature – in sum, all of the human sciences – to capture the essence of psychotherapy as a spiritual process. His pose is elegant, his scholarship unmatched, and his deep respect for the transcendent in human life is found throughout.” I concur, scholars and clinicians alike will find Corbett’s book is magnificent.
In a chapter entitled “Faith, Love, Forgiveness, and Hope in Psychotherapy,” Corbett addresses the subject of Forgiveness. Here he says, “In addition to its spiritual implications, forgiveness or the lack thereof has important effects on physical and emotion health.” After addressing the cycle of anger, bitterness, rage and hatred, he says, “the stress of chronic overarousal contributes to heart disease, impaired immune status, and other maladies. Not only does forgiveness improve health, forgiveness allows peace of mind, and a sense of self-efficacy” (p95).
An example of Corbett’s ecumenical approach in the book is found in this quote: “In any case, if we remember that our deepest level of identity is not this image (self), forgiveness becomes easier. When we that only our self-image has been hurt, we are more likely to remember that our spiritual essence, whether we call it witness consciousness, the Self, the Buddha nature, Christ-consciousness, Pususha, the Atman, or the divine within, remains inviolate. To bear this in mind while struggling with the issue of forgiveness takes us to an interface of psychotherapy and spiritual practice” (p 98).
I recommend Corbett’s book to anyone who wishes to have a broader understanding of the power of spirituality to transform lives for the better and its inherent dangers, as well. It will be of value to clergy, psychotherapists and lay persons, as well.