Who is Living Your Life? Subpersonalities or the Real YOU?

brain face web

Are you living your life as a subpersonality or are you living your life as the REAL YOU? Do you sometimes feel that you are quick to react, judging others, feeling like a victim, being a caretaker, or just wanting more control over your emotions and your life? What is a subpersonality and how does it affect us us as children and adults? Learn more.

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How to Overcome Barriers to Forgiveness

What Barriers Stand in the Way to Forgiveness?

Holding HandsIt’s hard to let go of the suffering caused by someone else’s wrongdoing. What barriers stand in the way of forgiveness, and how can we overcome them? We all know how painful it feels to suffer hurts, betrayals, or abuse-and to have this pain harden into lasting grudges or resentments.

Forgiveness is essential, even when there is good reason to resist.

Indeed, study after study has suggested that being unable to forgive past wrongs can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Forgiveness is the practice of letting go of the suffering caused by someone else’s wrongdoing (or even our own). It does not mean excusing, overlooking, forgetting, condoning, or trivializing the harm or jumping to a premature or superficial reconciliation; it doesn’t necessarily require reconciliation at all. Instead, it involves changing our relationship to an offense through understanding, compassion, and release.

Two decades of social psychology research have repeatedly demonstrated the psychological, physical, and social benefits of forgiveness. True forgiveness repairs relationships and restores inner well-being.  Yet we often find it hard to let go, forgive, and move on. According to research, even when we can feel compassion and empathy for the person who harmed us, we can remain stuck in fear or hostility for days, months, even years.

Why is something so good for us so hard to do?

Friends huggingThat’s the questions Williamson at New Mexico Highlands University and Marti Gonzales at the University of Minnesota have explored through research on the psychological impediments to forgiveness. In a recent study published in the journal, Motivation and Emotion, Williamson, Gonzales, and colleagues identify three broad categories of “forgiveness aversion.” Traditionally, ideas for helping one person to forgive another have implied either expanding one’s empathy or compassion for the offender or “distancing,” not taking things so personally. But their research on forgiveness aversion suggests another approach: Forgiveness comes not necessarily by appealing to kindness or compassion but by addressing the victim’s fears and concerns. Williamson and Gonzales’ research suggests how to work with perceived risks to forgiveness and to move toward forgiveness in a safe and genuine way. Below is a brief tour of the three barriers to forgiveness, along with ways to overcome them, drawing on clinical research and clinical experience with hundreds of couples and individuals.

Understanding these barriers to forgiveness can be very useful to anyone who has ever struggled to forgive-in other words, most of us.


Barrier #1: Unreadiness

woman and man fightingThe first block is “unreadiness,” which Williamson and Gonzales define as an inner state of unresolved emotional turmoil that can delay or derail forgiveness. People can feel stuck in a victim loop, ruminating on the wrongs done to them by another person or by life, and be unable to shift their perspective to a larger view, to find the meaning, purpose, lessons, and possibilities for change from the events.

  • Who is most likely to experience unreadiness?

Williamson and Gonzales found that people’s tendencies to be anxious and ruminate on the severity of the offending behavior reliably predicted an unreadiness to forgive. People showed more reluctance to move toward forgiveness especially when they held a fear that the offense would be repeated,

  • How can we overcome the barrier of unreadiness?

Williamson and Gonzales’ research validates the folk wisdom that “time heals all wounds” and establishes the importance of not rushing the process, not coming to forgiveness too quickly. Certainly the passage of time is an important factor in helping people get some distance from the initial pain, confusion, and anger; it helps the offender establish a track record of new trustworthy behavior and helps the victim reframe the severity of the injury in the larger context of the entire relationship.

  • Tips to Overcome Unreadiness

1. Recall the moment of wrongdoing you are struggling to forgive. “Light up the networks” of this memory by evoking a visual image, noticing emotions that arise as your recall this memory, notice where you feel those emotions in your body as contraction, heaviness, churning. Notice your thoughts about yourself and the other person now as you evoke this memory. Let this moment settle in your awareness.

2. Begin to reflect on what the lessons of this moment might be: what could you have done differently? What could the other person have done differently? What would you differently from now on? When we can turn a regrettable moment into a teachable moment, when we can even find the gift in the mistake, we can open our perspectives again to the possibilities of change, and forgiveness.

Barrier #2: Self-Protection

Sibling RivalryThe second block to forgiveness is “self-protection”-a fear, very often legitimate, that forgiveness will backfire and leave the person offering forgiveness vulnerable to further harm, aggression, violation of boundaries, exploitation, or abuse.

  • Who is most likely to experience self-protection?

People who have experienced repeatedly harmful behavior, and lack of remorse or apology for that behavior, are most likely to resist forgiving the offending party, according to the research by Williamson and Gonzales. In fact, they found that even the strongest motivation to forgive-to maintain a close relationship-can be mitigated by the perceived severity of the offense and/or by a perceived lack of sincere apology or remorse. Refusing to forgive is an attempt to re-calibrate the power or control in the relationship.

According to their study, one of the hardest decisions people ever face about forgiveness is: Can I get my core needs met in this relationship? Or do I need to give up this relationship to meet my core needs, including needs for safety and trust? The ongoing behavior of the offender is key here. If the hurtful behavior continues, if any sense of wrongdoing is denied, if the impact of the behavior is minimized, if the recipient’s sense of self continues to be diminished by another, or trust continues to be broken, or the victim continues to be blamed for the offender’s behavior-if someone experiences any or all of these factors, then forgiveness can start to feel like an impossible, if not a stupid, thing to do.

  • How can we overcome the barrier of self-protection?

“Victims may be legitimately concerned that forgiveness opens them up to further victimization,” write the researchers. “Intriguingly, when people perceive themselves to be more powerful in their relationship, they are more likely to forgive, perhaps because they have fewer self-protection concerns in their relationships with their offenders.”  

In other words, people sometimes have understandable fears that offering forgiveness will be (mis)interpreted by the offender as evidence that they can get away with the same behavior again. People very often need to learn they have the right to set and enforce legitimate boundaries in a relationship. Forgiveness can also involve not being in a relationship with the offender any longer or changing the rules and power dynamics for continuing the relationship.


  • How to Set Limits

Older man and woman hugging1. Identify one boundary you’ve been reluctant to set with the person you are struggling to forgive.

2. Clarify in your own mind how setting this limit reflects and serves your own values, needs, and desires. Reflect on your understanding of the values and desires of the other person. Notice any common ground between the two of you; notice the differences.

3. Initiate the conversation about limits with the other person. Begin by expressing your appreciation for him or her listening to you. State the topic; state your understanding of your own needs and of theirs.

4. State the terms of your limit, simply, clearly, unequivocally. You’ve already stated the values, needs and desires behind the limit; you do not have to justify, explain or defend your position. State the consequences for the relationship if this limit is not respected.

5. Negotiate with the other person what behaviors they can do, by when, to demonstrate that they understand your limit, the need for it, the benefit of it.

6. At the end of the specified “test” period, discuss with your person the changes in the relationship if the limit was respected, or the next step in consequences if the limit is not respected in the next test period. You may have to repeat this exercise many times to shift the dynamics in your relationship.


Barrier #3: “Face” Concerns

Forgiveness - Daughter and motherThe third block is “face” concerns  – what we might call the need to save face in front of other people and protect one’s own public reputation, as well as avoid threats to one’s own self-concept-i.e, feeling that “I’m a pushover” or “I’m a doormat.”

As social beings, we’re primed to not want to appear weak or vulnerable or pathetic in front of other people. We will protect ourselves from feeling inner shame in many ways, which may include a reluctance to forgive. Researchers have also found that hanging on to a grudge can give people a sense of control in their relationships; they may fear that forgiveness will cause them to lose this “social power.” If our concerns about saving face foster a desire to retaliate or seek vengeance rather than forgive, we may need to re-strengthen our inner sense of self-worth and self-respect before forgiveness can be an option.

  • Who is most likely to experience face concerns?

People who feel their self-worth has been diminished by the offense, or who experience a threat to their sense of control, belonging, or social reputation, or even feel a need for revenge, are more likely to experience the face concerns that could block forgiveness. “To the extent that victims fear that they may appear weak by forgiving, and are concerned with projecting an image of power and interpersonal control, they should feel more averse to the prospect of forgiving,” write the researchers.

  • How can we overcome the barrier of face concerns?

Very often people who have been hurt by another need to recover their own sense of self-respect and self-worth to create the mental space where forgiveness looks like a real option. We need to develop and maintain an inner subjective reality-a sense of self-that is independent of other people’s negative opinions and expectations of us. Good friends, trusted family members, therapists, or clergy can be very helpful in functioning as a True Other to someone’s True Self-they’re figures who can help generate a more positive sense of self.

Forgiveness is not easy. It takes sincere intention and diligent practice over time. But overcoming reluctance, even refusal, to forgive can be facilitated by understanding these specific aversions to forgiveness, and by implementing strategies to address these barriers skillfully.

  • How to See Yourself

How to See Yourself1. Sit comfortably, allowing your eyes to gently close. Focus your attention on your breathing.

2. When you’re ready, bring to mind someone in your life in whose presence you feel safe. This person could be a dear friend, a therapist, a teacher, a spiritual figure, your own wiser self.

3. Imagine yourself sitting with this person face-to-face. Visualize the person looking at you with acceptance and tenderness, appreciation and delight. Feel yourself taking in his or her love and acceptance of you.

4. Now imagine yourself being the other person, looking at yourself through his or her eyes. Feel that person’s love and openness being directed toward you. See in yourself the goodness the other person sees in you. Savor this awareness of your own goodness.

Happy elderly couple kissing5. Now come back to being yourself. You are in your own body again, experiencing the other person looking at you again, with so much love and acceptance. Notice how and where you feel that love and acceptance in your body – as a smile, as a warmth in your heart – and savor it.

6. Take a moment to reflect on your experience. You are recovering a positive view of your own self again. Set the intention to remember this feeling when you need to.



Williamson I, Gonzales M, Fernandez S, Williams A, Forgiveness aversion; developing a motivational state measure of perceived forgiveness risks,Motivation and Emotion, June 2014, Volume 38, Issue 3, p 378-400, SpringerLink, Retrieved: 6/29/2014


Linda GrahamLinda Graham  has submitted this article as a Health and Wellness Educator volunteer writer for the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. This article first appeared on the Greater Good Science Center website on May 13, 2014.   Linda is a psychotherapist in full-time private practice in Corte Madera, CA and a long-time practitioner of vipassana meditation. She integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her nationwide trainings and in her local Deepening Joy groups. She is the author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, which won the 2013 Better Books for a Better Life award and the 2014 Better Books for a Better Worlds award. Linda publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, and weekly Resources for Recovering Resilience, archived at www.lindagraham-mft.net.   The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.



20 Ways to Love Yourself

YOU are lovable and valuable.  How do you love yourself? How do we give yourself love without being selfish?

Love Yourself

Love yourself. You are lovable and valuable.

WHAT IS SELF-LOVE? Self-love is not the same as selfishness. Self-love is not vain. Self-love is important for our preservation and existence.  If we do not love and care for ourselves, then we are not taking responsibility for ourselves.

We cannot expect others to care for us when we can care for ourselves. If we do this, we can be guaranteed to be disappointed, because another Soul cannot love us the way that we can love ourselves.  Of course, sometimes we need help from others, but we must do what we can to love and care for ourselves, even if it is just inwardly being responsible for not allowing negative thinking to dominate our lives.

Studies show that those who have not learned how to love themselves, are more prone to disease, and even death.  Self-love is how we keep the mind, body, and spirit, free from disease and charged up with positive healing energies.


    1. Make a list of all of your talents and positive qualities and post it up on the wall or refrigerator where you can see it, or for those more modest, put it on the inside of closet door, or a place where only you will see it everyday.  If you are having trouble making a list, ask a trusted friend to help you.  Try to use a variety of words, not just “nice.”  Do a word search for “positive characteristics.”  Try some other words like, “determined,”  “easy-going,” “imaginative,” “trusting,” etc.

      Man Looking in the Mirror

      Do you love yourself? Can you look in the mirror and feel good about who you see?

    2. Look in the mirror and give yourself a compliment (for example, “You are a good listener,”  or “You’re reliable and dependable,”  “You have very good complexion,”  or “You are very talented at drawing.”   Truly mean it and be grateful for the positive traits you have.
    3. Make a list of things that you love to do (for example, listening to French music, watching old movies, playing cards, going for a walk in the park, sitting with the dogs, etc.) and plan time on your calendar or daily planner to schedule at least one or two hours every day, doing something that uplifting or fun that brings joy to your heart.

      Woman shrugging shoulders

      Learn to take your time to make decisions. It’s O.K. not to know what to do and to take time until you are certain.

    4. Learn to say, “I’ll get back to you,”  or “let me give that some thought.”  Don’t say “yes” or “no” too quickly.  Learn to trust your own judgment and inner direction, by giving yourself some time alone to make your own decisions.  This might mean going against a decision made by a group of friends.  Know that this is an important step in loving yourself. Take time to make decisions and know that it is perfectly fine to not know what to do.
    5. Make a list of your favorite foods that are healthy for every part of you – body, mind and spirit, (not just a long list of junk food that might be good for the emotions but bad for the stomach and heart). Put some thought into this “healthy food” list.  Make some effort to throw out foods that are not nourishing to you and replace them with healthy and fun foods that you enjoy such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, organic foods and juices, etc. 
    6. Hug yourself.  Give it a try. Nobody is looking and it feels really good.  Hug yourself every day.
    7. Shift gears and lead a balanced life.  Make sure that you are getting enough exercise and enough rest so that you lead a balanced life.  If you stay inside and work on a computer all day, get out of the house and get some exercise. If you do physical work all day, stay inside, relax, put your feet up and snuggle with a loved one or the cat in front of a cozy fire. Take care of your body by eating healthy foods, exercising, and relaxing.
    8. Imagine that someone is telling you something negative about yourself and you are strong and unaffected. Practice being detached and saying. “O.K. fine,” and not caring about what others think.  Practice seeing yourself in a good light, even when others see you in a negative way.  Keep practicing until you honestly are not bothered by these kind of statements. You can do it!
    9. Make a list of people whom you admire or who inspire you.  Now that you have a few names, think of the character traits that they have that you like.  Write the character or personality traits next to the person’s name such as confident, relaxed, wise, affectionate, humorous, honest, trustworthy, fun, talented, etc.   Then take this list and compare it with a list of your traits.  Which traits do you have?  Which traits do you need to work on? Next spend time each day in quiet contemplation imagining that you are this trait.  If it is “friendly,” then close your eyes and go on a little journey, imagining a little “drama” or “play” in which you are a very friendly person.  Do this every day.

      Writing Goals

      One way to love yourself is to take time to listen, and write down your goals and dreams.

    10. Use a journal every day before going to sleep. Write down in the journal what you choose to accomplish or how you wish to be.  This is your true self.  For example, write:  “I am kind.  I am patient.  I am loved. I bring joy and happiness to others.”   Write these statements several times in the morning, throughout the day, and before falling asleep.
    11. Spend some time alone with yourself every day. Turn off the TV, cell phone, computer and just listen. Get a pen and paper and write down your hopes and dreams.  What is it that you’ve always wanted to do?  Close your eyes and imagine it so.  Now start breaking it down into goals.  Write down five, ten or more steps to achieving your goal.  What is standing in your way? Start taking action by writing each goal step on your calendar.  Forgive yourself if you have to reschedule, but be persistent and don’t give up.
    12. Learn how be yourself.  Who are you? What do you like?  Find out what your favorite music is, your favorite clothes, your favorite foods, etc.  Spend time alone and sort this out so that when you are with others you are not just copying what they do.  Then when you are certain who you are and what makes you uniquely YOU, be true to yourself.  Find friends, or groups of people (classes, clubs, organizations) who enjoy being with you just the way you are, and who enjoy the same things you do. Join groups. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and hold the same values.
    13. Pretend that you are your best friend.  When you are planning what to do for the day and you start to contact your best friend, stop yourself and ask, “Is there anything that I am choosing to give my best friend, that I’m not giving to myself?”  Do you treat your best friend with kindness, trust, respect, flattery,  time, patience, understanding, forgiveness and tolerance?  It’s great to give to your friends and make time for them, but be sure to balance it out with time, forgiveness, love, and gifts for yourself.
    14. Don’t compare. If you find that you are comparing yourself to another person or a group of people, stop yourself and say, “I don’t make  comparisons.”  Remember that each person is unique.  Each person is lovable and valuable. The trick is to find your uniqueness, your sparkle, and not to focus on differences. This holds true for others also.  Hold onto the image of each person’s value and uniqueness in life. Stop looking at how people (yourself included) don’t measure up to certain standards or expectations. Throw out expectations.  When you compare, you hurt others and yourself. and separate yourself from the world. Remember that love doesn’t put itself on a scale to be measured out by comparisons.

      Physical Exam

      Scheduling yearly physical exams is one important way to show our love for ourselves.

    15. See a doctor or trusted practitioner regularly.  Schedule basic health exams, blood work, and other tests and screenings to make sure you are in tip top shape.
    16.  Treat yourself.  Get a massage, sauna, facial, pedicure, manicure, new haircut, paint your room, buy new curtains, buy new clothes, etc.  Do something loving for your body and/or your home. Treat yourself and have fun.
    17. Explore aromatherapy.  So maybe you cleaned up the house, bought nice clothes, went to the doctor and you are feeling fine…did you think about fragrances?  What does your place smell like and what do you smell like?  Find out which fragrances make you happy and relaxed.  Buy shaving lotions, aftershave, men’s cologne, women’s perfume, deodorant, incense, fresh flowers, air fresheners, or essential oils to bring amazing fragrances into your life that bring out the best in you.
    18. Forgive yourself and others for past mistakes.  Close your eyes, listen to your heart and discover any past regrets, disappointments, shame, fear, guilt, anger, that is still gripping your heart and preventing you from moving forward.  Imagine surrendering this over to a higher power and letting go.  Practice tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance, faith and trust in higher wisdom and a higher plan.  Know that more will be revealed to you.  You or those you love, may not have all the skills needed at the moment, but accept that you and others are learning and evolving spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Write and say out loud, “I forgive myself. I forgive others.” Let it go.
    19. Thank your negativity. Every time you hear yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself or others, such as “I am ugly,” talk to your emotions or your mind and say, “Thank you for providing me with this information.”  Be grateful for the negative thought.  Then let it go, saying to yourself. “I’m grateful and I’ve heard you, and I don’t need to think of this anymore. Thank you.” Send it away and replace it with a positive thought, such as “I am radiant.”
    20. Give to others.  Do something good, kind, loving and/or charitable each day for someone else without them knowing that you have done something, or without any expectation of recognition or reward.


Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice Dart,  M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.”  She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance.  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3  nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about  the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.